The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.513600, -0.114081


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 14 September 2021 at 6:02AM.

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St. Clement Danes
St Clement Danes, Strand (geograph 5590980).jpg
LocationCity of Westminster, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
Heritage designationGrade I
Architect(s)Christopher Wren
Years builtseveral, most recently 1682
DioceseDiocese of London
Chaplain(s)The Revd David Osborn
Director of musicSimon Over
Business managerSharon Hardwick

St Clement Danes is an Anglican church in the City of Westminster, London. It is situated outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. Although the first church on the site was reputedly founded in the 9th century by the Danes, the current building was completed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren. Wren's building was gutted during the Blitz and not restored until 1958, when it was adapted to its current function as the central church of the Royal Air Force.

The church is sometimes claimed to be the one featured in the nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons" and the bells do indeed play that tune. However, St Clement's Eastcheap, in the City of London, also claims to be the church from the rhyme. St Clement Danes is known as one of the two 'Island Churches', the other being St Mary-le-Strand.


Connection to the Danes

There are several possible theories as to the connection between the Danes and the origins of the church. A popular theory is that in the 9th century, the Danes colonized the village of Aldwych on the river between the City of London and the future site of Westminster. This was during the Danelaw and London was on the dividing line between the English and the Danes. The Danes founded a church at Aldwych, hence the final part of its name[1] (in Latin it was known as Ecclesia Clementes Danorum). However; Aldwych is an English name and doesn't seem to have any Danish influence. An alternative view is that after Alfred the Great had driven the Danes out of the City of London and they had been required to accept Christianity, Alfred stipulated the building of the church.[2] In either case, being a seafaring people, the Danes named the church they built after St Clement, patron saint of mariners.[3]

Other possible ideas are that in the 11th century after Siward, Earl of Northumbria killed the Dane Tosti, Earl of Huntingdon and his men, the deceased were buried in a field near London and a memorial church was subsequently built to honour the memory of the Danes. Also possible is that the Danish connection was reinforced by a massacre recorded in the Jómsvíkinga saga when a group of unarmed Danes who had gathered for a church service were killed.[1] The 12th-century historian William of Malmesbury wrote that the Danes burnt the church on the site of St Clement Danes before they were later slain in the vicinity. Another possible explanation for the name is that, as King Harold I "Harefoot" is recorded as having been buried in the church in March 1040, the church acquired its name on account of Harold's Danish connections.[2]

Medieval church

The church was first rebuilt by William the Conqueror, and then again later in the Middle Ages.

A new chancel was built over part of the churchyard in 1608, at a cost of more than £1,000, and various repairs and improvements to the tower and other parts of the church cost £496 in 1618.

Shortly after the Great Fire of 1666, further repairs to the steeple were attempted, but these were found impractical, and the whole tower was rebuilt from the foundations. Work was completed in 1669. Soon afterwards it was decided that the rest of the church was in such a poor state that it too should be completely rebuilt.[4]

Seventeenth-century rebuilding

Interior of the church, looking east

St Clement's was rebuilt between 1680 and 1682 to a design by Sir Christopher Wren, incorporating the existing tower which was reclad. The new church was constructed from Portland Stone, with an apse at the east end.[5] A steeple was added to the tower in 1719 by James Gibbs.[5]

The interior has galleries on three sides supported by square pillars, continued above gallery level as Corinthian columns, supporting, in turn, a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Wren used the same scheme again at St James's Church, Piccadilly, begun two years later. Above the galleries, each bay has a cross vault, allowing the building to be lit from large round-headed windows on the upper level.[6]

Later history

St Clement Danes ablaze on 10 May 1941

William Webb Ellis, often credited with the invention of Rugby football in 1823, was once rector of the church and is commemorated by a memorial tablet.

In 1844, St. Clement Danes School was constructed on land on Houghton Road, Holborn which the churchwardens had purchased in 1552. It opened in 1862 and remained there until 1928, then moved to Shepherd's Bush until 1975, when it was finally re-established as a comprehensive school in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire.

The church was almost destroyed by German bombs during the London Blitz on 10 May 1941. The outer walls, the tower and Gibbs's steeple survived the bombing, but the interior was gutted by fire. As a result of the blaze, the church's ten bells fell to the ground. Subsequently, they were placed in storage and were recast after the war.[7]

As the Central Church of the Royal Air Force

Following an appeal for funds by the Royal Air Force, the church was completely restored under the supervision of Sam Lloyd.[8] It was re-consecrated on 19 October 1958 to become the Central Church of the Royal Air Force.

As part of the rebuilding, the following inscription was added under the restored Royal coat of arms:

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which may be translated as: "Christopher Wren built it 1672. The thunderbolts of aerial warfare destroyed it 1941. The Royal Air Force restored it 1958."[9] [Error in the inscription: MDCLXXII should be MDCLXXXII, i.e. 1682 not 1672]

Current worship and customs

Services are regularly held to commemorate prominent occasions of the RAF and its associated organisations.

Saint Clement is commemorated every April at St Clement Danes, a modern clementine custom/revival. The Reverend William Pennington-Bickford initiated the service in 1919 to celebrate the restoration of the famous church bells and carillon, which he'd had altered to ring out the popular nursery rhyme. This special service for children ends with the distribution of oranges and lemons to the boys and girls. Formerly William Bickford, William Pennington-Bickford (died 1941) was Rector from 1910 to 1941 and he and his wife Louisa became known for their devotion to the welfare of the parish. (He had succeeded his father-in-law in the benefice.)[10]

In 2008, the church was one of the venues where people gathered as part of the Armed Forces Day of Prayer.[11] On the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the RAF, celebrations took place at St Clement Danes.[12]

Royal Air Force features

There are features throughout and outside the building commemorating people and units of the RAF.


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Statues of Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet (left), and Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding, outside St Clement Danes

Outside the church stand statues of two of the RAF's wartime leaders, Arthur "Bomber" Harris and Hugh Dowding.

The erection of the statue of Harris was controversial due to his responsibility for the bombing of Dresden and other bombing campaigns against German cities. Despite protests from Germany, including from the mayors of Dresden and Hamburg as well as some in Britain, the Bomber Harris Trust (an RAF veterans' organisation) erected a statue of him outside the RAF Church of St. Clement Danes in 1992. It was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother[13] who looked surprised when she was jeered by protesters. The line on the statue reads "The Nation owes them all an immense debt". The statue had to be guarded by policemen day and night for some time as it was frequently sprayed with graffiti.


The Polish Air Forces memorial on the floor of the church

The floor of the church, of Welsh slate, is inscribed with the badges of over 800 RAF commands, groups, stations, squadrons and other formations. Near the entrance door is a ring of the badges of Commonwealth air forces, surrounding the badge of the RAF.

A memorial to the Polish airmen and squadrons who fought in the defence of the United Kingdom and the liberation of Europe in the Second World War is positioned on the floor of the north aisle.

Books of Remembrance listing the names of all the RAF personnel who have died in service, as well as those American airmen based in the United Kingdom who died during the Second World War.

Near the altar are plaques listing the names of RAF, Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service, and Commonwealth personnel awarded the Victoria Cross and the George Cross.


King Harold Harefoot is recorded as being buried here, although there is no memorial.

There are memorials to several people associated with the RAF whose ashes are buried in St Clement Danes, including

Donations and artefacts

In the gallery hang the Queen's Colours and Standards of active RAF squadrons, (these Colours/Standards having been retired and replaced by newer versions), along with standards of several now disbanded squadrons plus the Royal Banner of the Royal Observer Corps, (most standards of disbanded squadrons hang in the rotunda of the RAF College Cranwell).

Pulpits, pews and chairs in the body of the church have been presented by various people, including past chiefs of the Air Staff, Sir Douglas Bader and the Guinea Pig Club. The armorial achievement of Lord Trenchard is displayed above the main entrance at the west end of the church. The lectern was a gift from the Royal Australian Air Force, the Cross from the Air Training Corps, the altar from the Dutch embassy. The church's font was donated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, and is located in the crypt.[16] The Paschal Candle was given by the Royal Belgian Air Force. Information on the donated organ is to be found in the next section.

Rectors of St Clement Danes

John Diprose's history of St Clement Danes gives a list of rectors since 1325.[17]

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  • 1540–1557† John Rixman (also Archdeacon of Cornwall)
  • 1557–1559† Ralph Jackson[18]
  • 1559–1589† William Harward[19]
  • 1589–1602† Richard Webster[20] (also Archdeacon of Middlesex)
  • 1602–1617† John Layfield[21]
  • 1617–1634† Roger Bates
  • 1634–1678† Richard Dukeson (sequestered in 1643, his place taken by Daniel Evans, Richard Vines, and George Masterson;[22][23] Dukeson was restored in 1660[24])
  • 1678–1708† Gregory Hascard (also Dean of Windsor from 1684)
  • 1708–1719† William Forster[25]
  • 1720–1721 Thomas Blomer[26]
  • 1721–1773† Thomas Blackwell[27]
  • 1773–1786† John Burrows
  • 1786–1795† George Berkeley (son of Bishop Berkeley, husband of Eliza Berkeley)
  • 1795–1807 Henry Garrioch Vernon[28]
  • 1807–1843† William Gurney[29]
  • 1843–1855 William Webb Ellis
  • 1855–1860 Skinner Chart Mason[30]
  • 1860–1869 Richard Henry Killick[31]
  • 1869–1879 Robert James Simpson
  • 1879–1887 John Lindsay
  • 1887–1889 George Sutton Flack[32]
  • 1889–1910† J. J. H. Septimus Pennington[33] (surnamed Sparrow until 1886)
  • 1910–1941† William Pennington Bickford (son-in-law of Septimus Pennington)


The organ of 1958

The earliest records of an organ are from 1690, when an organ was installed by Bernard Smith. This went through several rebuildings over the next 250 years, but was finally destroyed in the Second World War. A new organ, situated facing the altar in the gallery, was installed by the builder Harrison and Harrison in 1958. This was a gift from the United States Air Force. The case was made as a replica of the Father Smith organ previously destroyed. A specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.[34]



The church has set up a primary school and a secondary school. The primary school is located nearby on Drury Lane in Covent Garden. The secondary school, built in 1975, is in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire.

Masonic Lodge

In 1871 a Masonic Lodge was consecrated at the request of several local Freemasons, who wanted to meet in a local Lodge instead of having to travel out of the parish. The petition was accepted by the then Grand Master, the Earl de Grey and Ripon; accordingly the St Clement Danes Lodge was formed and granted a Warrant of Constitution, along with the registration number 1351 on the register of the United Grand Lodge of England. The first meeting of the Lodge was on 4 May 1871 at the King's Head public house at 265 Strand, and the Rector of the Church, the Reverend R J Simpson, was the first Chaplain of the Lodge. The Lodge held meetings at various hotels and restaurants within the parish for many years, before amending its Constitution to allow it to meet at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London, where it still meets today.

In fiction

The statue of Dr Samuel Johnson at the eastern end of the church land, comes to life as the character "Dictionary", in Charlie Fletcher's children's book about unLondon, Stoneheart.

The novel Nineteen Eighty-Four has the protagonist encountering a picture of the church from prior to the war – a building which he has known only as a ruin, never having been rebuilt.[36] (The plot of the book, written in 1948, assumes a Third World War breaking out in the early 1950s, followed by a period of deep crisis and civil war in Britain and the rise of a totalitarian regime banning all religion; thus, no one in this future had any reason to rebuild the church).

Notable people

See also

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  1. ^ a b .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, Volume 55. London: Bishopsgate Institute. 2004. p. 29.
  2. ^ a b Partington, Charles Frederick (1834). National history and views of London and its environs. p. 191.
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  7. ^ "St. Clement Danes". Battle of Britain London Monument. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  8. ^ Christopher Lucas. "Sam Lloyd obituary | Art and design". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  9. ^ Howard, Alexander (1964). Endless Cavalcade: A Diary of British Festivals and Customs. Arthur Barker Ltd. p. 66.
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  15. ^ "William Sholto Douglas". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
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Coordinates: .mw-parser-output .geo-default,.mw-parser-output .geo-dms,.mw-parser-output .geo-dec{display:inline}.mw-parser-output .geo-nondefault,.mw-parser-output .geo-multi-punct{display:none}.mw-parser-output .longitude,.mw-parser-output .latitude{white-space:nowrap}51°30′47″N 0°06′50″W / 51.513107°N 0.113898°W / 51.513107; -0.113898

Further reading

  • Reg Pellant, "St. Clement Danes: Church of the Royal Air Force", Saint Clement Danes (Royal Air Force) Appeal Fund, 1971.
  • Eirwen E.C. Nicholson, "The St Clement Danes Altarpiece and the Iconography of post-Revolution England" in Jonathan Clark and Howard Erskine-Hill (eds.), Samuel Johnson in Historical Context (Palgrave, 2002) pp55–77
  • Richard Sharp, "The Religious and Political Character of the Parish of St Clement Danes" in Jonathan Clark and Howard Erskine-Hill (eds.), Samuel Johnson in Historical Context (Palgrave, 2002), pp44–55

External links

6 Annotations

Phil  •  Link

Judging by a map in Latham & Matthews this is the approxmiate position of where the church stood.

Susanna  •  Link

Separated Church and Churchyard

The church, interestingly enough, seems to be separated from its churchyard. I wonder if this was the case before the great fire? Here is its location on a London map of 1746 (note how far apart the churchyard and the church are from each other):…

Paul Miller  •  Link

St. Clement Danes in the Strand, is a Church dedicated to Clement, Bishop of Rome, who was Martyr'd Anno 100, and his Day is annually celebrated Nov. 4. And it's called Danes, because in the Days of Canutes, and other Danish Kings, it belong'd to the Danes, herein they buried their Dead, and particuary Harold, the eldest Son of Canutus, and his Successor, dying at Oxford, was buried at Westminster; but some few months afterwards, was taken up, beheaded, and flung into the Thames, by the order of Hardicanute, his half Brother and Successor; but afterwards taken up again by some Fishermen, and buried here in 1040; wherefore it must be at least 700 Years old; but being greatly decayed, was pulled down Anno 1680, and rebuilt and finished all of Stone, by the Parishioners, in 1682.
--- W. Stow 1722

Earle Rheaume  •  Link

My father was with the RCAF Squadron 431 (Iroquois) when his Wellington Bomber was shot down over the Netherlands. All five including him were killed. That occurred on June 12, 1943.
His name may be included in the Book of Rememberance. It is in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada.
A copy of that page would be most appreciated.

Thank you.

Earle Rheaume
Ottawa, Canada

imazzara  •  Link

Separated Churchyard-St.Clement Danes
The churchyard shown on the map is less than 100 yards from the church. The church has always stood on an "island" between 2 roads.No space.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.