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St Clement Danes

St Clement Danes is a church in the City of Westminster, London. It is situated outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Strand. The current building was completed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren.

Built by Christopher Wren 1682. Destroyed by the thunderbolts of air warfare 1941. Restored by the Royal Air Force 1958

The church is sometimes claimed to be the one featured in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons and the bells do indeed play that tune. However, St Clement Eastcheap, in the City of London, also claims to be the church from the rhyme.



The first church on the site is supposed to have been built by Danes living in London in the 9th century. The location, between Westminster and the City of London, was home to a large number of Danes; being a seafaring race, the Danes named the church they built after St Clement, patron saint of mariners.

The church was first rebuilt by William the Conqueror, and then again in the Middle Ages. It was in such a bad state by the end of the 17th century that it was demolished and again rebuilt, this time by Wren. The steeple was added to the tower in 1619, by James Gibbs.

German bombs virtually destroyed the church on 10 May, 1941. Gibb's tower and steeple, and the outer walls, survived the bombing.

Central Church of the Royal Air Force

Following an appeal for funds by the Royal Air Force, the church was completely restored and was re-consecrated on 19 October 1958 to become the Central Church of the Royal Air Force.

Services are regularly held to commemorate prominent occasions of the RAF and it's associated organisations. There are also features throughout and outside the building commemorating people and units of the RAF.

The quotation at the top of this article is an English translation of the Latin inscription over the main door of the church.


Outside the church stand statues of two of the RAF's wartime leaders, Arthur Harris and Hugh Dowding.


The floor of the church, of Welsh slate, is inscribed with the badges of over 800 RAF commands, groups, stations, squadrons and other formations. Near the entrance door is a ring of the badges of Commonwealth air forces, surrounding the badge of the RAF.

A memorial to the Polish airmen and squadrons who fought in the defence of the UK and the liberation of Europe in World War II is positioned on the floor of the north aisle.

Books of Remembrance listing the names of all the RAF personnel who have died in service, as well as those American airman based in the UK who died during World War Two.

Near the altar are plaques listing the names of RAF and RFC personnel awarded the Victoria Cross and the George Cross.

Donations and Artifacts

In the gallery hang Queens Colours and Standards which have been replaced, along with standards of several disbanded squadrons (most standards of disbanded squadrons hang in the rotunda of the RAF College, Cranwell).

The church's organ, situated facing the altar in the gallery, was a gift from the United States Air Force. Pulpits, pews and chairs in the body of the church have been presented by various people, indluding past Chiefs of the Air Staff, Sir Douglas Bader, the Guinea Pig Club. The lectern was a gift from the Royal Australian Air Force, the Cross from the Air Training Corps, the altar from the Netherlands embassy. Also from the Netherlands is the font in the crypt, donated by the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

See also

Last updated: 05-07-2005 15:23:27
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04