St Clement Eastcheap

St Clement Eastcheap

Infobox church
name = St. Clement Eastcheap
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caption = Photo of St. Clement Eastcheap, April 2006
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denomination = Anglican, earlier Roman Catholic
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address = Clement's Lane, City of London
country = United Kingdom
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website =

St. Clement Eastcheap is a Church of England parish church in Candlewick Ward of the City of London. It is located on Clement’s Lane, off King William Street, and close to London Bridge and the River Thames. [See an aerial view at Wikimapia < >, accessed 1 August 2008 ]

Clement was a disciple of St. Peter the Apostle, and ordained Bishop of Rome in the year 93AD. By tradition, Clement was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea, which led to his adoption as a patron saint of sailors. The dedication to St. Clement is unusual in London. with only one other ancient church there dedicated to this saint, namely St Clement Danes, Westminster. It too is located a little north of the Thames, but further west from Eastcheap and outside the old City boundary, just beyond the Temple Bar on the Strand.


Eastcheap was one of the main streets of medieval London. The name 'Eastcheap' derives from the Saxon word 'cheap', meaning a market, and Eastcheap was so called to distinguish it from Westcheap, later to become Cheapside. The southern end of Clement's Lane opened onto Eastcheap until the 1880's when the construction of King William Street separated Clement's Lane from Eastcheap, which still remains nearby as a street.

The church's dedication to a Roman patron saint of sailors, the martyr Bishop Clement, coupled with the its location near to what were historically the bustling wharves of Roman London, hints at a much earlier Roman origin. Indeed Roman remains were once found in Clement's Lane, comprising walls 3 feet thick and made of flints at a depth of 12-15 feet together with tessellated pavements. [Harben, H. A. (1918) A Dictionary of London London: Jenkins]

A charter of 1067 given by William I (1028-87) to Westminster Abbey mentions a church of St. Clement, which is possibly St. Clement Eastcheap, but the earliest definite reference to the church is found in a deed written in the reign of Henry III (1207-72), which mentions 'St Clement Candlewickstrate'. Other early documents refer to the church as “St Clement in Candlewystrate”, 'St Clement the Little by Estchepe' and 'St Clement in Lumbard Street'. Until the reign of Queen Mary (1516-58) the parish of St Clement’s was in the gift of the Abbot of Westminster, but then it was transferred to the patronage of the Bishop of London. Now the patronage alternates with the appointment each successive new Rector, between the Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's.

According to the London historian John Strype (1643-1737) St. Clement's church was repaired and beautified in 1630 and 1633. [*Strype, John (1720) "A survey of the Cities of London and Westminster ... brought down from the year 1633 ... to the present time" London: Churchill "et al"]

and this would seem to be confirmed by the fact that in the parish account for 1685 there is the following item: "To one third of a hogshead of wine, given to Sir Christopher Wren, £4 2s".] In May 1840, John Carlos, wrote in The Gentleman's Magazine to protest about the proposed demolition of St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange and St. Benet Fink, following a fire in 1838 that had razed the Royal Exchange and damaged those two churches. In his article, Carlos referred to earlier plans to reduce the number of City churches, from which we learn that in the 1830s St Clement's had been under threat of demolition.

"The sweeping design of destroying a number of City churches was mediated in … 1834, and for the time arrested by the resolute opposition to the measure in the instance of the first church marked out for sacrifice, St. Clement Eastcheap, it may be feared is at length coming into full operation, not, indeed in the open manner in which it was displayed at that period, but in an insidious and more secure mode of procedure".

While St Clement's was spared, the 19th century saw many other City churches being destroyed, particularly following the Union of Benefices Act (1860), which sought to speed-up the reduction in the number of City parishes as a response to rapidly declining congregations; the result of the resident population moving in ever larger numbers from cramped City conditions to the more spacious suburbs.

In 1872, William Butterfield, a prominent architect of the gothic-revival, substantially renovated St. Clement’s to conform with the contemporary Anglican 'High Church' taste ["The Visitors Guide to the City of London Churches" Tucker,T: London, Friends of the City Churches, 2006 ISBN 0955394503] . The renovation involved:

* removing the galleries
* replacing the 17th-century plain windows with stained glass
* dividing the reredos into 3 pieces and placing the two wings on the side walls
* dismantling the woodwork to build new pews
* laying down polychrome tiles on the floor
* moving the organ into the aisle

revised Butterfield's layout, moving the organ to its original position on the west wall and reassembling the reredos behind the altar, although before he did so, he had the reredos painted with figures in blue and gold.

St. Clement’s suffered minor damage from bombing in 1940. The damage was repaired in 1949-50, and in 1968 the church was again redecorated.

Today, St. Clement’s holds weekly services, and since 1998 it has been the base of The Players of St Peter, a company devoted to performing medieval mystery plays. [The Players of St Peter, official web sitesite <>, accessed 1 August 2008; The Players of St Peter: the alternative menu to the official siteand the official menu to the alternative site < >, accessed 1 August 2008.] A number of charities have their administrative offices at St Clement's including the Foundation for Public Service Interpreting, and the Cure Parkinson's Trust.

Although nearby St Martin Orgar had been left in ruins by the Great Fire, the tower survived and, following the unification of the parish with St Clement's, the St Martin's site was used by French Huguenots who restored the tower and worshiped there until 1820. Later in the decade the ruins of the body of St Martin's church were removed to make way for the widening of Cannon Street, but the tower remained until 1851 when it was taken down, and – curiously – replaced with a new tower. The new tower served as a rectory for St. Clement Eastcheap until it was sold and converted into offices in the 1970’s; it still survives on the present-day St. Martin's Lane.

Oranges and Lemons

St. Clement Eastcheap considers itself to be the church referred to in the nursery rhyme that begins "Oranges and lemons / Ring the bells of St. Clement's". So too does St. Clement Danes church, Westminster, whose bells ring out the traditional tune of the nursery rhyme three times a day.

There is a canard that the earliest mention of the rhyme occurs in Wynkyn de Worde’s “The demaundes joyous” printed in 1511. [de Worde, Wynkyn (1511) The Demaundes Joyous (1971 facsimile edition with notes by John Wardroper) London: Gordon Fraser] This small volume consists entirely of riddles and makes no allusion to bells, St. Clement or any other church.

According to Iona and Peter Opie, [*Opie, Iona and Opie, Peter (eds.) (1997) "The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes" Oxford: Oxford University Press] the earliest record of the rhyme only dates to c.1744, although there is a square dance (without words) called 'Oranges and Limons' in the 3rd edition of John Playford’s The English Dancing Master, published in 1665.

St. Clement Eastcheap’s claim is based on the assertion that it was close to the wharf where citrus fruit was unloaded. Yet, a perusal of a map of London shows that there were many churches, even after the Fire, that were closer to the Thames than St. Clement’s (St. George Botolph Lane, St Magnus the Martyr, St. Michael, Crooked Lane, St Martin Orgar, St Mary-at-Hill, All Hallows the Great. All these would have been passed by a load of oranges and lemons making its way to Leadenhall Market, the nearest market where citrus fruit was sold, passing several more churches on the way. Thus, it would appear that the name of St. Clements was selected by the rhymer simply for its consonance with the word ‘lemons’, and it now seems more likely that the melody called ‘Oranges and Limons’ predates the rhyme itself.

The building

St. Clement Eastcheap has an irregular plan. The nave is approximately rectangular, but the south aisle is severely tapered. The ceiling is divided into panels, the centre one being a large oval band of fruit and flowers. The main façade is on the west, on Clement’s Lane, and comprises four bays. The main bay has a blocked pedimented round-headed window over the door. This is flanked by matching bays with two levels of windows. The tower to the south west forms the fourth bay. This is a simple square tower, with a parapet, but no spire. Each bay has stone quoins and is stuccoed, except for the upper levels of the tower where the brick is exposed.

A small churchyard remains to the east of St. Clement’s hemmed-in by the backs of office buildings and contains tombstones whose inscriptions have, over time, become illegible. The churchyard is approached by a narrow alley along the church’s north wall, at the entrance of which is a memorial plaque to Dositej Obradovic, a Serbian scholar who lived next to the church. [----- 'Candelwick Ward' in London Burial Grounds < >, accessed 31 December 2007]

In July 1645, so it is said, the poet John Milton was reconciled with his estranged wife Mary Powell, in the house of a Mrs Weber, a widow, in St Clement's churchyard where Mary was then lodging. Milton's description in Paradise Lost of the reconciliation of Adam and Eve draws, apparently, on the real life reconciliation between Milton and his wife. [Thornbury, Walter (1878)'Aldersgate Street and St Martin-le-Grand'in Old and New London: Volume 2 pp. 208-228. British History Online (University of London) < > accessed 3 November 2007.]

"She, not repulsed, with tears that ceased not flowing",
"And tresses all disordered, at his feet"
"Fell humble, and, embracing them, besought"
"His peace."
"Soon his heart relented"
"Towards her, his life so late, and sole delight,"
"Now to his feet submissive in distress."

The organ



The first known organist, Henry Lightindollar (d.1702), appeared in the parish records in 1699. Successive organists were as follows: William Gorton, a member of the King's Music (appt. 1702, d. 1711); Edward Purcell, son of Henry Purcell (b. 1689, appt. 1711, d. 1740, and buried in St Clements "near the gallery door" - Parish Burial Register, 4 July 1740); Edward Henry Purcell, Edward's son (appt.1740, d.1765, and also buried in the church "by the organ gallery" - Parish Burial Register, 5 August 1765); Jonathan Battishill (b. 1738, appt. 1765, d.1801); Thomas Bartholomew (appt. 1802, d. 1819), William Bradley (appt. 1819, res. 1828); John Whitaker, a City music publisher, (appt. 1828, d. 1847); John Joff, promoted from assistant organist (appt. 1847, d. 1885). [Dawe, Donovan (1983) Organs and Organists of the City of London 1666-1850 Padstow: Dawe; Pearce,C.W.(1909) "Notes on Old City Churches: their organs, organists and musical associations" London, Winthrop Rogers Ltd] . The current organist (September 2008) is Ian Shaw.


The altar, with cherubs for legs, dates from the 17th century, as does the rerodos, which was decorated during the 1930’s restoration of the building in a style reminiscent of Simone Martini. The outer panels depict the Annunciation while the central panel shows St. Clement and St. Martin of Tours, (the dedicatee of St. Martin Orgar).

The pulpit also dates from the 17th-century, and is made from Norwegian oak, topped with an hexagonal sounding board, with a dancing cherub on each corner.

Surviving from the 1872 Butterfield renovation are the polychrome floor and three stained-glass clerestory windows on the north wall. The windows were made by W. G. Taylor, and installed c.1887 during the last phase of Butterfield's work. [Gray. G. W. (2008) 'St Clement Eastcheap' in The Organ Club Journal 2008/1 47 ] The windows show SS. Andrew, James (major), James (minor), Peter, Mathias, and Thomas. [Church Stained Glass Windowsrecorded by Robert Eberhard - updated Oct 2007 , accessed 6 September 2008]

, it is said, that he took his grandchildren to see it.


The clergyman Thomas Fuller (1608-61), then living in London, gave a series of sermons at St Clement's in 1647.

The diarist John Evelyn heard John Pearson (1613–86), later to be Bishop of Chester, preaching at St Clement's where he was the weekly preacher from 1654. His sermons there later became his "An Exposition of the Creed" (1659), which he dedicated "to the right worshipful and well-beloved, the parishioners of St. Clement's, Eastcheap."

One of the rectors of St. Clement's, Dr. Benjamin Stone, who had been presented to the living by Bishop Juxon, being deemed too Popish by Oliver Cromwell, was imprisoned for some time at Crosby Hall. From thence he was sent to Plymouth, where, after paying a fine of £60, he obtained his liberty. Stone recovered his benefice on the restoration of Charles II but died five years after. (Thornbury, volume 1)

In this church Josias Alsopp, who had succeeeded Stone as Rector in the early Restoraion years of the 1600s, was heard preaching by Samuel Pepys who noted the following in his diary for 24 November 1661:

"Up early, and by appointment to St. Clement lanes to church, and there to meet Captain Cocke, who had often commended Mr. Alsopp, their minister, to me, who is indeed an able man, but as all things else did not come up to my expectations. His text was that all good and perfect gifts are from above".

Among the mural tablets in the church are three which have been erected at the cost of the parishioners, commemorative of the Rev. Thomas Green, curate twenty-seven years, who died in 1734; the Rev. John Farrer, Rector, who died in 1820; and the Rev. W. Valentine Ireson, who was lecturer of the united parishes thirty years, and died in 1822.St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, adds the role of Priest-in-Charge of St. Clements to his duties.


* Betjeman, J (1967) "The City of London Churches" Andover: Pitkin (ISBN 0-85372-112-2)
*Blatch, Mervyn (1995) "A Guide to London’s Churches" London: Constable
*Clout, Hugh (ed.) (1999) "The Times History of London" London: Times Books
*Cobb, Gerald (1977) "London City Churches" London: Batsford
*Heulin, Gordon (1996) "Vanished Churches of the City of London" London: Guildhall Library Publications
*Jeffery, Paul (1996) "The City Churches of Sir Christopher Wren" London: Hambledon

External links

* [ Parish Information] from the Diocese of London Directory
* [ Inhabitants of London in 1638 St. Clement’s, Eastcheap] , edited from Ms.272 in Lambeth Palace Library by T. C. Dale (1931)
* [ Four Shillings In The Pound Aid 1693-1694, City of London, Candlewick Ward, St Clements Eastcheap Precinct] , data created by Derek Keene, Peter Earle, Craig Spence and Janet Barnes (1992)
* [ Players of St Peter] , medieval mystery plays in the City of London
* [ The Foundation for Public Service Interpreting]
* [ The Cure Parkinson's Trust]

Coordinates: coord|51|30|40.77|N|0|5|12.81|W|type:landmark_scale:10000

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