Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leman, John

LEMAN, Sir JOHN (1544–1632), lord mayor of London, born at Saxlingham, Norfolk, in 1544, was younger son of John Leman, of Gillingham in Norfolk and Beccles in Suffolk, and Mary, daughter of John Alston of Pevenham, Bedfordshire. The family were descended from John de la Mans, who fled to England from the Netherlands, and died about 1485. Leman carried on business in Thames Street, near Botolph Lane, and was a member of the Fishmongers' Company, of which he served the office of prime warden in 1616. He was elected alderman of Portsoken ward on 15 Aug. 1605 (City Records, Rep. xxvii. f. 64), and served the offices of sheriff in 1606 and of lord mayor in 1616–17. He was ‘removed’ from Portsoken ward, apparently to Langbourn, which he represented in the year of his mayoralty (ib. Rep. xxxii. f. 355). By his prerogative as lord mayor he again removed, on 8 Oct. 1617, from Langbourn to Cornhill, which he represented until his death (ib. Rep. xxxiii. f. 173 b, xlvi. f. 190). Upon his inauguration as lord mayor, the Fishmongers' Company provided a pageant of unusual magnificence. It was composed by Anthony Munday, the city poet, and was entitled ‘Chrysanaleia, the Golden Fishing; or Honour of Fishmongers …,’ London, 1616. The original coloured drawings for the devices are still preserved at Fishmongers' Hall, and were reproduced for the company in facsimile, with a reprint of the pageant and historical notes, by Mr. J. Gough Nichols, F.S.A., in 1859.

In February 1616–17 Leman, while mayor, was very ill. ‘The French ambassador and his company last night,’ John Chamberlain wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton, 22 Feb., had a ‘great supper at the Lord Mayor's, who, poor man! had been at death's door these six or seven weeks’ (Nichols, Progresses of James I, iii. 246). Leman was knighted on 9 March following (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 169), and later in the year sumptuously entertained at his house near Billingsgate several lords and other members of the privy council while the king was in Scotland. To him while lord mayor John Vicars dedicated his translation of Francis Herring's poem on the Gunpowder plot, ‘Mischief's Mysterie,’ 1617.

Leman was possessed in 1606 of the manor of Brampton in Suffolk and the advowson of the church; he also bought the manor of Warboys in Huntingdonshire of Sir Oliver Cromwell (cf. Fuller, Worthies of England, 1811, i. 474). He died 26 March 1632, at the advanced age of eighty-eight, and was buried in St. Michael's Church, Crooked Lane, where a rich monument was erected to his memory in what was then called the Fishmongers' Aisle (Stow, Survey, bk. ii. p. 187). The church was pulled down in 1831. Leman was unmarried and was the first bachelor lord mayor since 1491. Suckling erroneously gives him a wife, whom he calls Margaret Collen. Leman was succeeded in his Suffolk estates by a son of his elder brother, William Leman, portreeve of Beccles in 1590, M.P. for Hertford, and treasurer-at-war to the parliament, with whose descendants the manor of Brampton still remains (Suckling, History of Suffolk, ii. 184–5).

By his will, dated 8 July (codicil 17 Dec.) 1631, and proved in the P. C. C. 28 March 1632, Awdley, 30, Leman devised his messuage and garden in Ballygate Street in Beccles, with about thirty acres of land in Barsham, and lands in other parishes of Suffolk, for the foundation and support of a free school at Beccles for forty-eight boys (Suckling, Suffolk, i. 31). He also left, among other charitable bequests, an annuity of 12l. to the Company of Fishmongers, to purchase sea-coal for the company's almsfolk at Newington Butts. During his lifetime he conveyed his house called the Blue Anchor in the Minories to trustees for the benefit of the poor of the parish of St. Botolph without Aldgate.

A three-quarter length portrait of Leman by an unknown artist is at Hampton Court Palace, the only citizen in that gallery. He wears an alderman's scarlet gown and a ruff, and is represented as a bare-headed, diminutive old man, with pointed beard, grey whiskers and hair. In the background are his arms and crest. A duplicate of this picture is in the court-room at Christ's Hospital, of which institution he was president in the year of his death. Another portrait of Leman, of three-quarter length, in his robes and chain as lord mayor, remains in the dining-room at Brampton Hall.

[Charity Commissioners' Reports, xii. 101, xxii. 103, 230, xxiii. 193, xxxii. pt. vi. p. 122; The Fishmongers' Pageant on Lord Mayor's Day, 1616, edited by John Gough Nichols, F.S.A., 1859, 2nd ed. pp. 16, &c.; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, ii. 414.]

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