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Oranges & Lemons Churches

June 8, 2019
by the gentle author

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

Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Churches

A View of Christ Church Spitalfields

In City Churchyards

13 Responses leave one →
  1. June 8, 2019

    St Clement’s and St Martin Orgar used very unusual and attractive architecture for churches. I wonder if they were originally built for other purposes.

  2. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 8, 2019

    Ding dong!

    I wonder how many of their bells were made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry?

  3. June 8, 2019

    Superb photographs, GA – suitably striking (pun intended) in black & white, and with pedestrians lurking in the shadows.

  4. June 8, 2019

    Where is the Bow Church in the photograph. This isn’t The one at Bow roundabout??

  5. June 8, 2019

    This is lovely, and very interesting! I hadn’t realised that St Clements is St Clement’s Eastcheap – I had always assumed it was St Clement Danes.

  6. Helen Breen permalink
    June 8, 2019

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, I always loved this rhyme and didn’t realized that all of these churches still stand. Clever and fun…

  7. June 8, 2019

    What beautiful photos. Thank you so much for bringing them to us ! I believe was born as a true cockney within the sound of Bow bells in the Hackney Hospital . I almost died from pneumonia in the first six weeks of my life but I survived. Many years later when my father died I received a letter from an old friend of my father Lawerence Sutton and a copy of a book that he wrote “Glimpses of Childhood” in which the whole episode was recorded ! You can imagine what that meant to me

  8. Gary Arber permalink
    June 8, 2019

    Has this old song a background of debt and threats of collection?. Most of these old rhymes have nasty backgrounds. A few weeks ago my neighbours children were singing ring a ring of roses at their garden party. “ring a ring of roses – (the rash at the onset of the plague) a pocket full of posies – (breathing through aromatic bunches of herbs in the hope of a cure) – a tishoo, a tishoo – (fits of sneezing, one of the signs that the end is near) – all fall down !

  9. Eric Forward permalink
    June 8, 2019

    @ Grenville, the Bow church is actually in Cheapside, not Bow. I long thought the Bow church that sits in the island between traffic was the church the rhyme referenced, but aparently it is St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside that is the actual church. Great post with great pictures.

  10. Amanda permalink
    June 10, 2019

    How lovely to see all the churches, giving the familiar song my aunts sang in the kitchen in my childhood a new meaning.
    My school was Burlington-Clement Danes, originally founded in 1699 by Irish Lord Burlington in St James’s, Piccadilly for the children of household servants. Later a grammar school, now an Academy in the suburbs.

    In the 1850s Great Granny married “to- the-bells-of-Shore-ditch.

  11. June 11, 2019

    We used to play a game to this song, where one child was orange and the other was lemon. these two locked hands in the air and all the other children ran under the arch until the song ended and the child caught under the arch had to choose, orange or lemon. the caught child didnt know which side was orange or lemon until caught. when all children had been caught, and stood behind either orange or lemon, there was a tug of war, andthe side that pulled the other side over the line drawn in chalk between them, won. Gilda Moss Haber, PhD

    we also added to the words after “when will you pay me i..e.When I grow rich, said the Bells of comes the lighter to light you to bed, here come the chopper to chop off your head, chip chop, chipchop. the last man’s OUT, and the child between the arms of orange and yellow was taken apart from the line and had to whisper which side, orange or lemon. when all children had been caught, and stoodbehind orange or lemon there was a tug of war, the side that pulled the other over the dividing line, won, lots of fun.

  12. Jeff Apter permalink
    June 12, 2019

    Great pics! I was brought up in Stepney almost next to St.Dunstan’s and go to the area frequently. I know and recognise the other churches except Old Bailey (although I know the court) and St. Martins.

  13. Jeff Apter permalink
    June 12, 2019

    The photos were forwarded to me by my cousin, also brought up in the East End. Please put me on your send-out list. Many thanks.

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