The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3

Allen, Thomas


St. Dunstan in the East.


This church is situate on the west side of , . It is so named from St. Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury. The patronage of this rectory was anciently in the prior and canons of Canterbury, who, in , granted it to Simon their archbishop, and his successors, in whom it still remains, and is of the peculiars in this city belonging to the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury.

This church, in ancient records, is marked as being

next the Tower,

and therefore, probably, was the nearest parish church to that fortress; this would give it priority to

Allhallowen, Berking,

which was originally a chapel founded by king Richard I. about . It was repaired in , at an expense of

The extent of this building, or at least of the premises annexed


to it, was much beyond what might have been supposed from late appearances.

It was,

says Stow,

a faire and large church, of ancient building, and within a large church-yard.

In digging for the foundation of the present edifice, immense walls of chalk and rubble were traced extending in all directions, especially northwards.

Considerable remains of the floor of the old church existed about feet below the pavement; it was adorned with glazed and ornamented tessera, some of a very elegant pattern. In the wall on the east end of the north aisle, were piscinae of freestone much injured.

Lady Williamson of Hale's-hall, Norfolk, contributed near towards the restoration of the fabric.

About the south porch of the late edifice was the following inscription :--

This church and steeple, after the dreadful conflagration, Ann. Dom.


, were re-edified and repaired, Anno Dom.






.-Thomas Littell, and Thomas Norman, and John Hewit, Richard Meynell, Michael Clipsham, church-wardens.

The damage which the church sustained on the above occasion was repaired by sir Christopher Wren; the windows of the aisles retained their tracery tolerably perfect, displaying the architecture of the century; the clerestory was filled with Venetian windows, and the internal clustered pillars cased over with plaister and made into Tuscan columns; the east window was filled up, and the wall internally screened with a painted curtain above the altar. In the year , it being ascertained that the building was capable of no further reparations, the parish determined on rebuilding the church, and on the in the above year, the stone was laid at the north east corner, by his grace the present archbishop of Canterbury; and the building being finished, was opened for divine service , D. Laing, esq. being the architect.

The plan of the old church has been scrupulously adhered to; it shews a nave with side aisles of an undue breadth, with a square tower at the west end, a small chancel at the east, and a vestry porch affixed to the north aisle; the steeple is the work of sir Christopher Wren, and it has always been admired by the best architectural critics, for the singular elegance of its design, and the science and skill displayed in its construction, and from the circumstance of this structure having been a favourite design of the architect's, it has been designated

Sir Christopher Wren's daughter.

The steeple is composed of principal members, a square tower of principal stories divided by cornices, and a spire; the north side of the lower stories being concealed by an adjacent house; the story has entrances in the west and south fronts with pointed arches, having crocketted canopies in imitation of the architecture of the century; the heads of the arches


are filled with perpendicular mullions springing from elliptic arches formed within the pointed ones for the purpose of diminishing the height of the openings. The and stories have each a pannelled stylobate; in the west and southern faces of the story are pointed windows of lights divided by mullions, the head of each arch being occupied by perpendicular subordinate mullions, and bounded by a sweeping cornice. In the stylobate of the story is a square pannel, enriched at the angles with quatrefoils which in the north and south fronts enclose the dials; at the angles of the tower are buttresses, which from this period take an octangular form; the story is more lofty than the others, and has a window in each aspect divided by mullions into lights, the head of the arch occupied by circles enclosing sweeps, and bounded by a sweeping cornice; above the cornice which crowns this story, the elevation finishes with battlements, and the angular buttresses are pannelled and carried to a considerable height above the battlements, and are made to end in octangular obelisks crowned with finials; in the middle of each face of the elevation is a square pedestal, taking its rise from the cornice of the story, and finishing above the battlements in a pinnacle of the same form; the beauty, however, of the design lies in the spire, which commences with flying buttresses springing from the angular pinnacles, and uniting in a common centre, forming an open crown of great lightness and elegance; the buttresses upon their junction insensibly lose themselves in an octangular spire, the base of which is pierced with openings filled in with tracery, and the elevation is so justly proportioned that the whole structure forms of the most harmonious designs perhaps ever witnessed; the spire is finished with a capital and vane; the old tower of Bow gave the original idea to the architect, although the church of St. Nicholas, Newcastle, is usually quoted as Wren's authority for the present design; but whichever of these several specimens was the original, sir Christopher has improved upon his authority, for however lamentable the glaring defects of the detail may be, the ensemble is so strikingly beautiful, that the design stands unrivalled even by actual works of antiquity. The ground floor of the tower forms a porch to the church, but the architect has tastelessly covered it with a pannelled dome ceiling, enriched with Italian ornaments. In the new church, Mr. Laing has aimed at assimilating his architecture with the steeple, the windows in the aisles being copies of the lower ones in the tower, and those of the clerestory are, in the like manner, imitations of the higher windows in the same structure. The present church is built with brick faced with stone. In the west end of the south aisle, the only portion of that front which is visible, is a window, only differing from those in the story of the tower in its greater dimensions; the south aisle has windows of a


similar design, with slender buttresses of a modern character attached to the piers. Above the points of the windows is a cornice, over which the upright finishes with a plain parapet, and the buttresses with square crocketted pinnacles: near the west end is a pointed doorway The clerestory has windows corresponding in number with the aisles, and in design with those already described in the upper story of the tower. The east front consists of a centre in advance before the aisles, the wall being nearly occupied by a large window, made by mullion, into lights, which are divided by a transom stone into tiers; the head of the arch is filled with small perpendicular mullions diverging into arched heads, which very gracefully intersect each other; the whole is bounded with a sweeping cornice, resting upon busts, of which represents king George III., and the other the present archbishop of Canterbury; the angles of this design are strengthened with double buttresses, which end in pinnacles, and the parapet is pierced with upright divisions with trefoil heads; the aisles have windows in this point of view, uniform with the flanks. The division from the east of the north aisle has a large square porch attached to it, having an entrance in its east front; the frontispiece shews a pointed arch, with moulded architraves, sustained on columns attached to the jambs, and inscribed within a square headed architrave and sweeping cornice; the spandrils are enriched with quaterfoils, enclosing shields, sculptured with the following arms in relief: king George III.; the see of Canterbury, impaling quarterly; and bars, a chief quarterly, the and quarters charged with fleur de lys, and the or with a lion passant gardant for Manners, and a canton for Sutton, being the arms of his grace, Charles (Manners Sutton) archbishop of Canterbury; the doors are oak enriched with mouldings in relief, in the style of the windows; at the angles of the porch are buttresses, and the north and west fronts have each a narrow window divided by a single mullion into lights, surmounted by a circle enclosing sweeps; the walls are finished with parapets; a corresponding building, but of a subordinate character, is attached to the division of the aisle nearest the west, and the interval between the is filled with windows and buttresses; the clerestory is also uniform with its opposite front. The vestry room occupies a continuation of the western end of the north aisle; it is lighted by a window of a similar design to those in the aisles. The interior is divided as usual at the west end by a screen, forming a vestibule below the gallery; the screen is richly and tastefully carved in open work, consisting of a series of arches, filled with tracery, of a design assimilating with the aisle windows, and separated by buttresses; the spandrils are enriched, and the front of the gallery above is ornamented with pannelling, filled with shields in circles ; the organ, which stands in the centre of this gallery, has its case ornamented in unison with the church; the arches which divide the nave and aisles, commence eastward of the


division occupied by this gallery; on each side of the nave are pointed arches, the architraves moulded, and sustained on the usual clusters of columns, the bases of which, in consequence of the judicious pew arrangement, are not concealed; from the capital of the internal column in each cluster, rises another attached to the spandril of the main arch, and from which springs the ribs of the vaulted ceiling; this is groined in plaister, in imitation of an ancient stone roof, and is adorned at the intersections with bosses, the central displaying the arms of the archbishop of Canterbury. The division of the ceiling over the altar, and the corresponding above the organ, are not groined, but the soffit is enriched with sunk pannels with trefoil extremities. The general design of the ceiling resembles sir Christopher Wren's at St. Alban's, . The divisions at the east and west extremities are in the style of the same architect's church of St. Mary, Aldermary. The aisles are not groined, but the ceiling imitates a pannelled oak roof in the style of the century, resting on arched ribs springing from corbels. The altar screen is in a very inferior style. In the centre is a large unsightly niche and canopy of an hexagonal form, sided by upright pannels containing the usual inscriptions, and others purely ornamental; the altar table and rails are neatly carved. The pulpit and desks are on opposite sides of the nave, near the altar rails; the former is poligonal, ornamented with niches and pannelling in oak, and the reading desk is of the same wood, and of a similar but subordinate character. The door entering from the porch is handsomely carved in oak, and pierced with tracery corresponding with the windows; the pews and the rest of the wood work harmonizes with the general character of the building. The font is octangular, of a mean design, and unworthy of the church: it occupies a pew in the south aisle. The east window is entirely filled with stained glass, the workmanship of Mr. Backler of . The central lights in the lower tier are occupied with the altar of incense, the brazen candlesticks, and other emblems of the old law, and the side lights contain effigies of Moses and Aaron, on pedestals, with canopies over their heads; the upper lights have effigies of our Saviour, in the centre, between the evangelists, all of whom stand upon pedestals and have similar canopies over their heads; St. Matthew is singularly made to write with his left hand, in a book which he holds with his right; the small compartments in the head of the arch shew the arms of the see of Canterbury, and also the see impaled with Manners Sutton in the centre lights, and the royal and city arms in side divisions; the other compartments are filled with leaves and Mosaic work, no great degree of taste being displayed in the enrichments, and the barrenness of the artist's fancy being observable in the double repetition of the archiepiscopal arms. The aisle


windows have small leaves, and tendrils in stained glass, in the beads of the arches.

The various monuments in the old church have been repaired and erected in the present in the same relative situations which they occupied in the old structure, and where any is placed in a different situation, a brass plate records the change of site.

The monuments are very numerous in this church; on the south side of the aisle is a recumbent effigy of sir William Russel, knt. died , aged . On each side are weeping boys. Near this are tablets to the memory of several members of the Jortin family. In the same aisle is an oval tablet with drapery, fruit, flowers, &c. to sir Peter Paravicin, knt. died . At the west end of this aisle is a neat monument, ornamented with a basso relievo of Fame descending, to the memory of Samuel Turner, esq. years alderman of ward, mayor in , died , aged .

In the north aisle is a monument to dame Dyonisia Williamson, of Hales hall, in Norfolk, . At the north-east corner is a monument with twisted pillars, to the memory of sir John Moore, knt. lord mayor in , died , aged .

The entrance porch has a groined ceiling, the ribs springing from columns in the angles of the design, and the vestry room is similar.

The dimensions are as follows:

Length, exclusive of tower931 1/4
Breadth of nave1810 5/8
Aisles, each196
Total breadth634 3/4
Height of tower1806

In , on the afternoon of Easter Sunday, a violent quarrel took place in this church, between the ladies of the lord Strange and sir John Trussell, knt. which involved the husbands, and, at length, terminated in a general contest. Several persons were seriously wounded and killed. The husbands were committed to the Poultry-compter, and the archbishop of Canterbury excommunicated them.

Mr. Laing in his account of this church, has made numerous extracts from the churchwarden's accounts, which commence as early as .

In this church was an establishment or brotherhood, but the number of members is not known.

The ancient church contained at least separate chapels, a Trinity chapel and a Lady chapel; the latter was to the north. There was also an organ in the church.

Item, paide to John Haddok for playing at organs for


qrter of a yere, that is to say, fro Mydsomer onto our Ladyday aftyr, xls. xxx d.



In the church was also a clock: the following entries are curious.

Item paid the xviij day of Marche, to Gye the mason for the crosse in the chirche yerd, on the north syde of the chiche yerd, as by his bill apperith to xxiijs. ixd. wher of paid be the prish priest xs. And so paid be me for the rest xs. xd.

In the trees in the church yard is a rookery. Mr. Laing says,

A house opposite to the church is charged with a yearly rent of

three pounds

, for the purpose of furnishing the rooks in the trees of St. Dunstan's church yard, with ozier twigs, to enable them to build their nests without trouble, and for other sustenance. These rooks occasionally resort to the

Tower of London

, where they build in the White tower; and after the interval of some years, they return again to St. Dunstan's.

A part of the church yard was known under the distinction of

the Pardon church yard.


[] Vide ante, p. 433.

[] Vide ante. p. 469.

[] Ibid, p. 427.

[] P. 38.

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 Title Page
 CHAPTER I: The site, extent, buildings, population, commerce, and a view of the progressive increase of London
 CHAPTER II: List of the parishes and churches in London, with their incumbents, &c
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of Aldersgate Ward
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of Aldgate Ward
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of Bassishaw Ward
CHAPTER VI: History and Topography of Billingsgate Ward
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of Bishopsgate Ward, Without and Within
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of Bread-street Ward
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of Bridge Ward Within
CHAPTER X: History and Topography of Broad-street Ward
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of Candlewick Ward
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of Castle Baynard Ward
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of Cheap Ward
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of Coleman-street Ward
CHAPTER XV: History and Topography of Cordwainer's-street Ward
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of Cornhill Ward
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Ward Within
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Yard Without
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topography of Dowgate Yard
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of Farringdom Ward Within
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of Farringdon Ward Without
CHAPTER XXII: History and Topography of Langbourn Ward
CHAPTER XXIII: History and Topography of Lime-street Ward
CHAPTER XXIV: History and Topogrpahy of Portsoken Ward
CHAPTER XXV: History and Topography of Queenhithe Ward
CHAPTER XXVI: History and Topography of Tower Ward
CHAPTER XXVII: History and Topography of Vintry Ward
CHAPTER XXVIII: History and Topography of Wallbrook Ward