“Oranges and Lemons “ service St Clement Danes primary school in St Clement Danes RAF church
This is held every year in March usually the 3rd Thursday in March
Location of the church in London
The Church in the Borough of Westminster is near the Royal Courts of justice in the middle of the road around the Strand. It was thought the site was a Danish founded church site in the 9th C It is thought they named it after a patron st of Mariners St Clement. It suffered some damages over the years and fire damage in 1666 In 1682 Sir Christopher Wren completed the church. A tower was added c 1719 by James Gibbs. but this was subject to bomb damage in WW2 and rebuilt and refurbishments were finished around 1958. It was then given the additional title of RAF church, it was their fundraising that helped to restore the church. 19th Oct 1958 it was reconsecrated to be the Central church of the RAF.
When the idea started for the service
Reverend William Pennington-Bickford started the St Clements service in 1919 to celebrate the restoration bells and carillon. It was his idea to make them chime to the nursery rhyme. The Rector and his wife started a St Clement Danes Oranges and Lemon Service. The children at this service received oranges and lemons. Some of the fruits were flown in from RAF Bases in Cyprus in the past. St Clement Dane primary school attend this service every year. It is not the only church associated with the nursery rhyme. ST Clements Eastcheap in the east end also is associated because of it being close to the bells of Shoreditch.
The Church bells play the Nursery Rhyme
But where did the nursery rhyme come from/? Theories are that the words are about executions.
Playford’s dancing master 1665 featured it as a square 4 –eight- dance.
Lyrics appear in the book Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Songbook around 1744. The British Library holds this relic item that was thought the oldest nursery rhymes book. https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/tommy-thumbs-pretty-song-book
1962 Pathe Film about the service