St Clement Danes

Church in The West End

Christopher Wren designed the original church here in 1682, but only the walls and a steeple added by James Gibbs in 1719 survived bombing in 1941; the church was subsequently rebuilt as a memorial to Allied airmen. An 'island church' named after the Danes who colonized Aldwych in the 9th century, St Clement Danes today is the chapel of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and there are some 800 slate badges of different squadrons set into the nave pavement.

The statue in front of the church contentiously commemorates the RAF’s Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, who led the bombing raids that obliterated Dresden and killed up to 25,000 civilians during WWII.

Should you pass the church at 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm or 9pm, you may hear the bells chiming a vaguely familiar tune. It's the 18th-century English nursery rhyme that incorporates the names of London churches starting: ‘Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clements’, with the soothing final lines being: ‘Here comes a candle to light you to bed/Here comes a chopper to chop off your head/Chop, chop, chop, chop, the last man’s dead!’. Night-night, kids.


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