Love architecture? Love finding bits of the city that no one else knows about? You could do a lot worse than hunting down two unusual churches that both go by the name of St Dunstan.
Head to Fleet Street first. This noisy, narrow thoroughfare was famously the centre of the printing and newspaper trades until the 1980s. It was also the abode of Sweeney Todd, the semi-fictitious ‘demon barber’ who would slit the throats of customers. Our first target, St Dunstan-in-the-West is easy to find; it skulks between offices towards the western end of Fleet Street. Look along the rooftops as you go – the buildings of Fleet Street reflect a bewildering range of styles and periods. The church itself is one of the oldest in London, founded around 1000 years ago (although the current building is mostly Victorian rebuild). Look in particular at the stuff attached to the church. The clock has long been a famous London landmark. Built in the 1670s, it was the first in London to have a minute hand. Try to time your visit to coincide with one of the quarters of the hour and you’ll see two figures emerge from the clock and strike a bell. Further to the right, you might also spot the stone figure of Queen Elizabeth I, carved during her reign in 1586. It’s one of the oldest outdoor sculptures in London.
After the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street, a visit to the other St Dunstan makes a welcome contrast. St Dunstan-in-the-East sits in one of the quieter quarters of the financial district – you’ll find it (with the help of a map) on Idol Lane. Head there at the weekend and you’re likely to find yourself completely alone. The church was built by Sir Christopher Wren just after the Great Fire, but only the tower now remains following a pounding during the Second World War (its unusual spire brings to mind a space ship). The outer walls form the boundary of a delightful peace garden inside what was once the nave. The central bubbling fountain and plentiful benches make this one of the most pleasant spots in the whole of London.