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An ancient church, which is now the RAF's central church


Rebuilt Building & Tower
RAF Memorials
East Window
Church Organ
For over 1,000 years, Christian churches have stood where St Clement Danes now stands. Gutted by fire in 1941, this fine Wren building was rebuilt by the Royal Air Force to become their central church, commemorating RAF personnel killed on active service.

Inside St Clement Danes
Its history dates back to the reign of Danish King Canute in the 11th century, when a small stone church was built and dedicated to St Clement. Over the years it was enlarged and restored many times, acquiring a tower in about 1100. The cancel was not added however until 1608.
Standing on the much travelled route between the commercial hub of the City and the seat of political power at Westminster, St Clement Danes witnessed the unfolding of many crucial events in the history of England. For example in the year 1665, the plague decimated the population of London and in the following year, the Great Fire swept through the city, narrowly missing the church. Following the Great Fire, St Clements Danes became one of 51 London churches to be redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren and a new building rose on this island site in only 2 years!

The restored semi-circular apse, designed by Wren

Oranges and Lemons

Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's ...
The origin of this ancient nursery rhyme is unknown, but one theory is that the churchyard of St Clement Danes once stretched to the bank of the River Thames and local children helped unload the cargo of ships attempting to evade customs duty, and given foreign fruit as a reward! The bells of St Clement Danes often ring out this famous tune.
During the 18th century St Clement Danes was at its height of popularity in London society. Many famous and fashionable people, from theatre and the arts as well as lawyers and politicians, worshipped here regularly. By the time of Queen Victoria, most of London society had moved to the newer fashionable West End and St Clement Danes became home to many organisations, societies and charities.
On the night of Saturday 10th May 1941, in one of the the last fire raids of the Blitz, St Clement Danes received a direct hit. Flames roared through the building. Feeding on ancient woodwork, they reached the top of the steeple. The following morning, the church was a charred and smoking ruin. Five weeks later, the Rector, Rev. William Pennington-Bickford, died from the shock and grief and his funeral service was held in the ruins.

The fire following a direct hit by a bomb during the blitz in 1941
In 1953, St Clement Danes was handed from the Diocese of London into the keeping of the Air Council to become a perpetual shrine of remembrance to those killed on RAF service. A world-wide appeal for funding was launched and by 1958, at a cost of £250,000, restoration was complete. A Latin inscription in the chancel now reads "Built by Christopher Wren in 1681. Destroyed by the thunderbolts of air warfare 1941. Restored by the Royal Air Force 1958"

The new east window
Today, St Clement Danes is full of memorials of remembrance. It also displays gifts from individuals, from organisations, from air forces around the world and from the Royal Air Force itself. Along both sides of the church are shrines of remembrance, containing the books in which are inscribed the names of those men and women who have died on active service with the Royal Air Force.

Books of remembrance around the walls

Over 800 RAF Squadron badges are inscribed in Welsh slate into the floor of the Chancel

Did You Know?

Underneath the west gallery is the United Air Force shrine containing the names of 16,000 members of the USAF who died in the Second World War.

The church organ was a gift to the church from the USAF
Visitor Information
St Clement Danes is open to visitors daily, 9am to 4pm. Entrance is FREE. St Clement Danes, The Strand, London WC2R 1DH. Tel: 020 7242 2380

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