St Dunstan in the East | Attraction Guides | History Hit

St Dunstan in the East

London, England, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

07 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About St Dunstan in the East

The majestic ruins of the ancient church of St Dunstan-in-the-East represent one of London’s best hidden gems and now form the centre point of a pretty public garden. First built in the early 12th century, the church was severely damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666 before being largely repaired and rebuilt.

Following the Blitz during World War Two, St Dunstan was not reconstructed. Instead the ruins form the boundaries of a picturesque public garden in the very heart of London.

An ideal place for a little peaceful relaxation and escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, these Grade I listed secluded ruins are a real treat to discover.

St Dunstan-in-the-East history

St Dunstan-in-the-East was originally built in around 1100 AD, with a new south aisle added a could of centuries later in 1391. The church was repaired in 1631 at significant cost, however, the alterations would be severely damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Rather than completely rebuilding St Dunstan, the church was patched up: a steeple was added in 1695, designed by one of England’s most notable architects, Sir Christopher Wren. Wren’s designs imitated the gothic style the main body of the church had been built in, although using materials not available during the middle ages.

The restored church featured impressive wooden carvings and an organ, transferred from St Albans abbey in 1818. Unfortunately, Wren’s efforts were to be partially in vain. It was found the nave roof had shifted the other walls, making the structure unsound. The whole building was taken down and rebuilt, retaining Wren’s tower.

The scenic church was finally brought to ruin in the 20th century when it was largely destroyed during the Blitz in 1941. Irreparably damaged, although Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombing, the rest of the church was destroyed save for sections of the north and south walls. In 1971, a public garden opened within the church’s remains, and occasional services are held there.

St Dunstan-in-the-East today

Today, the church at St Dunstan-in-the-East continues to serve the parish both as a park to stop in and grab a slice of tranquility, and as a place of reflection. On Palm Sunday, the church is even known to host an open-air service before the procession to All Hallows.

This green oasis offers benches and fountains framed by green-draped church walls, and is open from 8am to dusk.

Getting to St Dunstan-in-the-East

Located in central London, the nearest tube stations to St Dunstan-in-the-East are Monument or Tower Hill. Only minutes from London Bridge, St Dunstan-in-the-East is accessed just off Great Tower Street where buses 15 and N15 stop.

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