The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
Hermitage of St. James in the Wall; and Lamb's Chapel and Almshouses.
This little monastic establishment was what was termed a cell to the abbey of Gerendon, in Leicestershire, certain monks of which house were appointed chaplains here; on which account, and a well belonging to them called Monks well, the street was called Monkswell-street.
The old chapel, which was small, exhibited but few marks of antiquity, having been, except at its east end (where there was a pointed arched window), entirely plastered over, and its remaining parts otherwise modernised. It was, however, an undoubted fragment of the original hermitage, and, as the only part existing of this very ancient foundation, was highly interesting.
From the best historical accounts, it appears that this hermitage was originally founded by king Henry III . for Robert de St. Lawrence, chaplain; and the presentation at was vested in the crown. By deed dated in , Lawrence de Frowick granted to Richard de Clarkenwell, chaplain, »all his lands, &c. in Monks-well-street, in the parish of St. Olave, , for an annual rent of ; and on condition of finding candle of a pound weight for the church of St. Olave, , on St. Thomas's day; and another wax-taper of quarters of a pound weight, for the chapel () within the close or cloister within Cripplegate.
This inclosure or cloister, with certain residences and offices, formed the rest of the building establishment of the hermitage, but every vestige of it is now destroyed. A space of open ground, however, facing the front of the chapel, still marks the site, and appears sufficiently extensive to have allowed originally of gardens and other conveniences. itself (for which this wax taper was appropriated) literally stood on, or was let into a part of the city wall, and bounded, as it still does, side of
Cripplegate church-yard, must within that, in the foreground, the wall below, and the rest of the hermitage above, have formed altogether in ancient times a very venerable assemblage of objects.
In , the chalices, books, ornaments, goods, and lands of this hermitage having been frequently embezzled, for want of good government and regulation, king Edward I. as patron thereof, out of his piety, committed it to the care and government of the lord mayor of London for the time being. The lord mayor at that period was Henry Walleis, who held that high office from , till , inclusive, and again in . Whether the care of this small hermitage was incompatible with his other important duties, or to whatever cause it was owing, a patent was issued in , by which the custody of the hermitage was granted to the constable of the Tower for the time being; the reason being stated to be the danger of the
In , this hermitage was recognized as belonging to Gerendon abbey.
In , Ralph de Baldock being then bishop of London, Thomas de Wyveford, a hermit of this cell, took upon him
In , the custody of this hermitage was committed to Walter Kemesey.
In the reign of Edward I. a chantry was founded in the chapel of this hermitage for the souls of Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, and the lady Mary, his wife, which was endowed with tenements in , and the abbot of Gerendon sent hither monks of his house, Cistertians, to celebrate the necessary services established there in consequence.
This chapel of St. James, with its appurtenances, was granted by Henry VIII. to William Lamb, of the gentlemen of his chapel, and a citizen and clothworker, who endowed and gave it to the clothworkers of London. Here the company have sermons preached to them annually, on which times the master, wardens, and livery of the company, after the sermon, relieve, with clothing and money, poor men, and as many poor women. This was
|but a small part of the charities of this good man, which extended over many parts of the city. Lamb's conduit-fields took their name from of them. He founded in that tract, or on the part to which they did in his days extend, several conduits, distinguished by a lamb on the top of the buildings; these were of no small service before the bringing of the to supply the capital. This worthy benefactor died in , and was buried in St. Faith's church, under , where he was commemorated by a long epitaph, filled with irresistible puns on his innocent name.
Lamb's chapel, (the ancient chapel) previous to its being pulled down and rebuilt, was in length from east to west feet, and in breadth from north to south . It contained a fine old bust of the founder in his livery gown, placed here in , with a purse in hand, and his gloves in the other; and in the windows were small paintings on glass, of St. James the apostle, St. Peter, St. Matthew, and St. Matthias. On the floor a few grave-stones remained, the inscriptions on which were legible, but there were none older than the reign of Elizabeth. Of the more ancient ones the brass plates have been torn away.
The rest of the interior was neatly, but plainly fitted up.
There was a pulpit and reading-desk against the north wall; and the north windows contained the small paintings of the apostles mentioned.
Before the act of parliament was passed, which confined the granting of licences to such churches and chapels only where banns had been usually published, this chapel was noted for many private weddings.
Beneath the old chapel (and it is now preserved by the new building) was a curious crypt, a survey of which, accompanied by an engraving, was made by A. J. Kempe, esq. and inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine.
The capitals are of Caen stone, the surface of them being much decomposed.
The style of architecture carries these remains as far back as the end of the century, a period anterior to the mention of the hermitage in history.
The chapel and almshouses were rebuilt in the early part of the year , from designs by J. Angell, esq. architect.
The modern buildings are neatly built in brick, with stone dressings; the style of architecture is in imitation of the reign of Elizabeth, each house is united with a porch, having a low pointed arched entrance, and the elevation is finished with gables; the buildings occupy sides of a long court, the other side forming an entrance.
The chapel takes up nearly the whole of the north side. The walls are covered with compo to imitate stone; it is a neat and not inelegant building; it consists of a transept, or ante chapel, and a small body; in the former is an entrance, over which is a large pointed window; at the angles are octangular buttresses, which end above the building in conical pinnacles; the elevation finishes with a gable, on the point of which is an open bell turret, pierced with arches, in which hang bells, and finished with a pediment, crowned with a cross. The body of the chapel has pointed windows, and the elevation is finished with a parapet. The north side, only seen from Cripplegate church-yard, has windows in the body of the chapel; the east end is built against by of the alms houses. The interior is neatly and tastefully fitted up; the roof is sustained on beams, painted in imitation of oak,; the pulpit occupies the space of the central window on the north side. In the ante chapel is a plain small font; a gallery for the bell ringer is built over the entrance. The monument of Mr. Lamb has been removed from the east to the west end. It now holds a distinguished station in the west wall. It is an oval, containing a bust of Mr. Lamb, painted in colours, in the costume of the time.
On the floor are small brass inscriptions:
Above is a shield of arms party per pale surmounted by a lion rampant, ducally crowned.
Adjoining is the other inscription:
Against the wall, over Mr. Lamb's monument, is a large painting of the royal arms, and on the north side are those of the clothworkers, in relief, blazoned in the proper colours. It is observable that this neat chapel, which will hold nearly persons, has only service performed in it times in the year, viz. on the
|quarter days; and it almost approaches to an absurdity, to see a building erected at such an expense, for so little utility. Surel divine service ought to be performed in every consecrated chapel, at least once every Sunday.
On the west side of is
 Newcourt's Repert.
 Vol xcv. pt. i. p. 401