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nursery rhyme lyrics & origins
 
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Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins

The Bells of St. Helens

The Bells of St. Helens

 

A Benedictine nunnery originally formed part of the church which dates back to 1210. In 1538 the nunnery was surrendered to King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The convent buildings and land was acquired in 1543 by the Leathersellers' Company. The church was frequented by many rich merchants who lived in the area. These included a Mercer (cloth trader) called Sir John "Rich" Spencer. He became Lord Mayor of London in 1594 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. As his nickname indicates he was extremely wealthy as well as being very mean. He also operated as a money lender and explains the reference "You owe me Ten Shillings" in the rhyme. William Shakespeare attended this church ( the Bard was also involved in money lending and in 1570 his father John Shakespeare, also a leather seller, was accused in the Exchequer Court of Usury for lending money at the rate of 20% and 25% Interest) http://www.william-shakespeare.info.

 
 
 

 

 

The Picture of St. Helen's Church, Bishopsgate 
 
 

The Bells of St. Helens

"Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town
"Oranges and Lemons" say the Bells of St. Clements
"Bullseyes and Targets" say the Bells of St. Margaret's
"Brickbats and Tiles" say the Bells of St. Giles
"Halfpence and Farthings" say the Bells of St. Martin's
"Pancakes and Fritters" say the Bells of St. Peter's
"Two Sticks and an Apple" say the Bells of Whitechapel
"Maids in white aprons" say the Bells at St. Katherine's
"Pokers and Tongs" say the Bells of St. John's
"Kettles and Pans" say the Bells of St. Anne's
"Old Father Baldpate" say the slow Bells of Aldgate
"You owe me Ten Shillings" say the Bells of St. Helen'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 do not know" say the Great Bell of Bow
Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town

The Bells of St. Helens

 

Note: A Rhymes lyrics and the perceived origins of some Nursery Rhymes vary according to location

 

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Written By Linda Alchin