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Oranges and Lemons


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The traditional rhyme which details some of the church-bells of London is known all over the English-speaking world, and exists in numerous versions. Its first known printing was c.1744, in a version that starts withTwo sticks and an appleRing ye bells at WhitechappleOld Father Bald PateRing ye bells at Aldgate …and it appeared regularly in 18th- and 19th-century printed sources. It was not unusual for rhymes to be made on local bell-chimes, and it was presumably its regular appearance in print which made the London rhyme become the standard. Traditionally, the rhyme also accompanied a game (see Gomme). There is some doubt about which St Clement's the rhyme refers to, although the congregation of St Clement Danes are sure it is their church which is mentioned, as they have a custom which began in 1920 on the occasion of the restoration and re-hanging of the church's bells. Every year, on or near 31 March, the church is decorated with oranges and lemons, and children from the nearest school attend for a special service. They are given fruit as they leave, which is traditionally provided by the London Danish community.

Opie and Opie, 1997: 398–401;Gomme, 1898: ii. 25–35;Hole, 1975: 151–2;Howard, 1964: 65–6.


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