People Property and Charity

The Clothworkers' Company 1500-1688

William Lambe

William Lambe (d.1580), Citizen and Clothworker, bequeathed properties in Coleman Street, Monkwell Street and Bell Alley in the City of London; Sutton Valence in Kent; and Warley and Upminster in Essex to The Clothworkers Company in 1580. Lambe was born in 1495, the son of a yeoman from Sutton Valence in Kent.[1] Lambe became a renowned vocalist, and was noted as a child of the Royal Chapel of Henry VIII. He was married three times, to a Joan, an Alice and another Joan; about all of whom little is known.[2] He had no children[3] and was outlived by his final wife. Despite significant wealth, Lambe lived in a relatively modest house in Monkwell Street. He died in 1580 and was buried in the parish church of St. Faith under St. Paul’s, where he had built a vault under a tomb prior to his death.[4]

Lambe was made Free of The Clothworkers’ Company by Redemption in 1568, at the request of Alderman Freely.[5] He was seventy years old. Lambe was elected to the Livery of the Company in August 1568[6] and became Master in 1569.[7] Lambe is noted as the master of three apprentices, all of whom went to take Freedom of the Company: Simon Tenowe in 1577, Thomas Madrin in 1578 and William Tilley in 1578.[8] Lambe appears to have gained significant wealth during the course of his life. Girtin attributes this to his marriages and benefactions made directly from Henry VIII’s monastic gains due to his choral talents.[9] What wealth he did gain, Lambe invested significantly in property and philanthropy. In 1543, he was recorded as purchasing monastic lands  formerly belonging to the foundations of Rowley, St. John Jerusalem and St. Bartholomew, Smithfield; all of which gave rise to his significant property holdings in the City of London.[10] According to Ian Archer, however, Lambe was not a tycoon; subsidy assessments of £100 in 1541 and fifty pounds in 1577 place him amongst the top 700 to 800 Citizens of London.[11]

Lambe was deeply pious. His biographer, Fleming, noted him as taking part in long three hour sermons at St. Paul’s Cross.[12] He was a friend of John Foxe, the Protestant martyrologist, and even wrote his own prayer book, The Conduit of Comfort (1579).[13] His piety fed through into significant philanthropy. Lambe sat on the Court of Christ’s Hospital for almost ten years from 1571 to 1579[14] and gave significant donations to the poor of St. Giles, Cripplegate throughout his life. Such was his generosity that he was forced to enter a recognizance that he would not take any more poor into his ‘pestered’ alley in Cripplegate.[15] His benevolence is further extended in his will, in which he bequeathed gowns to the poor of the parishes of St. Giles without Cripplegate, St. Sepulchre, St. Faith and Sutton Valence, Kent. He also bequeathed mattresses to the prisoners in Newgate, Ludgate, the King’s Bench, the Marshalsea and the White Lyon.[16] Further monies were granted to poor maidens on their marriage days.[17] Amongst his most significant charitable givings was his payment of £1500 towards the rebuilding of a water conduit from Snow Hill to Holborn, and his establishment of a free school and almshouses at Sutton Valence.[18]

By an indenture of 12 July 1568, William Lambe acknowledged that he intended to bequeath premises in the parishes of St. James-in-the-Wall, St. Stephen Coleman and St. Olave, Silver Street to the Company.[19] In return, the Company undertook to ensure that sermons would be preached on the 1 October, and the feasts of St. Stephen, the Annunciation and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in the Church of St. James in the Wall.[20] Four members of the Livery were to be present at the semon, to whom monies were to be disbursed, in addition to the preacher.[21] Gowns, shirts, smocks and shoes were also to be granted to twelve poor men and twelve poor women, who would be present at the sermons.[22] If the Chamberlain, Under-Chamberlain and Town Clerk were present, they were also to receive monies from the rents of the Company.[23] Further additions to the indenture, made in a will dated 11 October 1574, also established an annual payment to The Stationers’ Company and an exhibition for a poor scholar at St. John’s College, Oxford.[24]

By a will, dated 6 April 1580, Lambe also granted the Company a further messuage and land in Abbey Warley, Essex and a tile kiln, house and land in Upminster, Essex.[25] Under the terms of the grant, the Company undertook to use the profits from the lands to maintain the inhabitants of Lambe’s almshouses at Sutton Valence and to make an annual visitation to the free school, which he had also established in there.[26]


[1]Archer, Ian, ‘Biography of William Lambe’, (Accessed: 8 October 2010) and D.E. Wickham, Unpublished address given to the William Lambe service, 21 April 1980.

[2] Archer, Ian, ‘Biography of William Lambe’, (Accessed: 8 October 2010)

[3] Ibid.

[4] TNA PROB 11/62, Will of William Lambe, 10 March 1580.

[5] The Clothworkers’ Company Archive (hereafter CCA), Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, 1558-1581, f. 119r, 9 July 1568.

[6] CCA, Court Orders, CL/B/1/2, f. 120r, 3 August 1568.

[7] T. Girtin, The Golden Ram: a narrative history of The Clothworkers’ Company, 1528-1958 (London, 1958), p. 324

[8] 'Simon Tenowe, Freedom, 1577', Records of London's Livery Companies. URL: Date accessed: 8 January 2013; 'Thomas Madrin, Freedom, 1578', Records of London's Livery Companies. URL: Date accessed: 8 January 2013; William Tilley, Freedom, 1578', Records of London's Livery Companies. URL: Date accessed: 8 January 2013.

[9] Girtin, The Golden Ram, p. 319.

[10] Archer, Ian, ‘Biography of William Lambe’,

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] M. Benbow, Notes to Index of London Citizens involved in City government, 1558-1603, Volume 2, L-Z, unpublished, p. 536.

[15] Ibid, p. 536.

[16] TNA PROB 11/62, Will of William Lambe, 10 March 1580.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Archer, Ian, ‘Biography of William Lambe’,

[19] Charity Commissioners, City of London: Clothworkers' Company. Mr. Hare's report [to the Charity Commissioners on the Company's charities] 18th November, 1860, (London, 1880), p 85.

[20] Ibid., p. 85.

[21] Ibid., p. 85.

[22] Ibid., p. 86.

[23] Ibid., p. 86.

[24] Ibid., p. 86-88.

[25] Ibid., p. 90.

[26] Ibid., p. 90.