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St Dunstan's, Stepney

Located on Stepney High Street, St Dunstan's, Stepney stands on a site which has been used for Christian worship for over a thousand years. In about 952 C. E. the Bishop of London - who is also Lord of the Manor of Stepney replaced the existing wooden structure with a stone church dedicated to All the saints. In 1029, when Dunstan was canonised the church was rededicated to 'St Dunstan and All Saints', which it has remained.

Up until the early fourteenth century the church served the whole of Middlesex east of the City of London. Then new churches were built at Whitechapel and Bow]]. The existing building is the third on the site and was built of Kentish ragstone mainly in the fifteenth century (although the chancel dates from 200 years earlier. A porch and octagonal parish room were added in 1872.

There are ten bells in the belfry, which were made at the local Whitechapel Bell Foundry - the oldest was recast in 1385. They are mentioned in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons.

The church is surrounded by a churchyard of nearly seven acres. The church has a long traditional link with the sea and many sailors were buried here. It was once known as the 'Church of the High Seas', and until quite recently births, marriages and deaths at sea were registered here. The graveyard is also where Roger Crab the seventeenth century hermit is buried after livinbg on a diet solely of herbs, roots and water.

In the seventeenth century the churchyard was enlarged to cope with the massive number of deaths from the plague. 6,583 died in one eighteen month period, with 154 being buried in one day in September 1665.