JOHN LAMBERT 1488 - (after) 1544

A Man of Iron A Brief Biography - compiled by Phil Lambert

John Lambert or Lambard, alias John Gardener. (Many of the Lamberts at this time used the alias "Gardener, or Gardiner, or Gardyner", which doesn't help research! I have identified about 18 Lamberts of this period, many of whom were engaged in the Wealden Iron Industry, but I have yet to connect most of them to this family. It would appear that many of these also used the "Gardener" alias.)

John Lambert was perhaps not particularly famous, but is the earliest found ancestor of the writer, being his eleven times great grandfather, and also direct ancestor to the two artists James Lamberts of Lewes, and to Jack Russell Lambert of Crowborough, Sussex, whose biographies also appear on this site.

John Lambert (snr) arrived in England from France, about 1510. He was a legal immigrant, one of many brought over from the continent for employment, and with government consent, and sponsored by wealthy land-owners and furnace landlords, specifically to utilise their trade skills of iron blast furnace procedures. Along with others from his country, he brought the knowledge and skills of the continental blast furnaces, which were yet to become established in the English Iron Industry. King Henry VII (1457-1509) and King Henry VIII (1491-1547) encouraged the immigration of craftsmen from the Pays de Bray in Normandy, to upgrade English skills. Religious persecution in Europe was adding impetus to this movement. The Bray area of Normandy was geologically speaking, Wealden France, and the two would have at one time been joined before the formation of the English Channel. The Weald of Sussex, Kent and Surrey was rich in iron ore, and at its peak, the Wealden Iron Industry would boast of about 70 forges and furnaces. There is evidence of hundreds of earlier kilns and bloomeries. Many historians refer to The Wealden Iron Industry as the first "English Industrial Revolution". 

"John Lambard" was resident in Henhurst Hundred in the Rape of Hastings, paying a tax of 8d in 1525, when described as French. The forge here was Bugsell Forge. 

John was made a denizen in 1544, ["made denizen by Eystred widow" - can surely be identified as Joan Isted, widow of Richard Isted of Mayfield, a well-known Sussex ironmaster], appearing on the Westminster Denizen Roll of that year, [Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalisation for Aliens in England] as an employee at Parrock Forge and employed by Denise Bowyer, near Hartfield Sussex. (Brian Awtry -WIRG Bulletin No 16 of Series 1). At entry number 85, he claims to have been born in Normandy, is now aged 56 (in 1544), has been in the country for 34 years, and has an English wife (though she unfortunately is not named). 

It is recorded by Straker, that early in the sixteenth century, that "Denise Bowyer, lessee of of the important Parrock Forge near Hartfield, suffered extensive damage to her business when her new landlord William Saunders.........broke up her ponds and assaulted her workers, cutting off one man's finger, in an attempt to reclaim his land. She made a violent counter attack, arming her forces with staves, bills and bows and arrows".  The outcome was not recorded, but 'early in the 16th century' would indicate in the first half, and one assumes that the outcome was that she was successful, as she was still the lessee in 1544 when John Lambert and his fellow countrymen were made denizens. It might also be assumed that John was in employment there at the time of this conflict, and  perhaps took part in the fighting.

Hartfield was also the home of A A Milne, who wrote the children's' story "Pooh Bear" for his son Christopher Robin. The game of 'Pooh Sticks', where twigs are thrown into a stream from a bridge in a race to the other side, is still remembered today by the wooden bridge known as "Pooh Sticks Bridge". This bridge stands just a few yards from the dam which formed the hammer pond for the furnace, and the stream that runs beneath the bridge today, is that which was originally dammed up to form the hammer pond. (The pond water was fed to a waterwheel which operated the hammer used to forge the iron). While the stream still runs, this pond is now dry but nearby reserve feeder ponds still exist.

As a denizen (literally an "inhabitant"). John would be a naturalised subject, but without all the benefits, and not a full subject. His children born in England, and of an English mother, would certainly be full citizens. One of John's compatriots, Rowlande Muccumble, a fellow Norman ironworker, had a daughter Mary, who would become John (jnr)'s wife. Rowlande appears at entry number 134 in the Denizen Roll, also from Normandy, aged 44 and with an English wife (Johanne), and employed by Sir William Barrentyne.

In an extract of a paper by Judie English, included in 2nd Series Bulletin No 19 by WIRG dated 1999, entitled "Vachery Forge and Furnace, Cranleigh, Surrey", she writes:-

".....The ironmaster associated with the sites at Vachery was John Lambert alias Gardner, who came from a family heavily represented in documentary sources relating to the iron industry in Sussex.........." This was John of Normandy's eldest son. 


John Lambert, jnr., 1528 - after 1593

In an age when the written word was rare, and where parish records, if written, were only on scraps of paper which soon became lost, it is not difficult to understand just how a name comes to be spelled so many different ways. A scribe would only be able to write down the phonetic sound as he heard it - and a name itself would only have been handed down from generation to generation verbally. Add to this a French accent, and from a person newly arrived in the country with probably little command of the English language, and the recorder would have quite a few spellings from which to choose! Hence, we find variations of the name Lambert - Lamberd, Lambard, Lombard, Lumberd etc. (Even today, I am often asked to spell my name!). 

John Lambert (jnr), also known as Lamberte. Lambard and also used the alias Gardener/Gardyner, followed his father into the iron industry, and in 1573, is recorded (by Ernest Straker) as ironmaster at Vachery Forge at Cranleigh, Surrey, lessee of Lady Braye (widow of Sir Edward Braye). "[Lease for 21 years after death of Jane Bray; Lady Jane Bray of London, widow of Sir Edward Bray, to John Lamberte alias Gardener of Cranleigh, forgeman; The Vachery hammerpond; a messuage on north side; Stedman's lawn (10a) on south of pond and 16a on north of pond, with liberty to dig or raise the head of the pond and right of way to carry his saws and coal through the Vachery Park, Cranleigh]". 

At this time, known as John Lambard, he also used the alias John Gardner (as did his father), and this may have been for tax reasons, although he was summoned for "converting 837 oak and beech trees", and again in 1581. Vachery Forge was in an area where the felling of trees for ironworking was prohibited. At that time, certain areas of oak forest were protected by the crown, where the timber was required for the building of fighting ships for the King's navy.

In 1574 he is recorded by Straker as being in the employ of Lady Isabel Ashburnham (widow of Sir John Ashburnham) at Kitchenham Forge (Lower Ashburnham Forge) together with two other furnaces, near Battle, Sussex -
Ashburnham (Upper) Forge - Lessee/ironmaster in 1574,
Ashburnham (Dallington) Furnace - Lessee/ironmaster in 1574,
Kitchenham (Ashburnham Lower) Forge - Tenant/ironmaster between 1574 and 1578. 

In his will of 1593, he left the income from his forges to his cousin, John Gavis (alias John Blacket, a cousin and partner at Vachery Forge, with whom he had debts), and his house "Shurlocks" to his wife AGNES and financial provision for his SIX sons. [Shurlocks, with forge and iron mill, now or late in tenure of John Lambert alias Gardener, Cranleigh, and other lands of about 30 acres, in Cranleigh including Vachery hammerpond, capital messuage of Snockshill [Snoxhall] house, Snockshill fields alias windmill fields, and Maplecrofts].

It would therefore appear that, not only had John acquired considerable wealth, but that he had a second marriage, which might indicate that the reason for his apparent only son by Mary Muccumble, was that she had died young, perhaps in childbirth. Also, the fact that he left the house "Shurlocks" to his wife Agnes, would indicate that he had purchased the property from Lady Braye, following his tenancy. Further, there was no mention of Mary Muccumble in his will, which might indicate that she had indeed died. (The six sons may have included his son John (the third) 1556 by Mary Muccumble).