“When will you pay me?” say the bells of Old Bailey

One of the aspects of England that make it so quintesessentially English, are it’s “gleaming spires” rising up above the modern glass fronted sky scrapers and concrete monoliths. In most areas, you can’t go very far before seeing a church tower or sprire rising above the treetops, and I for one love it.

{Ps. It’s ‘Oranges and Lemons’ day today in London!}

The Old Bailey is the local name for the Central London Criminal court (located in Bailey Street, along the lines of the City’s fortified wall or Bailey from which it takes it’s nickname), and is sited opposite Newgate prison, housing both criminals and debtors. It doesn’t have it’s own bell, but the rhyme referes to the bells of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate church and the bell of Newgate prison.

A rather grisly tolling, the bell of St. Sepulchre marked the time (death knell) of imminent executions until Newgate prison acquired its own bell.

A church has stood on this site since 1137. The church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Wren in 1671. The medieval courthouse of London was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and was replaced by London’s Central Criminal Court which was used during 1673 -1834.

 “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 original medieval court was first mentioned in 1585; it was next to the older Newgate Prison, and seems to have grown out of the endowment to improve Newgate prison and rooms for the Sheriffs, made possible by a gift from Sir Richard Whittington (the real-life inspiration for the tale of Dick Whittington) according to Wikipedia.


How good is the zoom on my Camera? – and this was taken handheld.

The phrase “When will you pay me?” refers to the Debtors housed in Newgate Prison and those tried at the Old Bailey. Nowadays you don’t have to commit a crime to see the inside of this London institution (unlike the visits of the Kray Twins, Dr Crippen, Jeremy Thorpe and the Yorkshire Ripper) but can visit the public gallery and watch trials Monday-Friday 9am-1pm, 2pm-5pm. Much better than Judge Judy.

Fact: Oranges and Lemons Day takes place every year in London, usually on the third Thursday of March, even when Easter intervenes, at the Church of St Clement Danes.

Children who go to the nearby St Clement Danes Church of England Primary School attend a service, after which the church’s bells are rung and the children are given each an orange and a lemon. Since 1919, the bells of the church have also played the melody to the song (listed below) 4 times a day: 9 am, noon, 3 pm and 6 pm.

Where are you based, and are you celebrating Oranges & Lemons Day?

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