My odyssey to visit and photograph all the remaining churches within the square mile of the City of London has taken a bit of a back seat in recent months. However, I got started again in earnest last week, with an afternoon spent visiting no less than six churches.
With help from the Friends of the City Churches website I planned a route around seven churches in the south east corner of the City, carefully avoiding clashes with services and lunchtime concerts. On the whole my plan worked perfectly, although my visit to the final church, All Hallows-by-the-Tower, will have to wait for another day as the church closed an hour earlier than advertised on their website and was already locked by the time I got there.
My first two destinations were two churches which are somewhat incomplete these days, thanks to parishes combining together and damage caused during the Blitz in 1941.
All that remains of All Hallows Staining these days is a tower, although it has evidently been lovingly restored in recent years. Tucked away, just off Fenchurch Street, it is surrounded by more modern buildings, like many of the city churches, and it's something of a challenge to get a good angle on it. Its name comes from the church's 12th century origins when the word staining meant it was built of stone, in contrast with the other All Hallows churches in the city which were wooden.
The original church survived the Great Fire in 1666 only to collapse in 1671 because its foundations had been weakened by too many burials nearby. The church was rebuilt in 1674 but only continued as a place of worship until 1870 when it combined with St. Olave Hart Street. The rest of All Hallows was then demolished, leaving just the tower which is now maintained by the Worshipful Company of Clothmakers.
From All Hallows I headed south to the church of St. Dunstan-in-the-East which lies about half way between Monument and Tower Hill tube stations.
St. Dunstan's is another church with medieval roots and, like so many in the city, it was badly damaged during the Great Fire in 1666. Unusually, what was left after the fire wasn't demolished and rebuilt from scratch but instead it was patched up and a new steeple, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was added between 1668 and 1671. Unfortunately, by 1817 it was discovered that the walls had been pushed out of alignment so badly by the weight of the nave roof that the entire church was rebuilt once again to make it safe, although Wren's tower was retained.
The final insult came in 1941 when the church was severely damaged during the Blitz. On this occasion only the tower and north and south walls survived and it was finally decided that it should not be rebuilt yet again. Instead the church has been turned into a community garden which is maintained by the City of London Corporation. The result is a wonderfully peaceful space, with seats to sit and enjoy the architecture or simply to contemplate the world. In the four decades since the garden was opened in 1971 the planting has matured beautifully and some of the windows are gracefully entwined with creepers and other plants. There is even a magnificent fig tree inside what was once the nave which I would imagine must be quite productive in the summer months.
Click on the pictures below to open them in a lightbox and see them larger.
I will share my photos from the other churches I visited in the coming days. They include a church designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the church for the parish of Billingsgate and the final resting place of diarist Samuel Pepys.