Stepney, England — Our Sister City
A Trip Through Stepney Green (continued)
Until the early 1300’s it served the whole of Middlesex east of the City, a very large area. The present building made of Kentish Rag Stone is the third built on the site and was built in the 15th century, although the Chancel is from an earlier building from the 13th century. The church took its present shape just before Christopher Columbus set sail for the Americas. It is the mother church of the East End and with the ancient port of London nearby became known as the Church of the “High Seas”.
St. Dunstan’s Stepney was once the church for the whole of what is now the London Borough of Tower Hamlets plus part of Hackney. The enormous far-flung and heavily populated parish was said to be the “most ample” perhaps in Europe, covering, at its greatest, seven square miles. In the early Middle Ages, people from all the villages and hamlets east of the Tower of London came along the lanes to worship and seal their rites of passage at Stepney church.
The church tower has ten bells, made locally at the world famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The oldest one having been recast in 1385. They are commemorated in the rhyme, “Oranges and Lemons” … “When will that be, say the bells of Stepney”.
During the Blitz of the Second World War, the St. Dunstan’s church was spared but the stained glass windows were blown out. The new window behind the chancel depicts the Risen Christ as shown above the ruins of Stepney after the Blitz and stands as a reminder that for over 1,000 years, St. Dunstan’s has stood as a witness of the power of the Resurrection of Christ in the lives of the people of Stepney.