St Clement Danes

Oranges and Lemons – London Church Bells

The Bells of St Clement Danes in the Strand, play the nursery rhyme, which lists the London church bells. Danish residents who lived there in the ninth century, named the church after St Clement, the patron saint of mariners. The church renovated by William the Conqueror, was demolished and rebuilt by St Christopher Wren in 1682.  In 1941 the church suffered damage after being hit by an incendiary bomb. The ten bells crashed to the ground and were put into storage and recast after the war. The church was not completely restored and reconsecrated until 19th October 1958. 
The church has become known as the Orange and Lemons church on account of the playing of the seventeenth century nursery rhyme by the bells. “Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements” refers to the fruits, unloaded at the wharfs nearby.
  “You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martins” These bells were the bells of St Martin Orgar Church, destroyed in the Great Fire of London 1666, of which only the original bell and bell tower survived. The nursery rhyme refers to the money lenders who traded nearby. o
St Clement Danes
 “When will you pay me?, say the bells of Old Bailey” These are the bells of the church of St. Sepulchre within Newgate, as the Old Bailey didn’t have a church and therefore no church bells.  These bells of St Sepulchre were heard inside Newgate prison, by debtors waiting to be tried at the Old Bailey. 
“When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch. These are the bells of St Leonards Church Hackney. This expresses seventeenth century irony, as the whole area, was known for its poverty.
“When will that be? say the bells of Stepney” This refers to St Dunstan’s Church in the High Street, which had a maritime population. Wives would be waiting for husbands to return from sea with money for housekeeping. Probably a long wait!
“I do not know, says the Great Bell of Bow” As in the case of St Clement Danes, the Church of St Mary-Le-Bow in Cheapside was severely damaged by bombing in 1941.  The bells crashed to the floor and when restoration took place in 1956, they had to be recast. The bells were finally heard ringing again in 1961.
People born within the sound of Bow Bells were historically regarded as being genuine Cockney. The word was a derogatory reference to town dwellers, who were regarded as having an easy life compared to people who lived in the country. These would be the EastEnders, who became known for this London dialect. 
The Bow Bells are associated with Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London. The story that he was a poor boy who came to London and was about to leave, until the sound of the Bow Bells, convinced him to stay, has no basis in reality. Whittington, a younger son of a wealthy family was already wealthy on arrival and there is no evidence that he ever owned a cat!

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