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Easter Procession In Stepney

March 26, 2016
by the gentle author

Every Easter, George & Dunstan, donkeys at Stepney City Farm enjoy an outing when they join the Parishioners of St Dunstan’s for the annual procession around the vicinity on Palm Sunday – and, this year, Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien & I joined the enthusiastic throng on a cold and grey spring morning.

Walking down from Whitechapel, Colin & I followed Stepney Way, which was once a path across the fields used by worshippers when St Dunstan’s was the parish church for the whole of Tower Hamlets. St Dunstan founded it in 952 and it stands today as earliest surviving building after the Tower on this side of London.

At the old stone church, we discovered the wardens were eager to show us their ancient silver, a mace and a staff, with images of St Dunstan, the Tower and a Galleon referring to the days when this was the parish of seafarers. Once, all those who were born or died at sea were entered here in the parish register.

Curate Chris Morgan led off across the churchyard along the fine avenue of plane trees, swinging incense and followed by church wardens, sidesmen, George & Dunstan the donkeys, members of the parish and a solo trumpeter, with the Rector Trevor Critchlow bringing up the rear.

Anyone still nursing a hangover from Saturday night might have been astounded to be awoken by the sound of a heavenly host, and parted the curtains to discover this rag tag parade. Yet it was a serious commemoration of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem in which the streets of Stepney became transformed into the Via Sacra for a morning.

They marched through the empty terraced streets, past the large development site, turned left at the curry restaurant, passing the pizza takeaway and the beauty parlour, before turning left again at the youth centre to re-enter the churchyard. Then there was just time to pet the donkeys before they filed into the church to warm up again and begin Sunday morning prayers. And this was how Easter began in Stepney.

St Dunstan with his metalworkers’ tongs on top of the seventeenth century mace

A galleon upon an eighteenth century staff is a reminder St Dunstan’s was the parish of seafarers

Tower of London upon the reverse of the staff

Sidesmens’ batons from the era of George IV

Julian Cass, Sidesman

Jenny Ellwood, Sidesperson, and Sarah Smith, Parish Clerk

Trevor Critchlow, Rector of St Dunstan’s

Curate Chris Morgan leads the procession

Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien

You may also like to read about

Nativity Procession In Spitalfields

Vera Hullyer At St Dunstan’s

Easter Flowers At St Dunstan’s

At St Dunstan’s Harvest Festival

A Stepney Remembrance

10 Responses leave one →
  1. March 26, 2016

    Happy Easter!

  2. linda salter permalink
    March 26, 2016

    My x4 great-grandparents married here in 1815. My son and I visited and attended a weekday service at Michaelmas about 3 yrs ago. We were made very welcome and invited to the vestry to talk to everyone after and shown old, local maps.
    Wonderful building and great clergy and congregation. Renewed thanks!

  3. March 26, 2016

    A good traditional blog this walk is being carried all over the country. I believe the church is on the up now that’s nice. Happy Easter to gentle man and all contributing bloggers who contribute here, you are all over the world peace be with you. John

  4. March 26, 2016

    Hosanna in the highest. :-)

  5. Helen Breen permalink
    March 26, 2016

    GA, thanks for sharing yet another lovely London tradition with your readers around the globe.

    Peace on earth…

  6. March 26, 2016

    +++ FROHE OSTERN 2016 ! +++
    +++ HAPPY EASTER 2016 ! +++
    +++ JOYEUSES PÂQUES 2016 ! +++

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  7. Linda Granfield permalink
    March 26, 2016

    Easter greetings to GA and all the fellow artists who contribute to this marvelous blog. Thanks for sharing yourselves with us who live around the world.

    Peace.

  8. Judy stevens permalink
    March 28, 2016

    Thank you for your interesting insights into life in London! Much enjoyed x

  9. Leah Elsey permalink
    March 31, 2016

    Beautiful photo of the two children standing outside the front of the church holding palm leaves. My grandad lived in Rectory Square as a child in the early 1930s and he remembers going to Summer fairs in St Dunstan’s Rectory garden, especially the stall with the apple bobbing!

  10. yvonne jones (wright) maiden name permalink
    April 2, 2016

    Would like details in my baptisim approx 1955. Yvonne pearl wright and shirley marie wright. Thank you for your help. Yvonne jones

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