“Old Father Baldpate” say the slow bells of Aldgate: Oranges and Lemons

To me, the juxtapositions of London buldings are (mostly) great – the traditional brick facade of Churches, hand in hand with modern design marvels (but usually outshining the 1960’s horrendous office buildings). This is most prevalent in the war-scarred East End of London where new developments were forced to replace bomb damage, and also from the population growth.

In this line of the rhyme there seem to be two schools of thought to which Bells are referred to – one the Aldgate Bell Foundry that can be traced back to 1420, or the Church, St Botolph’s without Aldgate.

As I couldn’t find anything about the foundry (it possibly has links with the Whitechapel foundry (to follow)) we decided to focus on St Botolph’s which dates from around 1741. Sadly (this wasn’t going very well!) it wasn’t open the day we went, so I’ve scheduled a trip back to see the interior – which by all accounts is beautiful.

Interesting facts:

  • Daniel Defoe was married in St. Botolph’s.
  • During World War II a bomb hit the roof of the church, but it got stuck there and did not explode.
  • The Church also has Jack the Ripper links – in Victorian times it was known at the “Church of Prostitutes as there was a prohibition of standing on street corners, so they stood on the island where the Church stands. It was close to here that the Ripper took his third victim. 

 “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

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,

Chip chop, chip chop, the last man’s dead.


The rhyme’s reference to “Old Father Bald Pate” refers to the balding St BotolphA Saxon Abbot is the patron Saint of travellers and Itinerants. His relics were brought to London through various towns and eventually through the four City gates of Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate and Billingsgate. The churches at the entrances to these gates were named after him. The first three remain, but the one at Billingsgate was destroyed in the Great Fire (1666) and never rebuilt. It seems that as his relics were conveyed from place to place, his name became associated with wayfarers and travellers.

The Church website can be found here

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