St Dunstan in the West

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Dunstan in the West was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the oldest reference to it dating to 1180, and possibly as long ago as the tenth or eleventh, sometime between the death of Archbishop Dunstan in 988 and the consecration of Archbishop Lanfranc in 1070.  A chapel was added in the fifteenth century, in 1421, by one T. Duke, who was there buried.

The church was undamaged  in the Great Fire of 1666, thanks to the action of forty scholars from Westminster School, under their Dean.     Nonetheless, it was demolished in 1828, then rebuilt   by John Shaw Senior and, after his death,  his son John Shaw Junior, between 1830-33.  It was then damaged by a bomb in 1944, and rebuilt again in 1950, with financial support from the newspaper magnate Viscount Camrose.  It  is presently home to not only an Anglican congregation but also a Romanian Orthodox one, and the  altar screen is from a monastery in Bucharest.

The distinctively octagonal interior of the church, impressionistically dappled with colour from the stained-glass windows, contains a number of sixteenth- and seventeenth- century memorials. 

The entrance to the vestry incorporates  a  statue of   Elizabeth I dating to 1586, that used to stand on Ludgate until its demolition in 1760

Inside the porch are statues of King Lud, the mythical founder of London, and his sons Androgeus and Tenvantius, or Theomantius, that also used to stand on Ludgate, and probably also date to around 1586. 

The feature clock, and the wooden aedicule above it containing the figures of two giants, possibly Gog and Magog, date to the late seventeenth century, or possibly the early eighteenth.  The giants, clad only in loincloths, ring the bells with their clubs each  quarter-hour.

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