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Oranges & Lemons Churches

January 31, 2016
by the gentle author

First published in 1722, there has been enormous speculation around the identity of the churches in ‘Oranges & Lemons.’ But since St Clement’s Eastcheap once stood in close proximity to St Martin Ongar within an area traditionally inhabited by moneylenders in the City of Lond0n, I deduce these are the two churches featured in the opening lines.

From here, the locations spiral out and around the City like a peal of bells blowing on the wind. The third line refers to St Sepulcre-without-Newgate which stands opposite the Old Bailey and close to the location of the Fleet Prison where debtors were held. The fourth line features St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, while the church in the fifth line is St Dunstan’s, Stepney, and rhyme culminates back in the City of London at St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside.

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

9 Responses leave one →
  1. January 31, 2016

    Lovely idea with the photos of the Churches! Valerie

  2. Ian Findlay permalink
    January 31, 2016

    Dear Gentle Author,

    More churches for you!

    From Tonmy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (1744)

    Two Sticks and Apple,
    Ring ye Bells at Whitechapple,
    Old Father Bald Pate,
    Ring ye Bells Aldgate,
    Maids in White Aprons,
    Ring ye Bells a St. Catherines,
    Oranges and Lemons,
    Ring ye bells at St. Clements,
    When will you pay me,
    Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey,
    When I am Rich,
    Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch,
    When will that be,
    Ring ye Bells at Stepney,
    When I am Old,
    Ring ye Bells at Pauls.

  3. January 31, 2016

    One of my favourite childhood rhymes – even better now I can picture all of the churches too

  4. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 31, 2016
    Very interesting

  5. Brenda permalink
    January 31, 2016

    Love it, memories of childhood.

  6. January 31, 2016

    Odd how one can miss the context of old familiar rhymes. As a child, unfamiliar with business of the City of London, I liked the way the rhyme suggested the sound and tone of the bells and was amused by the conversation between the bells without much thought of its significance. As a teenager I appreciated the sinister use of the rhyme in 1984 and how it signified Winston and Julia’s doomed love and arrest. By focusing on the location of the churches, this post suddenly made it clear that the writer of this old rhyme uses the bells to summarise the business within the narrow lanes and counting houses of the city. It’s all about commodities, exchange, hope of turning a fat profit, handling debt and the uncertainty of the markets. The daily business of the City.
    The significance the Church has declined but the power house of the city rumbles on.

  7. Vicky permalink
    January 31, 2016

    Thank you for the YouTube link Greg!

  8. pauline taylor permalink
    January 31, 2016

    I like this, and how about ‘kettles and pans’ say the bells of St Anne’s?

  9. Sarah Bradbury permalink
    June 18, 2017

    Your blog inspired me to do the same when I was on a work trip down to the smoke! Thank you.

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