William Lambarde

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William Lambarde

William Lambarde (October 18, 1536 – August 19, 1601) was an antiquarian and writer on legal subjects.


Lambarde was born in London. His father (John Lambarde) was a draper (serving three times as Master of the Drapers' Company), an alderman and a sheriff of London. The Manor of Westcombe in Greenwich was the family home. In 1725, the house was demolished.[1]

In 1556, William was admitted to Lincoln's Inn. He studied Old English with Laurence Nowell, and in 1568, with Nowell's encouragement, published a collection of Anglo-Saxon laws, Archaionomia, which was printed by John Day.

In 1570, (while he was courting the dughter of George Multon),[1] he completed his Perambulation of Kent the first English county history. It circulated in manuscript before being printed in 1576. It proved to be very popular and went through several editions. Lambarde considered writing a similar work for all of Britain, but he set the idea aside when he learned that William Camden was already working on the same project.[2]

On the 11th September 1570, he married Jane Multon, on her 17th birthday. She later died in 1573. William lived in the Manor of St Clere in Ightham.[1]

He inherited the books and manuscripts of Laurence Nowell, on Nowell's death, which may have included the manuscript of Beowulf.

Lambarde probably served as a Member of Parliament for Aldborough in the Parliament of 1563-1567.[3] He was also a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, and a Justice of the Peace for Kent.

Lambarde founded an almshouse in East Greenwich in 1576. Elizabeth made him Keeper of the Records in the Tower in 1601. He died that same year.


He wrote Eirenarcha: or of the Office of the Justices of Peace (1581) a manual that became the standard work on the subject. He later wrote Archeion, or, A Discourse Upon the High Courts of Justice in England (1591), another important legal work.


  1. ^ a b c Cameron, Roderick (1981). Great Comp and its garden. London: Bachman and Turner Publications. pp. 131–144. ISBN 0859741001. 
  2. ^ C.R.J. Currie & C.P. Lewis eds., A Guide to English County Histories (Stroud, 1997), 10-12
  3. ^ J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (Penguin revised edition, 1963), 219
  • "Lambarde, William" in Dictionary of National Biography. 1973 repr. ed. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Walton, Izaak. The Lives of Donne, Wotton, Hooker, Herbert and Sanderson. London: W. Pickering, 1827. p. 469 googlebooks Accessed Dec. 12, 2007
  • Retha M. Warnicke, William Lambarde, Elizabethan Antiquary 1536-1601, Phillimore & Co Ltd (1973).

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