Oranges & Lemons
On my regular commute to work I pass by Bow Church on the way to the station. The church began life in 1311 when Bishop Ralph Baldock of London licensed the building of a chapel, though the church which can be seen today dates from around 1490. Go a little further down Bow Road and you will see The Bow Bells pub, you really can't miss it as it is painted bright orange! On the outside of the pub is a plaque with a version of the well known nursery rhyme 'Oranges & Lemons' indicating that the nearby church may be the location of the 'great bell of Bow'. It is however more likely, given the location of the other churches in the nursery rhyme, to be St. Mary-le-Bow in the City, the sounding of the bells credited with having persuaded Dick Whittington to turn back and remain in London to become Lord Mayor.
The exact date of origin for the nursery rhyme is unknown. There was a Square Dance called 'Oranges and Lemons' dating back to 1665, though it is not clear if it relates to the rhyme. The first published record dates to 1744 in 'Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book' - though this is a shorter version.
The names listed, in both the short and longer versions, are some of the many churches in London (some of which have been changed in the shorter version) and the tune is said to echo the sound of the bells.
The pub's version doesn't include the somewhat sinister playground ending which we all know:
"Here comes a candle to light you to bed, Here comes a chopper to chop off your head, Chip chop chip chop - the Last Man's Dead"
These lines are thought to be a later addition referring to the practices and executions at Newgate Prison, which stood on the current site of the Old Bailey. What is wonderful about the nursery rhyme is the picture it paints of 16th and 17th century London, from references to trades (brickbats and tiles), commerce (you owe me ten shillings), and recreation (bulls eyes and targets).
Today's walk follows the nursery rhyme around London visiting the locations (in order), from St. Clement's to St. Mary-le-Bow.
So with rhyme in hand... 'Happy go up and Happy go down, To Ring the Bells of London Town'...
Distance: around 14 miles.