Closest tube station: Monument
Open: Everyday, 8am to 7pm (or dusk if earlier)
I’m taking a little break from my Africa series this week to tell you about one of London’s hidden gems. I’m almost a little hesitant to write about this place, because the fact that it’s so quiet and undiscovered is what makes it so special!
Not many people will know that I have been unemployed since July. Having completed 3 legal degrees and two years of practical training, I was under the (false) impression that I would be snapped up very quickly as a qualified lawyer. This has not been the case so far, and to be honest it’s getting kind of depressing. Coming into the city is one of my life’s true pleasures, but now that I’m effectively broke, I’ve had to curb that habit. On this particular day, I had a meeting with a recruiter and decided to make the most of my trip into London by seeing a few of the sights.
I had heard about St. Dunstan in the East from a couple of bloggers, but had never got around to visiting it myself before. Most of the time, I come to London for the buzz and excitement and to meet up with friends. I think it’s sometimes easier to go to places like this by yourself because it is such a quiet and meditative space.
The original church was built during Saxon times and restored by St. Dunstan in 950AD. During the Great Fire of 1666 the church was severely damaged and rather than being restored properly, it was just patched up by Sir Christopher Wren who added the steeple and tower.
The church was partially destroyed once again during the 1941 Blitz and today the only part of Wren’s additions that survives is the tower. The church was opened to the public as a relaxation garden space in 1967 and in 2015 it was subject to major improvement works in terms of landscaping. The result of this evolution is an incredible ruin, standing out amongst the skyscrapers of the city. The juxtaposition (douchey word alert) of medieval architecture against the multitude of climbing plants, flowers and palm trees creates a fairytale atmosphere.
According to the City of London website the church grounds are available for events hire. Although I can imagine this would be pricey, I can’t think of a more romantic or magical setting for a wedding or wedding photography. While photography for personal use is fine, using the grounds for photo shoots or filming attracts a fee and requires permission.
Generally, this church seems to be a place for people working in the city to come and escape the hustle and bustle. I spent about an hour sitting alone in the grounds contemplating life, and most people were there doing the same thing.
Despite the fact that fire, bombs and the ravages of time have tried to blast this church off the face of the earth, it stands. It doesn’t serve the purpose it was originally built for and it is overshadowed by the Shard and the ‘Walkie–Talkie’, but it retains its own beauty. Because I’m a 21st Century narcissist, I began to equate the crumbling walls of St. Dunstan in the East to my own current state of mind. I may be battered, hidden away and surrounded by people more successful than me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not important in my own way.
Thanks for reading,