27 December 2012

"You owe me five farthings" say the bells of St Martin's

It's funny, I've lived in London now for more than half a Decade, and I still delight in touristy wandering, discovering new corners and the historical backstory. I know 


"...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." - Samuel Johnson

but I do sometimes wonder if the delight will ever really wear off as it's such a thriving city, and there is always a new corner to turn and a new secret to discover.




Sadly, when we arrived to see this Church, it was originally shrouded in scaffolding, keeping it's quietly to itself, getting a facelift.



"The church of St Martin Orgar formerly stood here, its name arising from a Deacon called Ordgarus who owned the church, which he presented prior to c.1181 to the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's. It had a churchyard by c.1250. The building was damaged but not entirely destroyed in the Great Fire and part of the tower and nave were subsequently repaired and converted as a meeting place and chapel for French Huguenot Protestants. By c.1820 this had become ruinous and all but the tower was demolished, which acted as the entrance to the burial ground for the parish of St Clement and now occupied the site of the old church. The former churchyard remains as a raised garden in private use." Credit

Situated really closely to the great Monument to the Great Fire of London, St Martin's is another of London's secrets, the ones that surprise you walking around corners.



Postscript: Having done much better research than me, Rhymes.co.uk explains;"You owe me five farthings" relates to the moneylenders who traded nearby.

"Oranges and Lemons" say the bells of St Clement's
"Bull's eyes and targets" say the bells of St Margaret's.
"Pokers and tongs" say the bells of St John's.
"Pancakes and fritters" say the bells of St Peter's.
"Two sticks and an apple" say the bells of Whitechapel.
"Old Father Baldpate" say the slow bells of Aldgate.
"Maids in white aprons " say the bells of St Katharine's.
"Brickbats and tiles" say the bells of St Giles'.
"Kettles and pans" say the bells of St Anne's.
"You owe me five farthings" say the bells of St Martin's.
"When will you pay me?" say the bells of Old Bailey.
"When I grow rich" say the bells of Shoreditch.
"Pray when will that be?" say the bells of Stepney.
"I'm sure I don't know" says the great bell of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Chip chop, chip chop, the last man's dead.

A farthing was worth one quarter of a penny, 1960 of a pound sterling, and continued to be used until 31 December 1960, when they ceased to be legal tender. In Victorian times a beggar would normally hope to be given between a farthing and two pence in alms; and a Farthing in todays money would be around 8 pence according to the Old Bailey Online.

According to my local sources, a Farthing wasn't worth a great deal, around the time of the Second World War two Farthings, (totalling a Ha'penny) would buy you a few boiled sweets, or a carrot which school kids would scrape the skin off on the walls on their walk to school to then eat.

We are so lucky in this day and age.

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