UK Genealogy Archives logo

Lambeth, Surrey

Historical Description

Lambeth, a metropolitan suburb, a parish, and a parliamentary borough in Surrey. The suburb lies on the Thames, opposite Westminster, 1½ mile SW by S of St Paul's; stands compact with Southwark, Newington, and Kennington; communicates with Westminster by Waterloo, Westminster, Lambeth, and Vauxhall bridges; contains the Waterloo Road terminus and the Vauxliall Bridge station of the L. & S.W.R.; is traversed throughout by that railway, and across the NE by the connecting line with Charing Cross and London Bridge; has abundant facilities of pier and wharf for sharing in the upper traffic of the river; is within the jurisdiction of the central criminal court and of the metropolitan police; and is partly in the SE and partly in the SW Metropolitan postal district.

The place on which the suburb stands was known to the Saxons as Lambhythe or Lambehithe, and is thought to have got that name from the words lam and hi/the, signifying " dirt" and a " haven," but it figures at Domesday as Lamchei. Some writers suppose it to have been the scene of Hardi-canute's death and Harold's coronation; but other writers, with higher probability, assign these events to Kennington. Lambeth, like Kennington, may have belonged to the Saxon kings, but at Domesday it was held by the Earl of Mortaigne and the Princess Goda, the sister of the Conqueror. The princess gave it to the Bishop of Rochester, and one of these bishops exchanged it for other lands in 1187 with the Archbishops of Canterbury. A palace appears to have been built on it by the first bishop of Rochester who held it, and this was the scene of the council in 1100 respecting the proposed marriage of the Princess Maud with the King of Scotland, and the scene also of several other important councils. A better palace on the same site was built about the beginning of the 13th century by Archbishop Hubert, and this was rebuilt, restored, improved, or enlarged at various times by his successors. A great synod was held here in 1282, attended by all the bishops of England to discuss complaints which had been made at Rome respecting the government of the English dioceses; and several other great synods were held here prior to the great Reformation. The palace was sacked, and most of its furniture and records burned by the insurgents under Wat Tyier in 1381. It was visited by Henry VII., by Catherine of Arragon, by Queen Mary, and frequently by Queen Elizabeth. It was re-furnished by Mary for the reception of Cardinal Pole, and a tower of it was used by Elizabeth for the incarceration of bishops Tun-stall and Thirlby, Lord Henry Howard, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex, and some other persons. The palace was fortified in 1641 by Archbishop Laud, in anticipation of an attack by the multitude with whom he had made himself unpopular; and after the fall of that primate it was stripped of its ecclesiastical character and converted into a prison for " malignants." It was subsequently sold to Thomas Scott, one of the regicides, and to Mathew Hardy; but after the Restoration it reverted to the archbishops, and it has ever since remained in their possession. Nothing more than a small village seems to have been at Lambeth when the original palace was built, but this rapidly improved under the bishops and the archbishops, and became a market-town. A college for secular canons was founded near the palace about 1191 by Archbishop Baldwin, but it encountered great opposition by the monks of Christchurch, Canterbury, who eventually obtained a papal bull for its suppression, and just when finished in 1199 it was partially taken down; but ruins of it, LAMBETH under the name of Carlisle House, continued till recently to exist. A canal was formed here for the temporary diversion of the Thames during the erection of London Bridge, and a vestige of this, which disappeared many years ago, was mistaken by Maitland in his history of London for the vestige of trenches formed by Canute in 1026, on his invasion of London. Lambeth Marsh, now a thoroughly edificed tract in the NE, was not covered with houses much before 1810; and Inigo Jones is said to have buried his money in it during the Civil War. A mineral well, once noted for medicinal qualities, was at Lambeth Walk. Banks the sculptor was a native; and Forman the astrologer, Francis Moore the physician, and Ducarel, who wrote a " History of Lambeth Palace," were residents.

Lambeth Palace stands close to the Thames, immediately below Lambeth Bridge, nearly opposite the new palace of Westminster; presents a massive but time-worn appearance, in strong contrast to that new palace; and shows gradations of architecture, from Early English to Late Perpendicular. The Chapel is the oldest portion, all Early English; was built by Archbishop Boniface between 1245 and 1270; measures 72 feet by 25; stands over a crypt 36 feet by 24; has a modern roof, modern stained glass windows, and an oak screen erected by Archbishop Laud, and bearing his arms; contains, in front of the altar, the grave of Archbishop Parker; and is the place where all the archbishops of Canterbury, since the time of Boniface, have been consecrated. The Hall was built in 1668 by Archbishop Juxon, who attended Charles I. to the scaffold; shows, over the inside of the door, that archbishop's arms; is in a Debased Pointed style; measures 93 feet by 38; has a roof of oak, with a lantern in the centre; and contains, in a bay window, a portrait of Archbishop Chicheley, the arms of Philip II. of Spain, and the arms of Archbishops Bancroft, Laud, and Juxon. The Library was founded by Archbishop Bancroft, enriched by Archbishop Abbot, and enlarged by Archbishops Tenison and Seeker; was seized by Parliament in the Civil Wars, given to Sion College, transferred to Cambridge University, brought back to Lambeth after the Restoration; and contains at present about 30, 000 books, black letter tracts, and manuscripts, some being very rare and valuable. The Lollards' Tower, at the W end of the chapel, is a massive square structure of weather-worn brick; was erected about the year 1440 by Archbishop Chicheley; took its name from an incorrect tradition that Lollards were imprisoned in it; was the part of the palace which Queen Elizabeth used for confining offenders; and has at the top a gloomy oak-lined room 13 feet by 12, and about 8 feet high, with rude inscriptions cut in the wainscot, and with eight large iron rings in the walls, and traditionally regarded as the prison. The Post-room is within the Lollards' Tower, and forms the vestibule to the chapel; and it has a flat ceiling, ornamented with sculptures. The Gatehouse was rebuilt about 1490 by Archbishop Morton, is of red brick, with stone dressings, and has a beautifully groined roof. The inhabited parts of the palace stand eastward of the chapel and the hall; were entirely rebuilt by Archbishop Howley, after designs by Blore, at a cost of £55, 000; and front a large paddock planted with trees, and inclosed by lofty brick walls.

Lambeth proper forms a band of about 1½ mile in length and half a mile in breadth, extending along the river from Waterloo Road to Vauxhall, and great part of this consists of narrow streets and disagreeable thoroughfares, with mean houses or malodorous factories. But Lambeth suburb contains also South Lambeth, to the S of Vauxhall; Kennington, immediately E of Lambeth proper; and Brixton, southward from Kennington toward Streatham; and these parts contain a vast aggregate of fine new thoroughfares and places, with a character in striking contrast to that of Lambeth proper. South Lambeth, including Stockwell, was held of King Harold and of King Edward the Confessor by the monks of Waltham. A building here, afterwards known as Turret House, was the residence of John Tradescant, who introduced many valuable plants and fruits from the East, acted for some time as gardener to Charles I., made a large collection of curiosities, was about the first person who ever made such a collection in England, and left his collection to Elias Ashmole the antiquary, who eventually removed it. to Oxford, where it is still preserved in the Ashmolean Museum. Lambeth Bridge connects Church Street in Lambeth with Horseferry Road in Westminster, was erected in 1862 at a cost of about £40, 000, is a light iron suspension structure after designs by P. W. Barlow; measures 1040 feet in entire length, or 828 feet between the shore abutments, makes three equal spans of 280 feet each of wire cable, bearing platforms of wrought iron; has a roadway of about 20 feet in width, with side footways each 5 feet wide; differs little from ordinary suspension bridges except in having under each side a longitudinal tubular girder 2½ inches deep and Ig- inch wide, and has been described as being " one of the cheapest and ugliest ever built." The L. & S.W.R., both in its course through all the suburb and its stations, is a prominent object, and the line from it toward Charing Cross occasioned the removal of the Hungerford Suspension Bridge, and the substitution of that by a structure combining the properties of footbridge and railway viaduct.

The parish church adjoins the old gatehouse of the palace, is an ancient structure, so altered from time to time as to have lost much of its aspect of antiquity; has a tower, rebuilt or restored from one of the time of Edward IV., and contains the tombs of Archbishops Bancroft, Tenison, and Seeker, the tombs of Bishop Tunstall of Durham and Bishop Thirle-by of Westminster, and the gravestone of the antiquary Ash-mole. The churchyard contains an altar-tomb, restored in 1853, of John Tradescant. The queen of James II., after fleeing with her infant son from Whitehall, took shelter beneath the walls of the church from inclement weather on a December night of 1688, and was conveyed hence in a common coach obtained at a neighbouring inn to her embark-ment from the kingdom at Gravesend.

In front of the Lambeth Palace is the Albert Embankment, connecting the Westminster and Vauxhall bridges, which was completed in 18G9 at a cost of nearly £1, 000, 000. It is about three-quarters of a mile in length, is for a portion of its length only available for foot passengers, and it includes, in addition to the palace, the St Thomas' Hospital and the fine buildings of Messrs Doulton. The ancient thoroughfare, Stangate (stone gate or paved way), adjoins it. The Lambeth Baths on the south-east side of Westminster Bridge Road are largely used during the summer months by swimmers, and during the winter the water is drawn out and the bath serves for a lecture and concert-room, and as a place of public meeting.

The manufacturing establishments are very numerous and very various, and they employ the greater portion of the inhabitants of Lambeth proper. There are a patent shot factory with a tower 140 feet high, manufactories for almost every kind of machinery, works for pottery, plate-glass, artificial stone, cements, soap, candle, and chemicals, extensive vinegar works, distilleries, breweries, boatbuilding yards, and establishments for the making of baskets, brushes, chairs, combs, corks, and other articles. Many of the inhabitants are also employed in the building trades, some recent returns compiled by order of the London County Council showing that from 40 to 50 per cent. of the population were so engaged. There are likewise wharves for lime, coal, and timber, and piers for the accommodation of river steamers.

Area of the entire civil parish, 3941 acres; population, 275, 203. For particulars of the ecclesiastical parishes see LONDON. The parliamentary borough of Lambeth is coextensive with the civil parish, and is divided into (I), North Division, with 62, 586 inhabitants; (2), Kennington Division, with 73, 850 inhabitants; (3), Brixton Division, with 70, 356 inhabitants; and (4), the Norwood Division, with 68, 411 inhabitants.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySurrey 
Ecclesiastical parishLambeth St. Mary 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with Surrey History Centre, have images of the Parish Registers for Surrey online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Lambeth from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Surrey is available to browse.


Online maps of Lambeth are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Surrey papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Surrey, 1662-1668 is available on the Heraldry page.

CountyGreater London
Postal districtSE1
Post TownLondon