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The Oranges & Lemons Churches

March 15, 2013
by the gentle author

Upon an inspired suggestion from one of my dearly-beloved readers last week, I set out to photograph those churches featured in “Oranges & Lemons” and here you see the results of my endeavour.

St Clement’s, Eastcheap

“Oranges and lemons,” say the bells of St. Clement’s.


Site of St Martin Orgar, Martin Lane

“You owe me five farthings,” say the bells of St. Martin’s.


St Sepulchre-without-Newgate

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


St Leonard’s, Shoreditch

“When I grow rich,” say the bells of Shoreditch.


St Dunstan’s, Stepney

“When will that be?” say the bells of Stepney.


St Mary Le Bow, Cheapside

“I do not know,” says the great bell of Bow.


You may also like to take a look at

Spires of City Churches

More Spires of City Churches

Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Churches

A View of Christ Church Spitalfields

In City Churchyards

23 Responses leave one →
  1. Marina B permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Ah magnificent! Wish I could buy a little chapbook of these to carry about with me.

  2. Annie permalink
    March 15, 2013

    What a brilliant start to a grey Friday! Here’s an idea: what about tracing the route of the condemned from Newgate to Tyburn?

    Go on, Gentle Author…

  3. March 15, 2013

    Inspired indeed and obvious really! Lovely.

  4. Mike Brown permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Wonderful images.. I love the black and white images; much more effective than colour. Many thanks for these.

  5. March 15, 2013

    Wonderful – thank you! As a kids’s book illustrator and daughter of an artist born within the sound of the Bow bells, I ‘ve often wondered about the churches in the rhymes. Lovely photos!
    Do all the bells still ring?

  6. Peter Holford permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Great photos again. I sang this as a kid not realising that most of the Holford line of my family were married, baptised and buried in one of them (Shoreditch) during the 19th century!

  7. Shirley permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Magnificent and inspiring-thank you!

  8. Sarah Correia permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Wonderful to see the churches. Such an old rhyme; so old that Edward & Richard York (the Little Princes in the Tower) sing it in the Shakespeare play Richard III I guest it must be. Also I adore your blog although I generally don’t comment.

  9. Liz St.John permalink
    March 15, 2013

    I love how you’ve captured the enduring stillness and peace of the church towers rising above the movement of people. Thank you!

  10. March 15, 2013

    That is a fantastic post. I’m looking forward to showing it to my children. I think I’m quite lazy I never imagined the churches (even the ones I know) when I sang that song. Nicola

  11. March 15, 2013

    So lovely, thank you.

  12. March 15, 2013

    Love, love, love this! When I lived in Yorkshire years and years ago, my eldest son learned this ditty in nursery school. We didn’t have all the churches in his version but still… I agree. I think I’ll make a little book for (40sumthin’) him.

  13. David Whittaker permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Just Beautiful

  14. March 15, 2013

    I think that’s the first time I’ve seen them all together and what marvellously sharp images they are. I was singing along with this and it reminded me of the great job Jools Holland did with them last year in his documentary, ‘London Calling’.

  15. March 15, 2013

    That was a brilliant post. I always thought St. Martin’s was St Martins in the Fields, whenever I heard the bells ring, I would think that sounds nothing like ‘You Owe Me Five Farthings’, now I know why.

  16. Tina permalink
    March 15, 2013

    The Bow bells certainly ring, loud and clear!

  17. gary permalink
    March 17, 2013

    great idea

  18. Jonathan permalink
    March 17, 2013

    Are St Clement Danes in the Strand wrong to claim they are the subject of the first line of this rhyme?

    Their bells even peel the famous tune and they hand out citrus fruit at some of their ceremonies.

    Still I’m certain you know something more than I on the matter. Thanks again for a wonderful post on what for me is becoming essential daily reading.

  19. Susan Goldman permalink
    March 17, 2013

    Another wonderful post. How nice to see all of the churches from the rhyme photographed like this. I really enjoyed it, thank you.

  20. March 24, 2013

    Fantastic, thank you.

  21. March 25, 2013

    A wonderful idea – wish I’d thought of that 🙂

  22. Jean permalink
    May 15, 2014

    Following up on a previous comment querying whether the church, St. Clement’s, situated in the Strand (now known as St. Clement Danes Church) was in fact the one referred to in the nursery rhyme and not the church of the same name in Eastcheap. Having worked with the Charity that continues today, one established hundreds of years ago by the Elders of the church in the Strand, the books and records that I have seen would indicate that St. Clement’s in the Strand is more likely to be the one in the rhyme. The church owned land around it stretching from the river towards Covent Garden market. Boats carrying citrus fruits would have been unloaded at the wharfs nearby and in order for the fruits to be transported to the market, the porters would have had to traverse the Church’s grounds. It is probable that a small ‘toll payment’ would be exacted for this facility – logical to assume this payment would be in the form of the fruits carried – oranges and lemons – which would be given afterwards to the poor and needy, particularly the children, that the Charity helped. A tradition still carried out annually today after a service attended by the children of a local school that was started by the Charity.

  23. Chris permalink
    August 5, 2017

    Have just tuaght my six year old son the words and meaning to this song. These pictures are a great illustration and we intend to hunt them out ourselves.

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