Originally built around 1100 CE, St Dunstan-in-the-East has seen the best–and the worst–of London history.
Things were good for the first 500 years or so. Then came along Thomas Farynor, a baker in Pudding Lane who had skipped fire safety day at school. When he neglected to properly extinguish a blaze in 1666, nearly 80% of the city–including St Dunstan–was damaged.
The church was mended, and it was given a new steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren. But the nave roof was too heavy for the structure, and in the 1800s St Dunstan had to be rebuilt again.
Then came along the Germans. A nearly direct hit during the Blitz of 1941 left St Dunstan in shambles.
After more than 800 years, London called it quits on St Dunstan after that bombing, and the church has sat as attractive ruins ever since.
St Dunstan is a quick walk from the Tower of London. Hidden behind a few modern buildings, the church is virtually unknown even to those who live in London, and the grounds are often deserted.
It is a peaceful respite from the nearby marauding gangs of tourists and, with a view of the Shard through one of the crumbling windows, is a tantalizing comment on the ever-changing nature of one of Earth’s greatest cities.
While visiting London in March, I happened to arrive at Trafalgar Square just after the unveiling of the newest sculpture, Gift Horse.
My friend theorized it was a commentary on war, in that the horse is wrapped up in a pretty bow made of a stock ticker–symbolizing profit–but underneath it is just death. It’s a good theory.
Unfortunately, that’s not what the sculptor intended. But, if art is what the viewer makes of it, then I’m going with my friend’s explanation instead.
A canal runs along the northern edge of the park and down south to the Thames. Designed by John Nash and opened in 1816, the Regent’s Canal was, like so many new waterways of the time period, quickly obsolete.
A few dedicated people cling to life on the canal. Mostly, though, its only use to modern Londoners is as a place for a peaceful morning jog.
And I think it serves that purpose just fine.