“Pokers and tongs” say the bells of St John’s: Oranges and Lemons

I found this Church unintentionally and purely by chance. Found in the White Tower of the Tower of London, this has probably the goriest and saddest history of all the Churches in the rhyme, because of it’s associations with Royalty, Torture and notably the two sons of Edward IV, known as the Princes of the Tower, a mysterious disappearance in relation to King Richard III’s rule.

Rather ironically, I’ve had this post planned for a little while, but last night we have had the breaking news of the discovery of King Richards III’s remains found in a carpark, possibly debunking commonly held beliefs (and leading to an incredibly funny hashtag on Twitter #kinginacarpark – check it out & add me @londonkiwiemma whilst you’re there).

The precise date of the White Tower’s foundation is unknown, and it is also uncertain how long building took. It is traditionally held that construction began in 1078. It housed the accommodation of the King and his close retinue whilst being the strongest military keep of the Palace complex in case of attack.

Architecturally St John’s chapel is almost unique in Castle building because of the semi-circular projection, and very few original internal decorations remain reminiscent of how it would have been in Norman times.

 “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 Pokers and Tongs in the rhyme almost certainly refer to the grisly acts of Torture committed in the Tower or London, usually in the name of the current King or Queen. It’s not somewhere I would like to be locked in overnight, let me tell you.

Halfway now to the full cachet of Churches…

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