Applied Linguistics graduate and freelance writer. Visit my twitter: @heyclairemarie
Published March 14th 2017
Located halfway between the Tower of London and London Bridge and hidden away on a secluded side street, St. Dunstan-in-the- East has been labelled one of London's most beautiful secret gardens. The Church of St Dunstan was originally built around 1100 in the Gothic style and has a Grade 1- listed status. The Church has suffered some misfortune throughout its time. It initially suffered severe damage in 1666 by the Great Fire of London. However, it was decided that the damage was not acute enough to warrant a complete reconstruction. Instead, it was patched up, with a steeple and tower being added in 1695- 1701 by Sir Christopher Wren.
The Church went on to fall into decline by the beginning of the nineteenth century and so the local parish decided to rebuild it. This rebuilding took place between 1817 and 1821 by David Laing (a prominent architect who also designed New Custom House on the bank of the Thames) and William Tite (an architect known for designing the Royal Exchange). Despite this being a rebuild, the steeple and tower were retained.
It was damaged again in the Blitz of 1941 and lay in ruins for the next 25 years. Only Wren's tower and steeple were unaffected. The decision was made not to rebuild the church yet again. In 1967, the City of London decided to turn the ruins into a public garden, which opened in 1970. It has now been transformed into a charming green space by the planting of wall shrubs and climbers, alongside an attractive fountain. In 1976, St Dunstan won a Landscape Heritage Award. The tower and adjoining All Hallows House have been converted to residential use. Of the rest of the church, the only remnants are the North and South walls. It is now a favourite spot to sit and enjoy lunch or take a walk in order to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city.
The church was allegedly favoured by Sir Christopher Wren and Charles Dickens, however now the ruins stand as a testament of how something beautiful can triumph over the damage caused by war.