Thursday 31 March 2011


This photo is the properly of
brizzle born and bredPaul Townsend
One old English tradition is the game, and the rhyme,Oranges and Lemons. It is particularly associated with the 31st March.

In olden days, when the River Thames was mighty and wide, barges carrying oranges and lemons from tropical climates landed at the port of London. The docks were below the church of St Clement’s Dane (unless you listen to the counter-claim from St Clement's, Shoreditch.)

On the last day of March, local children attended a special service held at St Clement's Church. After the service, they were presented with an orange and a lemon. This photo, taken in 1944, showed that the tradition was continued even during the most difficult of times.

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement'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.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Although the two St Clement’s churches claim they were the one from the rhyme, as far as I can see there are lots of churches closer to the docks but few with a name that rhymes as well.
There are other regional versions of this rhyme listing other churches in their locale.

We had a teacher, who was determined to make sure the old playground games were encouraged and that they were not allowed to die out. I remember hoards of us playing this game on the playground. Two children made the bridge, that was ready to collapse at the end of the song, and everyone else jostled and ran to get through - under the bridge - and around again before the song got to the end and someone lost their head. ;)


TEACHERS have been told to defy the compensation culture by encouraging children to brave cuts and bruises and get stuck into traditional playground games.

The Local Government Association has issued councils with a top 10 list of break-time games they should support including British bulldog, tag, stuck in the mud, hopscotch, skipping, hide and seek, French elastic and marbles.

Jacob, nine, said: "I play tag, British Bulldog and football at school. We're not allowed to play conkers or marbles because they said it might be dangerous.  

St Clement Danes School, founded in 1551 in Holborn, London, is now situated in Chorleywood. For 11 year-olds in Watford, this counts as one of our local secondary schools. The school houses:Temple, Dane, Clement and Clare all had associations in the ancient Parish of St. Clement Danes.


  1. I remember my friends and I used to play Red Rover, and we would sing rhymes while jump roping. We always made sure to play Red Rover on the grassy part of the playground because it cushioned your butt when you were knocked to the ground :)

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  3. Hi Heather
    Red Rover is painfully good fun.;) I loved long rope skipping at school. I skipped for hours in the evening after school - I remember my sister teaching me how to "back skip" and do "crosses," without ending up in a tangled mess too. ;)

  4. We have an Afrikaans version that we always played, but it didn't involve churches. I would post it for you, but I forgot some of the words.

    Hmmm... I'm going to ask my mom. She played it as well...


  5. Wait wait I have it.

    Koljander koljander so deur die bos
    My ma en pa maak lekker kos.
    Die kinders verstik aan 'n druiwe tros!
    Die laaste een se kop word afgekap.

    (Coriander coriander through the bush
    My mom and dad makes good food.
    The children choke on a bunch of grapes.
    The last one's head is chopped off.)

    Yeah... A lot of our children's games and songs are somewhat chilling, but it rhymed, so all was well.

    1. O my word brings back a lot of good memories

  6. We played Red Rover and a lot of tag and hide 'n seek. The whole neighborhood would be out on a warm night -- kids screaming and laughing. We played kickball, too. That one ended up in a trip to the emergency room for me. Still have a scar, but I lived.

  7. Hi Misha
    I loved reading the Afrikaan's version of the game. Although you are right, it loses a bit in the translation. ;) Death is a preoccupation in children's rhyming games: and the big questions.

    Hi M Pax
    I can see your image - neighbourhood swarming with kids at play :D Red Rover, tag and hide 'n' seek were always popular on the green at the back of our house. Glad you live through the fun ;)