Romantic ruins in Nostalgic London
1) St Dunstan in the East
Finding this quiet spot, just minutes away from the City and the Tower of London, feels like you’ve stumbled across a secret. Grade I-listed church St Dunstan in the East was originally built around 1100. When it was damaged during the Great Fire of London, it was patched up and architect Sir Christopher Wren added a steeple and a tower. The church was badly damaged once again during the Blitz in 1941, but the decision was made not to restore or rebuild it. Instead it’s become a secluded and achingly pretty public garden, where plants climb around the remains of the church’s glassless windows.
2) Crystal Palace
An enormous glass palace once stood on this spot, which is now known as Crystal Palace Park. Originally constructed in Hyde Park in 1851 to house the Great Exhibition, the palace moved, glass panel by glass panel, over the river once the world-famous fair was finished. For a time it housed exhibitions, concerts and circuses, but the elaborate palace sadly fell into disrepair and was destroyed by a fire in 1936. You can still spot foundation stones, terraces, stairs, headless figures and sphinx statues in the park, as well as a series of ‘life-size’ (and now proven to be anatomically incorrect) Victorian dinosaurs in the greenery.
3) Christ Church Greyfriars
You’ll find fragrant roses and climbing towers of flowers in the ruins of this ancient church. The body of the church, built on the site of the 1225 Franciscan church of Greyfriars, was destroyed by incendiary bombs in 1940. Now, it’s a pretty garden in the shadow of the one remaining tower, designed to reflect the floor plan of the original church, with flower beds sitting where pews once did.
4) Winchester Palace
You could easily walk right by the ruins of Winchester Palace, but it was one of the most important buildings in medieval London. Built in the early 13th century, the riverside palace was the London residence of the powerful bishops of Winchester. All you’ll find left today is a few sections of wall, one inset with a beautiful rose window, that were once part of the great hall.
5) St George’s Garrison Church
Originally built in the 1860s to serve the Royal Artillery in Woolwich, St George’s Garrison Church was a grand local landmark, designed in Italian-Romanesque style with richly decorated interiors, bold mosaics and stained glass. After being bombed in World War II and partially destroyed, the ruins became a memorial garden, with a modern roof protecting what remains of the church’s impressive interior. It’s open to the public every Sunday.
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Discover London off the beaten path with The 500 Hidden Secrets of London and explore the city's historic treasures with Nostalgic London.
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