The church that John Betjeman called, 'A baroque paradise at the heart of the Strand'.
This church, in the Strand, London, is believed to have been adopted by Danish residents in the 9th Century when they were allowed into London after converting to Christianity. They had been previously driven out by Alfred the Great. Being a seafaring people, the Danes named the church after St Clement, the patron saint of mariners.
The church was rebuilt by William the Conqueror but subsequently deteriorated until it was demolished and rebuilt by Christopher Wren in 1682. The church was gutted by fire on 10th May 1941 after being hit by a large German incendiary during the London Blitz. The outer walls, the tower and steeple survived but the interior was totally gutted.
The ten bells crashed to the ground and were put into storage for recasting after the war. The church remained derelict until 1953 when it was taken over by the Royal Air Force to be dedicated as a memorial to those men and women of the Allied Air Forces who had lost their lives in the war. Shrines along the inner walls were included in the redesign to hold Books of Remembrance listing over 150,000 casualties.
After an appeal for funds the church was completely restored and reconsecrated on 19th October 1958 as the central church of the Royal Air Force. The stone floor leading to the altar has over 1000 badges of RAF squadrons and units, hand carved from Welsh slate.
There are also memorials to the United States Air Force and Polish Air Force plus a considerable array of memorabilia. The original wooden pulpit (by Grinling Gibbons circa 1700) is in place, having been removed for safekeeping at the start of the Blitz. The crypt is now a bright and airy chapel.
A past rector of the church was William Webb Ellis, who famously at Rugby school whilst playing football one afternoon, picked up the ball and ran with it.
Also known as the Oranges and Lemons church the bells play the nursery rhyme throughout the day.