I have lived in different parts of London for all of my 33 years. I love to explore London, take pictures, visit gorgeous places and enjoy everything it has to offer. What I love most about this wonderful city, is that I will never be done exploring it. There is something new to enjoy around every corner and the list of places I want to see always seems to get bigger rather than smaller. One place that I have wanted to go for such a long time is St Dunstan in the East. A ruined church in the heart of the city, which is every bit as beautiful as it’s story is interesting.
A couple of weeks ago on a sunny Sunday morning, Fay and I got up at the crack of dawn to go and explore this lovely spot. The gates open at 8am and we were there and ready to explore, before any other sightseers, bloggers or photographers arrived. Even in winter when the spot is not in it’s full glory, it really is a beautiful space to explore. As well as showing you some of the pictures we took, I thought I’d share a little bit of the story of how the church came to be in ruins and why it is now a glorious garden and oasis hidden amongst modern buildings.
The original church was built around 1100, with additions in 1391 and repairs in 1631. It was badly damaged in the Great Fire of London, which destroyed much of the city in 1666. It was repaired again and a new steeple was added a few years later, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral and many other city churches.
In 1817 St Dunstan in the East was in such bad condition, that the whole building was pulled down and rebuilt. Although Christopher Wren’s tower was left standing. It reopened in 1821. The church had room for up to 700 people to worship.
St Dunstan in the East was again severely damaged during the blitz of 1941, during the Second World War. Only the North and South walls survived, along with Wren’s tower. They decided not to rebuild the church again and it wasn’t until 1967 that they decided to turn it into a garden. The garden opened in 1971 and now pays wonderful homage to the history of the site. You can feel the resonance of all that history while you enjoy a quiet moment, or read a book inside the old churches walls.
London has had such an eventful past and I adore that this site has felt the impact of so many important dates in history. I love the idea of people coming here for centuries to worship, to take in the history and now to take a little peace in a crazy, bustling part of the city.
The romance of the ruins, make this a perfect spot to take pictures, all year round. I love the mix of climbing vines, beautiful shrubs and palm trees, which sit beautifully against the huge arches and windows. I can’t wait to go back in Spring, Summer and Autumn to experience this beautiful place in bloom and in fall and in different light and enjoy it in different ways.
Because it sits in a very busy area of the city, I imagine it gets very busy mid-week and you won’t have the place to yourself like we did. I’d recommend going on a weekend, when this part of London is pretty empty. I’d also try to go early, as it it is a very popular spot for pictures.
I will be back soon, on my own to read a book and enjoy a little peace and enjoy the garden as it was intended. But of course I will also be back to capture more pictures and enjoy the gorgeous garden changing throughout the seasons.
Have you visited before? Did you love it as much as I did? Can you recommend any more secret spots in the city that you think I would enjoy?
The dress featured in these pics is one I found in TK Maxx and despite my spending ban, I just had to have. The dress and the beautiful surroundings definitely made me channel my inner 19th century heroin! Thank you to Fay Simone for taking these pics on her phone for me, when my camera was playing up!
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