St Dunstan in the East: Nature reclaims the City of London at this secluded public garden

Bank and the surrounding area of Monument is at the heart of London’s financial district. Hardly the area where one would expect to find peace, harmony and tranquility, but this is London and being one of the greenest cities in the world and quite possibly, one of the oldest cities in the world, even amidst the chaos within the City of London and its attempts to turn one of the most historic parts of London into a concrete jungle, Mother Nature still reigns and shall always.

A stone’s throw away from the beat of the financial district is St Dunstan in the East, the bombed out ruins of a church, which was originally built in 1100. The former church is now home to a public garden where trees grow through windows, vines wind themselves around walls, and tropical palm trees stand proudly within what now resembles a courtyard.

St Dunstan in the East’s remains is now a Grade I listed building – meaning it is protected from any further development, and can’t be destroyed. It too is no longer used as a church. Let’s just say today, as it stands, St Dunstan in the East is exactly how Mother Nature intended it to be.

Even on a cold winter’s day, the public garden is charming and enchanting. Tree branches wind their way through ornate frames where windows once stood and vines cling to the walls of the remains. The plants and trees may be without their lush green blooms of many a picture of St Dunstan in the East that originally won me over, but this reclaim of nature puts a big smile on my face.

Located halfway between Tower Hill and London Bridge, and close to Monument, St Dunstan in the East is tucked away on a secluded side street. Although overtopped by the closeby “Walkie Talkie” building at 20 Fenchurch Street and The Shard in the distance, St Dunstan in the East serves as a much needed secret garden for city workers seeking some calm.

The medieval church was severely damaged in 1666 by the Great Fire of London. Rather than being completely rebuilt, it was patched up. A gothic-style steeple and tower was added in 1695-1701 by Sir Christopher Wren.

The Church was again severely damaged in the Blitz of 1941. Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombing, and after WWII the decision was taken not to rebuild St Dunstan’s. In 1967 the City of London decided to turn the remains into a public garden, which opened in 1970, creating an imaginative planting scheme of unusual trees, wall shrubs and flowers growing among the ruined arches, with climbers covering the tracery.

St Dunstan’s history and what remains today is testament to the resilience of this particular area of London. While St Dunstan in the East is a popular spot for both tourists and city workers, time it right and it will gladly feel like you have the peaceful and zen-like garden to yourselves.

St Dunstan in the East

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea




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