|Stepney High Street|
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Greater London England
Postal Code: E1 0NR
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
People lived in Stepney since about a thousand years before the birth of Christ. It is thought that the first church was built sometime between St Augustine's conversion of the English in the 6th century, and 952 when a second church was erected on the site by St Dunstan. The first church was probably wooden, and dedicated to All Saints, but it is thought that St Dunstan built his church here in stone. No part of this original structure survives, apart from a tenth century stone relief panel of the Crucifixion, seen under the east window. Born in Baltonsborough, Somerset, in the early tenth century, Dunstan was educated at the nearby Glastonbury Abbey, where he later became Abbot. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of Edgar the Peaceable. Some time after St Dunstan was made a saint in 1029, the church was rededicated to him. In 1896 the ancient dedication of All Saints was revived, and the two names have been used together ever since.
In the middle ages, Stepney became a favoured country retreat for lords and merchants. St Dunstan's became a place of wealth and importance. It was in this period that the building took its present shape, with the chancel built in the thirteenth century and the nave in the fifteenth. By Victorian times, Stepney had a reputation as one of the worst slums in London. Successive rectors ministered tirelessly for the poor of the parish. In WWII the church miraculously escaped the Blitz that devastated houses all around it, losing only its windows. Stepney suffered most from enemy action as it was close to the London Docks; this part of London was home to a great concentration of Jews and they would have it that Hitler targeted Stepney for that reason. (text by Geoffrey Gillon)