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nursery rhyme lyrics & origins
rhymes trivia quiz

Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins

The Bells of Old Bailey

The Bells of Old Bailey - St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church


St The Old Bailey did not have its own bell - it refers to the bells of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate church and the bell of Newgate prison! St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate is the largest church in the City of London and was sited opposite London's courthouse and the infamous Newgate prison which housed both criminals and debtors. The bell of St. Sepulchre marked the time (death knell) of imminent executions until Newgate prison acquired its own bell. A church has stood on this site since 1137. It was originally called St Edmund-King-and-Martyr but the name was changed during the Crusades to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church was a useful meeting point for the Knights embarking on a crusade as it was positioned just outside a city gate. The church was destroyed by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Wren in 1671. The medieval courthouse of London was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and was replaced by London's Central Criminal Court which was used during 1673 -1834. The local name for the court was the 'Old Bailey' which was so-called after the street in which it was located Bailey Street) which was right next to Newgate Prison. The phrase "When will you pay me?" refers to the Debtors housed in Newgate Prison and those tried at the Old Bailey.




Picture of Newgate Prison and the Old Bailey 

The Bells of Old Bailey

"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 Old Bailey


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


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Written By Linda Alchin