St Clement Eastcheap

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Untitled photo

• St. Clement Eastcheap is in the Candlewick Ward of the City. Clement was a disciple of St Peter and ordained Bishop of Rome in the year 93 AD. By tradition he 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. It is the only church in the City dedicated to the saint. The only other church with the same dedication is St Clement Danes in what is now the City of Westminster.

• 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 church's dedication to a Roman patron saint of sailors, the martyr Bishop Clement, coupled with 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.

• 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 dissolution of the monasteries - during the reign of Henry VIII- the parish was in the 'gift' of the Abbot of Westminster, then patronage of the parish passed to the Bishop of London. Now the patronage alternates with the appointment of each successive new parish priest between the Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s.

• In 1666 the church was destroyed by the Great Fire, and then rebuilt in the 1680s. According to Strype the rebuilt church was designed by Wren 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 1670, during the re-building of London that followed the fire, the parish was combined with that of St Martin Orgar, which lay on the south side of Eastcheap. At the same time the City planners sought to appropriate a strip of land from the west of St Clement's property to widen Clement's Lane. This led to a dispute with the parish authorities, who claimed that the proposed plan left too little room to accommodate the families of the newly-combined parishes. The matter was resolved by permitting the addition of a 14 ft. building plot, formerly occupied by the churchyard, to the east of the church. It was not until 1683; however, that building of the church began, and was completed in 1687.

• St. Clement's suffered minor damage from bombing by German aircraft during the Blitz in 1940 during the Second World War. The damage was repaired in 1949-50, and in 1968 the church was again redecorated.

• St. Clement Eastcheap considers itself to be the church referred to in the nursery rhyme that begins ‘Oranges and lemons / Say 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. Apparently 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. However, 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. All these would have been passed by wagons carrying the citrus fruit making its way to Leadenhall Market. 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.

• While the marble font can be seen, its wooden cover is not always on public display. The cover's ornate decoration, a carved dove holding an olive branch surrounded with gilded flames, so delighted Gladstone the Prime Minister, it is said that he took his grandchildren to see it.

• The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.

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