By Grace Conway
ORANGES AND LEMONS: The Rhyme and the Churches, by Gladys Taylor (Peter Nevill, 15s.).
WHEN Hitler's bombs raked the streets of London, the City churches crashed down like ninepins. With them went many precious links with Catholic London. For though they had lost their Catholic character since the Reformation, their associations went back centuries before.
Gladys Taylor, lover and student of London, has taken the longer version of the old rhyme (whose origin seems lost in antiquity), and has made the old churches live again. The "happy noise" from the belfries may be silenced, but many of Wren's lovely buildings will be restored.
In the meantime, much can be learned about them from Miss Taylor's research. For instance, how many realise that on the site now occupied by the General Post Office stood the college for secular canons founded by two brothers, Ingelric and Edward, who were given their charter by William the Conqueror? (Edward VI had it pulled down.) And St. Mary-le-Bow (the first church on the site, also built in William the Conqueror's time} was for centuries the hub and centre of the City's teeming life round Cheapside.
Again, the gatehouse at Clerkenwell is one of the few remaining relics of the great Priory of St. John the Baptist founded in 1100, and can be visited any Saturday. Across the road the stone tracing of the original church can still he seen. The priory, says Miss Taylor, entertained the great and the lowly. Among the great were King John and Queen Eleanor and the Emperor Constantine. And she adds : "The Priors ruefully confessed that these visits caused them much expenditure."
A whole new aspect of old London is opened in these pages and should inspire many a rewarding pilgrimage down to the City with Miss Taylor's hook as guide. I suggest a Saturday afternoon, going against the traffic when space and silence come into their own.