Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John Lambe (c.1612–1681)

Mayor of Oxford 1659/60 and 1668/9

John Lambe (or Lamb) was born in c.1612, the son of the husbandman Lawrence Lambe of Godington, near Bicester, Oxfordshire. He was apprenticed on 2 September 1622 to William Jennings, a tailor of Oxford.

Lambe became an Oxford tailor, and in September 1633 was appointed Constable for the South-West Ward. On 6 April 1635 he took on his younger brother Hugh as an apprentice. (This Hugh was later described by Wood as “old Lamb a quaker” of St Peter-le-Bailey.)

Lambe lived in the first tenement to the south of the Trill Mill stream, on the site of 10 St Aldate’s Street. Antony Wood says that the house “where Mr Lambe now dwelleth” was Trill Mill Hall, later Trentle Hall. He was a churchwarden at St Aldate’s in 1644/5, during which time he was “shut up of the plague”. He was still a tailor in 1645.

On 30 September 1644 John Lambe was elected on to the Common Council, and was immediately chosen as Mayor’s Chamberlain on the recommendation of the Mayor, William Chillingworth.

In September 1648 he was appointed a Keykeeper and in September 1649 was elected Junior Bailiff.

On 8 March 1658 Lambe was elected one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants, and in October 1658 he was one of the group selected to travel to London with letters of congratulation to the new Lord Protector, Richard Cromwell. Lambe, who was a Presbyterian and Parliamentarian, would have genuinely supported him.

On 19 September 1659 John Lambe was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1659/60), choosing Thomas Burnham as his Child and James Finch as his Chamberlain. On 10 May 1660 Lambe (with the help of the deputy chief serjeant at mace of the City and trumpeters) had to proclaim Charles II King of England at Carfax, St Mary-the-Virgin Church, and the East, South, and West Gates. A hogshead of claret was put in Carfax Conduit with two pipes running eastwards and southwards and 80 dozen cakes and 50 quart bottles of sack were provided; and 100 dozen loaves of bread were given to the poor and ten barrels of double beer to the common councillors and the soldiers. Orders were then given that the state’s arms on the Great Mace should be defaced and replaced by the King’s. In June 1660, towards the end of his mayoral year, Lambe went with a dozen or so councillors to London to deliver a “Gratulacion and Peticon” to Charles II, who promised to take particular care to protect his City of Oxford.

In September 1660 Lambe returned to serving as one of the Mayor’s Assistants, and in August 1661 he went out with the Mayor and senior councillors in a scarlet gown with footclothes and footmen to meet King Charles II on his visit to the city.

Despite all his outward show of supporting the King, on 31 May 1662 it was announced that 31 persons had been removed from the Council as a result of the Corporation Act of December 1661: this figure included the parliamentarian Lambe.

In 1665 Lambe paid tax on five hearths in St Aldate’s parish (10 & 11 St Aldate’s Street).

On 9 September 1667, Lambe was readmitted to the Council and given a Bailiff’s place, and he immediately came in and was sworn and subscribed the declaration. He was then by scrutiny elected one of the eight Assistants, and took his oath and paid £10 in lieu of entertainment and £5 according to custom, and again took the three oaths on the Chequer Table. Afterwards his fine of £15 was remitted as he had been an Assistant before and had paid his money at his first election. He was also appointed one of the Keykeepers.

On 14 September 1668 Lambe was elected Mayor of Oxford for the second time (for 1668/9). He proposed that Thomas Baker be given a Chamberlain’s place as his Child, and chose Richard Jackson as Mayor’s Chamberlain, and he also appears to have brought in some of his parliamentarian friends. In August 1669 he proposed that his Grace the Duke of Buckingham should be given the freedom of the city and a bailiff’s place, and the Duke was then elected High Steward of the City. Lambe then travelled to London with members of the council to see the Duke.

By 1674, Lambe was described as a maltster rather than a tailor.

† John Lambe died when returning to Oxford from London on 8 August 1681. Anthony Wood wrote:

Aug. 8, M., John Lamb, one of the 13, sometimes Mayor, died in his journey from London to Oxford. A presbyterian, an enimy to Academians. He was a taylor first; afterwards, a maulster: see “book (MS.) of libells”, p. 99.

It does not appear that John Lambe was buried in St Aldate's Church, so he may have been buried somewhere near London.

* On 20 November 1641 a man called John Lambe was chosen (along with three others) to have £25 apiece of “Mr Recorder’s £100”, and on 24 November 1646 someone of that name was one of “the four poore men for the time being commonly called the Trinitye men”; but it seems unlikely that either Lambe or his father would have been in such poverty at this time.

See also:

  • Anthony Wood, M.S. Tanner 466, No. 64: “Libel on John Lambe, by Henry Thomas of Univ. Coll.
  • Strangers in Oxford, pp. 241–2

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 29 September, 2018

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