The church of St.Dunstan-in-the-East has survived a lot during its 900-year history, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.
An English parish church located halfway between the Tower of London and the London Bridge, it was originally built during Saxon times. Although the Great Fire caused terrible damage to the church it was faithfully rebuilt, and topped with a steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
But in 1941, the church was devastated by the Blitz. A direct hit destroyed everything apart from the north and south walls, and Wren’s steeple. The threat of German invasion of the United Kingdom had ended with the Battle of Britain a year earlier, but the sustained strategic bombing of the UK continued. By 1941, the Blitz was reaching its terrible crescendo. Starting on September 7th, 1940, London was bombed for nearly 60 consecutive nights. The night of December 29th saw the most ferocity, as the Luftwaffe blanketed London with bombs in what was called the Second Great Fire of London.
By the end of the Blitz, over 1,000,000 London homes were destroyed, including much of the old Saxon church. After the war, with much of London in rubble, the slow rebuilding process began. But St. Dunstan-in-the-East remained in ruins. In 1967, the City of London Corporation decided to turn the bombed out shell of the church into a public garden, which remains to this day.
Hidden away on a secluded side street, and long since dwarfed by the modern steel and chrome structures of the city, it remains one of London’s secret gardens. One of the last Blitz-damaged buildings left in the United Kingdom, overgrown with trees, ivy, and wall climbing flowers growing amongst the ruined arches, it’s a poignant living memorial to the horrors of the Blitz and a testament to the resilience of the City of London which survived it.
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