Postcard of the month - #7 - December 2000
This is the mother church of a great part of East London - from which there are derived many ecclessiastical institutions and Parishes in the great area since the thirteenth century - but was actually created several centuries earlier. The exact origins of the church are as obscure as much else is in Saxon history, but the first church would no doubt have been of wooden construction. St Dunstan has been credited with erecting the first stone church on the site of the present one. As Bishop of London during the 10th century he would have been Lord of the Manor Stepney, and was sufficiently appreciated locally for the church to be dedicated to him after his canonisation.
The present building dates from the 14th century, but it was largely
rebuilt during the15th century. However, it does retain some interesting traces of an
earlier existence and a visit is highly recommended. It has many features worth
seeing - including a Saxon rood (a carving of the crucifiction) - one of the few
pre-norman artefacts in London. The building originally arose in an unpeopled marsh
- and it's spire appears to be without any vertical ambition - but it lies
centrally between the old village High Street of Steney and Whitehorse Street surrounded
by it's old graveyard.
Gaining more importance as a seamen's church in the greater area meant that the Red Ensign could fly proudly from it's tower, indicating to all it's association with a maritime history - it was not uncommon for babies born at sea to be baptised at St Dunstan's due to this connection.
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