Rhymes trivia quiz
nursery rhyme lyrics & origins
rhymes trivia quiz

Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins

The Bells of Stepney

The Bells of Stepney - St Dunstan's Church, Stepney


St Dunstan's Church is located on Stepney High Street. A church has stood on the site prior to 952AD, when a stone church was erected, replacing the previous wooden structure. The existing building is the third church to be built on this site and was erected in 1580. There are ten bells in the belfry, dating back to 1385, some which were made at the local Whitechapel Bell Foundry. St Dunstan's has a long traditional link with the sea and it was once known as the 'Church of the High Seas'. Many sailors were buried in the churchyard. The phrase "When will that be?" could possibly refer to wives waiting for sailors to return from voyages with their fortunes, when their 'boat came in'. This was particularly relevant during the 16th and 17th centuries when many sailors were employed on Voyages of Discovery to the New Worlds - their wives would have to wait for their return to receive any wages, but they never knew how long the voyages might be - a two year wait was not uncommon!

 A typical City Street scene   

The Bells of Stepney

"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 Stepney


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


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Written By Linda Alchin