ST. DUNSTAN and ALL SAINTS' CHURCH

Stepney, London

St. Dunstan and All Saints' Church, Stepney, London

One of the earliest churches in East London the first stone church was built here around AD 952 on the instructions of the Bishop of London (who also holds the title Lord of the Manor of Stepney). This replaced an earlier wooden church the founding of which is unclear. Initially the church was dedicated only to All Saints, but in 1029 when St Dunstan was canonised he was added to the dedication and today the church is St Dunstan and All Saints.

St Dunstan’s was the parish church of all of Middlesex east of the City of London until the early 14th Century when the parish was split between Stepney, Whitechapel and Bow. The current church dates to the 15th Century with some remains from earlier. Additions were made in the 1870s.

The famed Bells of Stepney were cast nearby at Whitechapel Bell Foundry (where the Liberty Bell was also cast) and are mentioned in the Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme.

What appears to be a particularly big green space around the church (by Stepney standards) is in fact a result of the churchyard being enlarged to cope with the Great Plague burials (in 18 months 6,583 died and on one single day in September 1665 154 people were buried here).

The proximity of London’s Docks meant that St Dunstan’s became known as “The Church of the High Seas” and until very recently all births, marriages and deaths at sea were registered at this church.

In the churchyard is the grave of the 17th Century hermit, Roger Crab, who lived a strange proto-hippy life during the Puritanical reign of Oliver Cromwell. He was a vegan from a very early age and in the last years of his life famously ate little but grass and parsnips, he rejected the church and wrote several treaties to this end, he was imprisoned both by the Republic under Cromwell and the restored Monarchy under Charles II … and yet he is still buried in one of London’s premier churches, a reflection of his skill as an early alternative medicine practitioner.

This is the "Bells of Stepney" in the Oranges and Lemons Rhyme.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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© Text copyright - Raving Loony Productions and Andrew J. Müller, Roy Barton
and Shaun Runham
© Photos and Artwork - Andrew J. Müller
© Web Design and Layout - Andrew J. Müller
2012


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