Oranges & Lemons

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.

"Oranges and lemons" say the bells of St. Clement's...

St. Clement Eastcheap
 considers itself to be the church referred in the rhyme given its location close to the wharf where citrus fruits where unloaded (though St. Clement Dane on Strand also lays claim and their bells ring out the tune three times a day). Probably founded in the late Saxon period, the later medieval church which stood on the site was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.

"Bulleyes and targets" say the bells of St. Margaret's...

The earliest mention of St. Margaret Lothbury is in 1185. It was rebuilt in 1440, and again by Wren between 1686-1690 following the Great Fire. Bullseyes & targets is a reference to archery that was practiced in nearby fields.

"Brickbats & tiles" say the bells of St. Giles'...

St. Giles-without-Cripplegate is one of the few medieval churches left in the City of London which survived the Great Fire. It was built without (outside) the city wall near the Cripplegate. Brickbats and tiles referenced nearby builders yards.

"Halfpence & farthings" say the bells of St. Martin's...

St. Martin Orgar was almost completely destroyed during the Great Fire, with only the tower and part of the nave left standing. The remains were used until 1820 but then most of the remaining building was pulled down except the tower which was rebuilt in 1851 to be used as the bell tower for nearby St. Clement Eastcheap. Halfpence & farthings relates to the moneylenders who traded nearby.

"Pancakes & fritters" say the bells of St. Peter's...

St. Peter upon Cornhill was destroyed by the Great Fire and rebuilt to Wren's designs. It is now used as a satellite church for nearby St. Helen's Bishopsgate. Pancakes and fritters referenced nearby food stalls.

"Two sticks & an apple" say the bells of Whitechapel...

Not a church for this one but the Whitechapel Bell Foundry which is the oldest manufacturing company in Great Britain. The company dates back to 1570 and has occupied the site (a former coaching inn) on Whitechapel Road since 1738. Notable bells are the Liberty Bell (1752) and Big Ben (1858). Many cathedrals and churches across the world have bells cast by the foundry, including some of those visited today. They also designed the 2012 Olympic Bell and cast the Royal Jubilee Bells used on the lead barge for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The reference to two sticks & an apple is unknown.

"Maids in white aprons" say the bells of St. Katherine's...

St. Katherine Cree was founded in 1280 with the present building dates from 1628–30. Formerly a parish church, it is now a guild church. It is the only Jacobean church to have survived in London. Maids in white aprons referenced the work clothes of the women who worked in the nearby Leadenhall Market.

"Pokers and tongs" say the bells of St. John's...

St. John's Chapel is located in the Tower of London with the building dating back to 1080. It is located on the second floor of the White Tower which was built as a keep/citadel and is the oldest part of the fortress. It was constructed from stone imported from France. The Tower was used as a prison for many years and pokers and tongs refer to the torture implements which were used there.

"Kettles and pans" say the bells of St. Anne's...

A church on the site was mentioned in documents of 1137 and the unusual double dedication, St. Anne and St. Agnes, is unique in the City and was acquired some time in the 15th century. The church was gutted by fire in 1548 and rebuilt soon after. The 14th century tower was the only section to survive the Great Fire and was rebuilt again by Wren in 1680. Kettles and pans refers to the items sold by the coppersmiths who worked nearby.

"Old Father Baldpate" say the slow bells of Aldgate...

The earliest written record of St. Botolph's Aldgate dates from 1115, but there may have been a church on the site from before 1066. The church was rebuilt in the 16th century, renovated in 1621 and escaped the Great Fire. The present building dates between 1741 and 1744, and was designed by George Dance the Elder. Old Father Baldpate is believed to be St. Botolph himself, with baldpate being a reference to his bald head.

"You owe me ten shillings" say the bells of St. Helen's...

The church of St. Helen's Bishopsgate dates from the 12th century and a priory of Benedictine nuns was founded there in 1210. It was one of only a few the City churches which survived the Great Fire and the Blitz. However in 1992 and 1993 the church was badly damaged by two IRA bombs that were set off nearby. One of the City's largest medieval stained glass windows was shattered and many monuments were destroyed. The church has since been restored. Nearby money lenders are referenced in the rhyme with the line 'You owe me ten shillings'.

"When will you pay me?" say the bells of Old Bailey...

The Old Bailey itself does not have a bell and this would refer to the bells of Newgate Prison and St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate. The original Saxon church on the site was dedicated to St Edmund the King and Martyr. During the Crusades in the 12th century the church was renamed St Edmund and the Holy Sepulchre, in reference to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The name eventually became contracted to St Sepulchre. In medieval times the church would have stood just outside (without) the city wall near the Newgate. 'When will you pay me' is a reference to debtors who were kept in the prison and sentenced at the Old Bailey. Traditionally, the great bell in St. Sepulchre would have been rung to mark the execution of a prisoner at the nearby gallows.

"When I grow rich" say the bells of Shoreditch...

The original church of St. Leonard's Shoreditch was possibly Saxon in origin, though the first historical reference to it occurs in the 12th century. Following a partial collapse of the tower in 1716, the medieval church was rebuilt in Palladian style by George Dance the Elder during 1736–40. 'When I grow rich' would have been heard a lot in the area, as Shoreditch was considered a very poor area.

"Pray when will that be?" say the bells of Stepney...

St Dunstan's, Stepney stands on a site that has been used for Christian worship for over a thousand years. In about 952 the Bishop of London replaced the existing wooden structure with a stone church dedicated to All the Saints. When Dustan was canonised in 1029 the church was rededicated to St. Dunstan and All Saints. 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 it is though that 'Pray when will that be?' is a reference to the wives of sailors waiting for their return.

"I do not know" say the great bells of Bow...

Founded in or around 1080 as the London headquarters of the archbishops of Canterbury, the medieval church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside survived three devastating collapses before being completely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The church was considered an important landmark of London, and 'Bow Bells' could be heard as far away as Hackney Marshes - it is said that to be a true cockney you must be born within earshot of the bells. Given its importance it was one of the first churches to be rebuilt by Wren. It was destroyed once more in 1941 but was again rebuilt and re-consecrated in 1964. 'I do not know' isn't an obvious reference, but as the victim is about to have his head chopped off, maybe he wasn't able to pay up in the end!

I Like Big Bundts And I Cannot Lie...

I Like Big Bundts And I Cannot Lie...

An Old Fashioned Kentucky New Year...

An Old Fashioned Kentucky New Year...