Sunday 7 October 2012

The Blond discovers: St Dunstan in the East (London)

St Dunstan is a small green spot on the map of the Central London. It is hidden between glass buildings, busy streets and cafe shops. It can be easily missed, if you don't pay attention. It is a real London treasure.
I first heard about this place from the Stylist Magazine. I was coming back from work on a rainy Friday afternoon and saw a little note (it was really very tiny) about St Dunstan's. The photo next to it was of an old church wall surrounded by a green garden. It looked mysterious. I wanted to check it out immediately, but I also wanted to wait for a little bit of sunshine. Last Saturday was perfect!

St Dunstan was once a church, built in the Saxon times. It was then restored by St Dunstan in 950 AD. A great fire consumed it in the 17th century and it was rebuilt in 1697 by St Christopher Wren. The bad luck wasn't over then. During the Blitz the Church was almost completely destroyed. The few remaining parts, including walls and a tower, were changed into a garden, which opened to the public in 1967. Today it is a regular spot for the City workers luncheons and a chill out spot for many Londoners.

One of the internet guides says: (St Dunstan is..) An outstanding example of a small City space, which makes the maximum use of scarce resources.

I was convinced that there wouldn't be anyone around on Saturday and had all the beautiful photos in my head of the garden, bathed in the afternoon sunshine. I expected the place to be quiet and deserted. To my surprise, the place was buzzing. Mostly because there was a wedding photo shoot (for anyone about to get married - this is a great spot for a photo session), people were drinking chamagne, some were even singing. There were also some lost tourists, locals trying to find a quiet spot to read a book or soak up the last remaining rays before the winter and a pair of photography students, trying to take some photos without the wedding crowd in them.

I walked through the garden a couple of times, trying to find out more about the place. There is no information, except an old board with a few sentences. The tower is not open for visitors. It looks like some massage therapists occupy it nowadays - so no history lesson available there! However, St Dunstan is very close to the Tower of London and other attraction and could be a great spot to take a breather from sightseeing.

The Church has a little beetle sanctuary, which was donated by the Arab Association and is now a great attraction for the little visitors.

After the wedding party left, the place became really quiet. You could hear some of the distant traffic, but it sounded a bit surreal. I sat down on one of the benches to relax a little. Without any people around, it really did seem like it was the secret garden of London.

How to get to St Dunstan?
The nearest tube station is Monument - 3 min walk

Address - St Dunstan's Hill, London, Greater London, England, EC4
Opening times - All year. Daily. Open 8am to 7pm or dusk if earlier.
Admission - Entrance free

Watching the wedding from hiding 

I made a new friend too :) His dad gave me his card and asked me to send this photo to him. But it's not great, so I don't know if I will...

A quiet spot for visitors

Door leading to the secret garden

The tower of the church

The church still has some of the amazing original features
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  1. It looks really nice. Might have to go and check it out some time.