diamond geezer

 Sunday, September 12, 2021

Open House normally lasts just one weekend, so to be able to go out for a Day Three is a treat. It could have been Day Eight, given that a handful of properties also opened midweek, but slogging through the website to find three Saturday properties proved challenging enough. My trio of buildings included one from a nursery rhyme, one with a 9th floor roof terrace and one offering a free courgette to every visitor. Nothing outstanding, but still very much par for the course.

1) St Dunstan's
This has been on my OH list for years but I've never visited because there's always been somewhere better to go than Stepney. St Dunstan's is the oldest church in the East End, established by the aforementioned Bishop of London in the year 952. The current building's not quite that old but does boast a 10th century rood cross, a 13th century chancel and a 15th century tower. The Red Ensign flies from the flagpole because the Port of London once lay in the parish, so St Dunstan's was often known as the "Church of the High Seas" (and is where centuries of deaths at sea were registered). What with 16th century tombs, 19th century bells and 20th century glass, exploring the interior is like a full-on history lesson.

One of the most striking features is the stained glass window behind the altar which depicts a suspiciously blond Christ, mid-crucifixion, high above the ruined streets of wartime Stepney. I also liked the Mercer's Map, an embroidered historical perspective of the parish stitched by local ladies, and a full list of St Dunstan's rectors starting in 1233 and only recently overflowing onto a second plaque. This month the church is hosting an exhibition by local artists, dominated by four particularly evocative portraits of homeless men strung around pillars down the nave. Regular users of the food bank might like to know that current stocks include a heck of a lot of bottles of vegan mayo and packets of Uncle Ben's rice. And yes, this is indeed the building from the nursery rhyme... "When will that be, say the bells of Stepney."

2) Republic London
After the East India Docks were filled in, late eighties, the LDDC turned the Export Dock into an administrative estate. Tower Hamlets built their new town hall at one end, some of the UK's key data centres opened at the other, and inbetween arose some impressively bland postmodern office blocks. In 2015 plans were developed to knock them down and replace them with flats, but the developers instead chose a carbon-friendlier path by keeping the shells and renovating the interior. The end result was Republic, a "mixed use next generation office campus", conveniently located where the A12 meets the A13. The walkways now boast jazzed-up ponds overlooked by wooden gazebos that stream nightmarish musak, most of the ground floor retail units are yet to be occupied, and were it not for council employees and gymgoers the whole space would feel impressively dead. Pandemicwise, flats might have been by far the better choice.

For Open House we were welcomed inside the Import Building, inasmuch as a signless entrance and a terse security guard are welcoming. No photos of the interior were permitted, although I can confirm that the timber-frame inserted into the atrium looks very much like the official pictures on the website (except the cherry wasn't in flower). While waiting for our guides to arrive I peered into the "curated amenity offering", i.e. coffee shop, and noted that the so-called library was essentially 100 arty books arranged on the shelves by colour. A security issue affects visitor passes and the turnstiles, but I won't elucidate further because HM Government rent an office upstairs.

Our invitation to "Explore the Import Building" turned out to be just a chat in the atrium and a trip in the lift to the 9th floor. That said, an ascent to a roof terrace is an Open House staple that never gets tired, and the unobstructed parts of the view were rather splendid. The Dome and Thames were clearly visible behind East India DLR, the heart of Docklands resembled a fortress of blue and brown building blocks, and right up close was the 'On' button logo on the front of Global Switch's IT megahub. Canary Wharf will however disappear when one of Republic's four buildings is replaced by flats and student accommodation, which does suggest economics have finally overtaken carbon-friendliness in the owner's list of priorities.

3) St Mary of Eton Church Mixed Use Development
St Mary's is actually in Hackney Wick, but was indeed founded by a mission based in Eton when the public school sought to support a marginalised corner of the Victorian East End. The church is huge and Gothic, as befitted the congregation at the time, but a few years ago was suddenly hemmed in by a burst of flats in garish variegated brick which I have never taken to. Open House provided the ideal opportunity to go inside and find out why, and hopefully to appreciate the building a little better. And yes, the extra millions from selling off the churchyard and tower have gone to help St Mary's survive the future and retain some relevance, so now I detest the exterior a little less.

As part of the revamp half the church essentially became its church hall, with facilities deftly shielded behind timber shutters. The remaining chunk of nave behind the decorated screen is perfectly adequate for current levels of worship, its seats neatly laid out for today's Trinitytide service and with a Whitechapel Foundry bell hanging in one corner. I hung around for tea and Tunnocks and conversation, confirming the friendliness of the current set-up, and was honoured to be present at the precise moment when Reverend Sue suddenly discovered her church had a basement. She was keen I took a courgette from the table when I left because these donated vegetables wouldn't last, but courgettes are very much not my favourite squash so I had to disappoint her. If you're local, they're probably still up for grabs today.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards