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St Dunstan-in-the-East
The site in 2010
LocationSt. Dunstan's Hill
London, EC3
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationRoman Catholic, Church of England
Heritage designationGrade I
Architect(s)Christopher Wren, David Laing

St Dunstan-in-the-East was a Church of England parish church on St Dunstan's Hill, halfway between London Bridge and the Tower of London in the City of London. The church was largely destroyed in the Second World War[1] and the ruins are now a public garden.


St Dunstan-in-the-East inside (2014)

The church was originally built in about 1100. A new south aisle was added in 1391 and the church was repaired in 1631 at a cost of more than £2,400.[2]

It was severely damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666.[3] Rather than being completely rebuilt, the damaged church was patched up between 1668 and 1671.[4] A steeple was added in 1695–1701 to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. It was built in a gothic style sympathetic to main body of the church, though with heavy string courses of a kind not used in the Middle Ages. It has a needle spire carried on four flying buttresses in the manner of that of St Nicholas in Newcastle.[5] The restored church had wooden carvings by Grinling Gibbons and an organ by Father Smith, which was transferred to the abbey at St Albans in 1818.

In 1817 it was found that the weight of the nave roof had thrust the walls seven inches out of the perpendicular. It was decided to rebuild the church from the level of the arches, but the state of the structure proved so bad that the whole building was taken down. It was rebuilt to a design in the perpendicular style by David Laing (then architect to the Board of Customs) with assistance from William Tite. The foundation stone was laid in November 1817 and the church re-opened for worship in January 1821. Built of Portland stone, with a plaster lierne nave vault, it was 115 feet long and 65 feet wide and could accommodate between six and seven hundred people. The cost of the work was £36,000. Wren's tower was retained in the new building.[5][6]

The church was severely damaged in the Blitz of 1941. Wren's tower and steeple survived the bombs' impact. Of the rest of the church only the north and south walls remained. In the re-organisation of the Anglican Church in London following the War it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan's, and in 1967 the City of London Corporation decided to turn the ruins of the church into a public garden, which opened in 1971. A lawn and trees were planted in the ruins, with a low fountain in the middle of the nave. The tower now houses the All Hallows House Foundation.

St Dunstan's in 1891
1a. All Hallows by the Tower & St Dunstan in the East parish boundary mark - see for details

The parish is now combined with the Benefice of All Hallows by the Tower and occasional open-air services are held in the church, such as on Palm Sunday prior to a procession to All Hallows by the Tower along St Dunstan's Hill and Great Tower Street. The ruin was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Tucker, T. (2006). The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches. London: Friends of the City Churches. ISBN 0-9553945-0-3.
  2. ^ Murray, Thomas Boyles (1859). Chronicles of a City Church, an account of the parish church of St. Dunstan in the East. London: Smith, Elder & Son. p. 10. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  3. ^ "The City Churches" Tabor, M. p72:London; The Swarthmore Press Ltd; 1917
  4. ^ "The London Encyclopaedia" Hibbert,C; Weinreb,D; Keay,J: London, Pan Macmillan, 1983 (rev 1993,2008) ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5
  5. ^ a b Bradley, Simon; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1998). London:the City Churches. The Buildings of England. London: Penguin Books. p. 80. ISBN 0-14-071100-7.
  6. ^ Murray, Thomas Boyles (1859). Chronicles of a City Church, an account of the parish church of St. Dunstan in the East. London: Smith, Elder & Son. p. 43. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  7. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1359173)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 January 2009.

External links

51°30′34.82″N 0°4′57.80″W / 51.5096722°N 0.0827222°W / 51.5096722; -0.0827222

8 Annotations

First Reading

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

St Dusftans, a nice little walk from the Office, thru the hemp yard [if it be there], down Mark Lane, up Tower Street, past Mincing lane,turn left down St Dunstan hill and into the church yard. Of course one could take the long way round, by going down Seething Lane, past all the Inns and All Hallows Church, then turn right, then trot up Tower street, past Beer lane, Trinity House, past Harp Lane then to the Church Yard.

Roger Arbor  •  Link

St Dunstans was rebuilt after the Great Fire by Wren, but WW2 saw it gutted by fire. After the war it was turned into one of the most beautiful corners of the City, with a small and perfectly formed garden. A Wren church with both a tower, and a spire.

In my study I have a print of SDitE showing this amazing arrangement. Four 'flying butresses' rise from each corner of the tower to meet in a most satisfying arrangement in a spire. Quite breathtaking.

Now just a few yards from Lower Thames Street, almost opposite the old Billingsgate (fish) Market, it is well worth visiting if you find yourself in the City. Stunning...

Glyn  •  Link

As said above, you can easily see its spire from Tower Hill - it would have been only a 5-minute walk from Pepys' office.

Burnt down in 1666, rebuilt by Wren, burnt down in 1941, now a very pleasantpublic garden for people to sit in and eat their lunch.…

Avon Edward Foote  •  Link

Quotes are paraphrased from the will of Richard Foote, merchant of Rood Lane, whose home parish is St. Dunstan's-in-the-East at time of death. Bust of grandson welcomes visitors to the Windsor Parish Church, Berkshire UK. "To his grandson Topham Foote 200 Pounds, which his father Samuel Foote shall put in trade for him till his majority; also 1500 acres of his land in Virginia.

The rest of his estate to his wife Hester Foote, who is named joint executor with his son Samuel Foote.

Signed 19 March 1694. Witness James Stone, Richard Stracey, Ran. Stacey.

Probate London 23 April 1697 to Hester Foote, the other executor Samuel
Foote being dead.

P.A.B. identifies testator with the parish of St. Dunstan in the East,
London . . . ."

For much more get a start at…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

The church, previous to the Great Fire, had a high leaden steeple, and was, when seen from a distance, one of the most striking of the City churches. When Wren restored it, for it was not altogether destroyed in the Fire, he made an incongruous mixture of several kinds of architecture. The body of the church having become dilapidated was taken down, and the first stone of the present building laid, November 26, 1817. It is a very poor imitation Gothic building, quite unworthy of the tower and spire, which is 166 feet 11 inches high to the top of the ball, to which it is attached.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... St. Dunstan’s Church, hard by us (where by Mrs. Russell’s means we were set well) ..." Mrs. Russell apparently lived in the parish of St. Dunstan-in-the-East, and had either bought a pew, or had enough influence, to get Sam and friends good seats for the service, so she must have arranged this ahead of time.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.




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