St Dunstan in the East: From Saxon Church to London Blitz Ruins
London, the exciting English capital where you can shop till you drop, get your art fix or see a concert, movie, theatre play or musical every night of the week. But after you’ve done all that or if just want a short break from the crowded high streets, why not explore London’s fascinating history? There are still so many landmarks and sites left that remind us of the city’s past, ever since it was founded by the Romans in 43 AD. All you have to do is look up and beyond the busy shopping streets. The ruins of the old Saxon church St Dunstan in the East, less than a 15-min walk from London Bridge, make for a tranquil and magical spot in the City.
From bombsite to a secret public garden
The ruins of St Dunstan in the East are located halfway between London Bridge and Tower Bridge and you can access the site via Idol Lane and St Dunstan’s Hill. The original church on this site was built in Saxon times and later restored by St Dunstan, after whom the church was renamed, in 950 AD. Unfortunately, the church was one of the 87 parish churches to be destroyed in the Great Fire of London in September 1666. Sir Christopher Wren, who also rebuilt the destroyed St Paul’s Cathedral, restored St Dunstan in the East in 1697 and added a steeple and tower.
However, this was not the last disaster for the church as it was bombed during the terrifying Blitz of London; heavy bombing by the German Luftwaffe over 56 consecutive days. Curiously, Wren’s steeple and tower survived the bombing. After WW II it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan in the East as a church and eventually the ruins were transformed into a public garden in 1970. Come to this photogenic spot and enjoy the peace and quiet for a moment whilst you can see the modern skyscrapers in the near distance. While the ancient brick church may be dwarfed by the modern buildings in size, its history and legacy are far greater than of those towers made out of steel and glass.
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