Clement Danes sits isolated on a traffic island in the middle
of the Strand.
St Clement Danes derives its
name from the earliest church to stand on the site, founded
by descendants of the Danish invaders, whom Alfred the Great
allowed to remain in London in the 9th century.
The body of the present church
was rebuilt in 1680 - 82 by Sir Christopher Wren, and in 1669
Joshua Marshall created the west tower, the familiar spire
added by James Gibbs in 1719.
The bells of St Clements Danes
could be the ones mentioned in the nursery rhyme 'Oranges
and Lemons' but although the bells play out the tune, St
Clement's, Eastcheap, also designed by Wren, is more likely
to be the church in the rhyme. The Eastcheap church is near
the wharves where citrus fruit used to be unloaded.
Nevertheless, children of St Clements Danes Primary School
are given an orange and a lemon after the annual service.
St Clements Danes was damaged
by bombing in 1941, and the restoration work was carried out
by Anthony Lloyd in 1955.
The galleried interior, with
its dark stained wood, follows Wren's original. Above
the galleries Corinthian columns and coffered arches support
the tunnel-vault of the nave.
The east end consists of a quadrant
bay on each side and an apse, and over each arch are the Stuart
arms. The reredos, built in the Wren style, has two
large panels painted by Ruskin Spear representing the Annunciation.
Other features include the east
window depicting Christ in Glory created by Carl Edwards,
a highly-carved pulpit dating from the 17th century with an
ornate lecturn designed by Anthony Lloyd, and in the west
gallery is a gilded organ by Ralph Downes.
Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1709 - 84,
was a regular member of the congregation of St Clement Danes.
During the 17th to 19th centuries many people were buried
in the crypt and the chain hanging on the crypt wall was used
to secure the coffin lids against body-snatchers.
Since 1958 St Clement Danes has
served as the central church of the Royal Air Force.
The nave and aisles have the crests of hundreds of RAF squadrons,
and below the aisle windows are the RAF rolls of honour.
The unusually wide aisle of the church has over 700 squadron
badges in slate set into the floor. At the west end
is a larger badge for the RAF, surrounded by the badges of
overseas allies, together with carved stalls for the commanders
of the RAF.
Outside the church are statues
of Lord Dowding, victor of the Battle of Britain, and Sir
Arthur (Bomber) Harris, Marshall of the RAF.