What is 'Oranges and Lemons'?

'Oranges and lemons' is a nursery rhyme, folk song and singing game about five churches, and their bells, near London.

How do you play 'Oranges and Lemons'?

Children file in twos through an arch made up of one pair. Then when the final lines are uttered those forming the arch drop their arms to catch the pair passing through.

What are the origins of 'Oranges and Lemons'?

The origins of 'Oranges and Lemons' is unknown and there are several unproved theories behind the lyrics. Some believe it refers to child sacrifice or maybe executions. Another theory is it references Henry VIII's numerous marriages. There have been many different adaptions to the rhyme over the years, but the lyrics below are the most common.

The melody is inspired by church bells rang in a controlled manner, and it is said each church bell had a distinct sound.

What are the lyrics to 'Oranges and Lemons'?

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 at Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells at Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

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

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chip chop chip chop the last man is dead.

Image credit: Agnes Rose Bouvier (1842 - 1892), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons