St. Dunstan-in-the-East - A hidden garden in a Blitzed London church


St. Dunstan-in-the-East - A hidden garden in a Blitzed London church

The Church of St. Dunstan-in-the-East was originally built in about 1100, and, after being rebuilt following severe damage in the Great Fire of 1666, it was decimated by the Blitz in 1941. Now, its ruins provide a secluded and charming secret garden, tucked away near Lower Thames Street in the City of London, halfway between the Tower and London Bridge.

After the damage caused by the Fire in 1666, the church was restored, and a steeple added between 1695-1701, designed by acclaimed architect Sir Christopher Wren. It was built in a gothic style, and has a needle spire carried on four flying buttresses - similar to that of the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas in Newcastle. The rebuilt church was also adorned with exquisite wooding carvings by Anglo-Dutch sculptor Grinling Gibbons. There was an organ by master organ maker 'Father' Bernard Smith, which was transferred to the abbey at St Albans in 1818.

Although the church was badly damaged by German bombs in the Blitz in 1941, Wren's tower and steeple survived. But only the north and south walls remained of the rest of the church. Following the War, the Anglican Church in London decided not to rebuild St Dunstan, and it was left as ruins. This was designated a Grade I Listed building in 1950.

In 1967, the City of London corporation decided to use the ruins of the church as the basis of a public garden. A lawn and trees were planted within the ruins, with a low fountain in the middle of the nave. As one of the last Blitz-damaged building sites left untouched, it was overgrown with trees, ivy, and wall-climbing flowers growing amongst the ruined arches. The site was opened to the public in 1971.

The tower now houses the All Hallows House Foundation, a charity that offers healthcare for people living and working in the City of London..

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