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London Gardens Online


St Clement Danes Churchyard Westminster


St Clement Danes formerly had a good-sized churchyard, but this was severely reduced as a result of roadworks in 1855 and now remains as a small railed enclosure around the church. A church has existed here since the C9th; the Wren church of 1682 was severely damaged in WWII and restored by the RAF by 1958 when it was re-consecrated. In its small surrounding churchyard is the statue of Samuel Johnson who was a member of the congregation, and nearby are recent statues including that to Bomber Harris.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
The Central Church of The Royal Air Force

Site location:
The Strand

WC2R 1DH ( Google Map)

Type of site:

C9th onwards


Listed structures:
LBI: St Clement Danes Church. LBII: Statue of W E Gladstone; Statue of Samuel Johnson; St Clements Watch House


Site ownership:

Site management:

Open to public?

Opening times:
Church open daily 9am-4pm except bank holidays and for special services

Special conditions:


Musical events in church; exhibitions in Crypt

Public transport:
Tube: Temple (District, Circle).

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Conservation Area name:

Tree Preservation Order:

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Archaeological Priority

Other LA designation:
Area 7 Direction; within CAZ Central Activities Zone; St Clement Danes: Landmark Building

Fuller information

St Clement Danes, whose bells are reputedly those referred to in the children's nursery rhyme that say 'Oranges and lemons', formerly had a good-sized churchyard. This was severely reduced as a result of roadworks when The Strand was altered in 1855 and by 1896 it consisted of a mere quarter of an acre. It remains as a small railed enclosure around the church, which is little more than a traffic island. The first church here was probably a timber structure built in the C9th in the 'old village' (Alde Whyche) on the north bank of the Thames by Danish settlers expelled from the City of London in the time of King Alfred. Their connections with the sea account for its dedication to St Clement who was patron saint of sailors. The church was rebuilt a number of times, including by William the Conqueror after 1022 and again in the Middle Ages, and over the ensuing centuries St Clement Danes came under the remit of a number of different bodies including Westminster Abbey, the Knights Templar (from 1170-1312), the Austin Friars and the Bishop of Exeter. Although it survived the Great Fire of London of 1666, its structure had deteriorated by 1680 and Christopher Wren designed the new building of 1682, with its steeple of 1719 designed by James Gibbs.

The church was severely damaged by bombing on 10 May 1941, leaving only the tower, steeple and external walls standing. In 1953 the remains of the building was passed to the Air Council who launched a worldwide appeal for its restoration as a memorial to all allied airmen who had fought in defence of Britain in both world wars. Within two years £250,000 was raised and restoration began. St Clement Danes was re-consecrated on 19 October 1958 as the Central Church of the Royal Air Force. In the churchyard at the east end of the church is a statue by Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald of Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84) who was a member of the congregation, which was installed in 1910. In front of the church is a statue of William Ewart Gladstone by Hamo Thornycroft that was erected in 1905. Also by the main church entrance are two statues that commemorate heroes of the RAF, that of Air Chief Marshal Lord Hugh Dowding (1882-1970), erected in 1988, and of Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris (1892-1984), Marshal of the RAF, unveiled by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1992, both statues the work of Faith Winter. The south wall also has plaques commemorating members of the RAF.

Apparently King Harold I was buried at St Clement Danes in 1040, although his body was later dug up and cast into marshes by the river by his brother Harthacnut, who briefly took the throne. St Clement Danes had a removed burial ground to the north on Portugal Street, which was known as the Green Ground. This was later within King's College Hospital although in 1896 Mrs Basil Holmes described it as a half acre in extent, for the use of the hospital, and was neatly kept with grass, trees and seats.

Sources consulted:

Mrs Basil Holmes, 'The London Burial Grounds' (London, T Fisher Unwin, 1896); WCC 'Strand Conservation Area Audit', 2003

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