Please forward this error screen to drawing with children at the nursery. This article is about the nursery rhyme.
Oranges and Lemons” is a traditional English nursery rhyme and singing game which refers to the bells of several churches, all within or close to the City of London. It is listed in the Roud Folk Song Index as No 13190. Say the bells at Old Bailey. Says the great bell at Bow. And here comes a chopper to chop off your head! To ring the bells of London town.
Say the slow bells at Aldgate. Say the bells of Old Bailey. Says the great bell of Bow. And here comes a chopper to chop off your head. Here comes a candle to light you to bed. Here comes a chopper to chop off your head. Chip chop, chip chop, the last man’s dead.
On the last word, the children forming the arch drop their arms to catch the pair of children currently passing through, who are then “out” and must form another arch next to the existing one. There is considerable variation in the churches and lines attached to them in versions printed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which makes any overall meaning difficult to establish. The final two lines of the modern version were first collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the 1840s. Oranges and Lemons was the name of a square-four-eight-dance, published in Playford’s, Dancing Master in 1665, but it is not clear if this relates to this rhyme. Similar rhymes naming churches and giving rhymes to their names can be found in other parts of England, including Shropshire and Derby, where they were sung on festival days, on which bells would also have been rung. Clement’s may be St Clement Danes or St Clement Eastcheap both of which are near the wharves where merchantmen landed citrus fruits.
Martin’s may be St Martin Orgar in the city, or St. Fleet Prison where debtors were held. St Leonard’s, Shoreditch is just outside the old city walls. Bow is St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside. Helen’s, in the longer version of the song, is St Helen’s Bishopsgate, in the city.