The history and origins of the lyrics - sinister!
The words and lyrics have been much loved by generations of British children. The place names relate to some of the many churches of London and the tune that accompanies the lyrics emulates the sound of the ringing of the specific church bells. The words of the nursery rhyme are chanted by children as they play the game of 'Oranges and lemons' the end of which culminates in a child being caught between the joined arms of two others, emulating the act of chopping off their head! The reason for the last three lines of lyrics are easily explained. The 'Great Bells of Bow' were used to time the executions at Newgate prison, which for many years were done by means of beheading. The unfortunate victim would await execution on 'Death Row' and was informed by the warder, the night before the execution ' here comes the candle to light you to bed' of their imminent fate and to make their peace with God! The executions commenced when the bells started chiming at nine o'clock in the morning. When the bells stopped chiming then the executions would be finished until the following day!