London’s watery streets: from Jacob’s well to Lamb’s conduit

Here’s another Twitter buddy-inspired blog: was there, someone asked me, a story behind Lamb’s Conduit Street?

Indeed, there is. And there’s also a story behind Jacob’s Well Mews in Marylebone, so let’s start (because it’s first alphabetically) with that. This story involves both Jacob and a well, and for those of you who have read some of this blog, a straightforward name like that is relatively rare in London streets.

The mews was named for an 18th-century resident and landowner of Marylebone, Jacob Hinde, who also gave his name to nearby Hinde Street (where the novelist Rose Macaulay lived) There was a Jacob’s Well tavern at the end of the mews until 1893. The Tyburn river flowed through the area, which is probably where the water for the well came from.

The young Michael Faraday lived in a house in this mews, his journeyman blacksmith father having moved his family there in 1796 when the boy was five years old.

And on to Lamb’s Conduit Street which, like Jacob’s Well Mews, has a water connection and is what it says it is: there was someone called Lamb, and there was a conduit.

The 16th-century William Lambe (or Lamb) was “a rich citizen and clothworker” who was something of a philanthropist, and the conduit was one example of his generosity. In 1577 he spent £1,500 of his own money to have several springs connected to form a head of water, which was then conveyed by a lead pipe around 2,000 yards long to Snow Hill where a derelict conduit was rebuilt.

The generous Mr Lamb also provided for “poor women, such as were willing to take pains to carry and 120 pails therewith to carry and serve water”.

The original pump from which they drew water has long vanished, but a stone inscribed ‘Lamb’s Conduit, the property of the City of London. This pump is erected for the benefit of the Publick’ was fixed into a building on the site. (On the corner of Long Yard; I missed that one in my London’s ‘length street’ post.)

The conduit was damaged in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt the following year from a design by Sir Christopher Wren.

The area around the conduit, known as Lamb’s Conduit Fields, later became a favourite area in which local residents would stroll and where the air was clean enough that convalescents could be sent there to recover.

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