Oranges and Lemons

Two sticks and an apple,
Ring the bells at Whitechapel.

Old Father Bald Pate,
Ring the bells of Aldgate.

Maids in white aprons,
Ring the bells at Saint Catherine’s.

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of Saint Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of Saint Martin’s.

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

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

A Tribute to London

I remember first reading this in an illustrated book of nursery rhymes when I was a child. It’s an old English poem and I grew up in Australia. I hadn’t the foggiest about Saint Clement’s yet this verse really stuck with me. The simple rhyming scheme, repetition, and inherent melody are irresistble. No wonder historians believe the poem was contrived to help the illiterate masses remember the landmarks of London.

In my late twenties, I moved to London and had plenty of adventures living in the East End. I passed most of the churches in Oranges and Lemons at least a dozen times. Now, as I enjoy reading this poem out loud, I remember both my early childhood memories and young adulthood experiences.

For more about the origins of Oranges and Lemons, visit the Inspiring City blog.

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