When looking for a quiet spot to eat my lunch one Saturday morning in November, I decided on St. Dunstan’s in the East. The whole half hour I was there, I was the only soul wandering around. During the week, and especially during lunch hour, it is a different matter, but that day, St. Dunstan’s proved to be one of those unexpected islands in the middle of London where time seems to have stood still. Not true of course, busy Lower Thames Street is close by and hoards of tourists mill around the Tower just a few minutes away from this green oasis on St. Dunstan’s Hill.
The church was originally built in about 1100 with a new south aisle added in 1391. The church was severely damaged in the Great Fire of London, but rather than being rebuilt, as many of the City churches were, St. Dunstan’s was repaired. A steeple, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was added thirty years later. In 1817 it was decided to rebuild the church from scratch as the weight of the roof had thrust the walls out and the building was becoming unstable. The new design, retaining Wren’s tower, was by William Tite and David Laing, the architect to the Board of Customs. The church was severely damaged in the Blitz with just the north and south walls remaining, but Wren’s tower and steeple miraculously survived. The church was not rebuilt, but left to stand as it was. The ruin is now a Grade I listed building.(1)
The City of London Corporation decided to turn the ruins of the church into a public garden. It opened in 1971 (you can see the year on the rainwater head) and we can now all enjoy its tranquil green space, but not all the planting is from the 70s. The fig tree against one of the walls (bottom picture) has its own plaque, describing it as the tree planted in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of George VI, so it must have survived the Blitz and everything else history and the elements decided to throw at it.
Rather than telling you lots more about the history of the building – and there is lots more – I leave you with some of my pictures. After all, this post is about a green space, not about the building.
Looking for a another green space to get away from the hustle and bustle of London? Have a look here.
Most of the information in this post was derived from the Wikipedia article on the church, see here. If you want to see more pictures, have a look at The Secret Garden Atlas here.
(1) English Heritage ID 199522 (see here).