First built in 1793 for Catholic seamen at the nearby Royal Hospital, the church was later rebuilt in 1851 by Willian Wilkinson Wardell, with interior designs by Augustus Pugin.
The congregation was largely Irish-born, but also included sailors from Portugal, the Cape Verde islands, and as far away as Brazil and India.
Greenwich is a place that has a long and almost insuperable history with maritime affairs, ships and the sea. This church, on the hill, overlooks the wide expanses of the River Thames and the Royal Naval College below. For generations the congregation of this small and ancient church has been made up of citizens of Greenwich who have had a connection to the boats that pass by on the river. Today, although much of the seafaring has ended, the people who worship there still remember their church’s history.
Queen Caroline was the Princess Di of her day – married to her unfaithful husband King George IV. When he decided to leave her the decision made him very unpopular throughout the kingdom. Caroline was already a Brunswick Princess before marrying George; it is said the marriage was arranged to pay large gambling debts.
Caroline first arrived in England in 1795 and George was shocked to see that she was no oil painting. She gave birth to a daughter Princess Charlotte of Wales in 1796, they lived separated lives and she was never crowned Queen, by which time George was back to his old ways of having mistresses. Caroline moved from the Royal palace to Montague House on Blackheath (Greenwich) in 1797, doing the same as her husband by having orgies and suchlike, but Princess Caroline was lively, fun-loving and a keen gardener.
One of the Prince Regent’s complaints was that she rarely washed, and that she changed her undergarments ‘only infrequently’, that personal hygiene was an alien concept, and that she ate raw onions!
Caroline died in 1821 and Napoleon died the same year. When a courtier rushed to tell George ‘Sire, your greatest enemy is dead!’, he replied ‘No, by God! Is she?’.
In the August of 1804 she decided to leave England for good and live in exile abroad – which is what George had been waiting for. So as to have no reminder of his wife’s pleasurable parties he ordered the demolition of Montague House saying he w anted it razed to the ground. Obeying his wish the house was demolished, though the bits beneath the ground were overlooked. It was not until 1909 that the sunken bath was discovered. It can still be seen inside Greenwich Park along the Eastern Wall near the Charlton way entrance.
The City of London inside of the square mile has many pumps and wells which have blended in nicely with our modern day buildings. Although they are no longer in use they still have a certain amount of charm and quaintness. Many of these old pumps long ago were a necessity, and large amounts of people I am sure, would have queued along with cattle, to refresh themselves.
This water pump standing on Cornhill, was used to water the horses in Victorian times, and was a replacement for the first mechanically pumped public water supply in London. Constructed here in 1582 on the site of an even earlier hand-pump, the mechanism a force pump driven by a water wheel under the northernmost arch of London Bridge, transferred water from the Thames through lead pipes to four outlets.
A cast iron grade II listed water pump with granite trough, outside The Royal Exchange. Each side has a fire insurance emblem. Phoenix, County, Sun and Royal Exchange.
The inscription on this side states:
On This Spot a Well Was First Made and a House of Correction Built Thereon by Henry Wallis Mayor of London in the Year 1282.
On the other side it states:
The Well Was Discovered Much Enlarged and This Pump Erected in the Year 1799 by the Contributions of The Bank of England and The East India Company The Neighbouring Fire Offices Together With the Bankers and Traders of the Ward of Cornhill
Standing at Cornhill this Water Pump not only represents the past history but also of how many times in our rushing lifes we never have time to just stop and look at simple things in life that can tell us so much of the past. London is this amazing City and would be great to have more people looking around as well.
++ To my Friend Martina Mihalciakova Melkonian ++
The original church was built around 1100 in the gothic style, but was severely damaged in the Great Fire of London. Rather than being completely rebuilt, the damaged church was patched up and a steeple, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, added. This was unusual in that Wren designed it in the gothic style to match the old church. There is a story that during a storm someone once hurried to tell Wren that all of his steeples had been damaged. ‘Not St. Dunstan’s,’ he replied confidently. However, by the early 19th century the church was in a very poor state and was rebuilt by David Laing, with assistance by William Tite. Wren’s steeple was retained in the new building.
The church was severely damaged in the Blitz of 1941. Wren’s tower and steeple survived the bombs intact. Of the rest of the church only the north and south walls remained. In the re-organisation of the Anglican Church in London following the War it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan’s, and in 1967 the City of London Corporation decided to turn the ruins of the church into a public garden, which opened in 1971. A lawn and trees were planted in the ruins, with a low fountain in the middle of the nave. The tower now houses the All Hallows House Foundation.
The parish is now combined with the Benefice of All Hallows by the Tower and occasional open-air services are held in the church, such as on Palm Sunday prior to a procession to All Hallows by the Tower along St Dunstan’s Hill and Great Tower Street. The ruin was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.