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Inscription at the gates of Bunhill Fields burial ground, noting that the ground was first enclosed during John Lawrence's mayoralty

Sir John Lawrence (born c. 1621-1628, died 26 Jan., buried 29 Jan. 1691/2 O.S.[1]) was an English merchant who was Lord Mayor of London from 1664 to 1665. He was therefore Lord Mayor during the period of the Great Plague of London.

Lawrence was widely acclaimed for his role in mitigating some of the effects of the plague in the city: 'in particular, his efforts in keeping the bread ovens baking and food supplies plentiful earned him considerable praise'.[2]

Sir John Lawrence was a City of London merchant and a member of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers. In 1658, he was elected an alderman of the City of London for Queenhithe ward. He was one of the Sheriffs of London from 1658 to 1659 and was Master of the Haberdashers Company at the same time. He was a member of the committee of the East India Company in 1659–60, and colonel of the White Regiment from 1659 to 1660. He was knighted on 17 June 1660. In 1664, he was elected 329th Lord Mayor of London and was also Master of the Haberdashers. He was Governor of the Irish Society from 1668 to 1676, and president St Thomas' Hospital from 1668 to 1683, and again from 1688 to his death in 1692.[3][4]

Lawrence was one of the leaders who opposed the influence of the court in civic affairs. An account of him written in 1672, said that "he hath put all the affronts and indignities imaginable upon all those persons that have been willing to venture their lives and estates in any military employment for His Majesty" and that he "hath always had three or four busie turbulent followers to crye him up in all parts of the cittie, and to assist him in all popular elections.[5] From 1675 to 1678 he was again a member of the committee of the East India Company, and in 1677 Master of the Haberdashers Company. He served twice more on the committee of the E.I.C. from 1679 to 1680 and from 1681 to 1683. He interrupted his period as alderman in 1683 but was re-elected for Queenhithe in 1688, and he continued as alderman until his death. He was Governor of the Irish Society again from 1690 to 1692.[4] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1673.[6] Sir John held £1,600 of stock in the first Royal African Company,[7] but he was not on the list of shareholders of the New Royal African Company when it was chartered in 1672.

Sir John Lawrence's arms were "argent, a cross, raguly gules, a canton ermine",[8] granted in 1664 or possibly earlier.

Family Life

John Lawrence was born to Abraham Lawrence, a weaver, and Mary Lawrence, sometime between 1621 (when his parents were married[9]) and 1628 (20 years before the birth of his first child). He had two brothers—James and Abraham—and one sister—Hanna (b 7 Dec 1628[10])

Sir John Lawrence married Abigail Cullen, afterward Dame Abigail Lawrence (b. 1623, d. 6 Jun 1682) and they had ten children—nine girls who lived to adulthood and one boy who died as a child:[5]

  1. Abigail, b. 4 May 1648, married Sir George Vyner, 2nd Baronet, son of Sir Thomas Vyner (Lord Mayor from 1653 to 1654)
  2. Mary, b. 4 May 1648, married John Pollexfen, 10 May 1670
  3. Hester, b. 21 Oct 1649, married Thomas Preslley, gent. 25 May 1669
  4. Rachael, b. 8 May 1651, married Charles Chamberlain (Alderman from 1687 to 1688), 22 Apr 1673
  5. Gartred (Gertrude), b. 11 Apr 1653, married Richard Peacocke, Esq. of Finchley, 27 Feb 1678
  6. Elizabeth, b. 14 Nov 1654
  7. Susanah, b. 6 Nov 1656, d. 18 Dec 1656
  8. Rebecca, b. 8 July 1658
  9. [unknown daughter]
  10. [unknown son, died young]

The burial monument for Dame Abigail Lawrence at St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate has the following inscription[11]

"the tender Mother of ten Children // the nine first being all daughters // shee suckled at her owne breasts // they all lived to be of age // her last a son died an Infant // Shee lived a married wife thirty nine years // three and twenty whereof // Shee was an Exemplary matron of this Cittie”.

Sir John married a second time in 24 May 1684 to Catherine Stone, of St Giles (Cripplegate?), "about 34, Spinster, at her own disposal". Catherine Stone was daughter of Sir Robert Stone and his second wife Elizabeth. In about 1684 they moved from London to Putney, Surrey where they owned a large house (thirty-one hearths[12]). According to Dame Catherine's will and parish church records,[10] they had four children:

  1. John Lawrence, Esq., b. ??
  2. Catherine Lawrence, b. ??
  3. Dorothy Lawrence, b. 31 Oct 1688, St Mary, Putney, Wandsworth, Surrey
  4. Adam Lawrence, b. 13 Mar 1689, St Mary, Putney, Wandsworth, Surrey

Sir John Lawrence was buried 29 Jan. 1691/2 O.S. at St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate.[1] Dame Catherine Lawrence nee Stone was buried 22 April 1723 at St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate in the family vault.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "The registers of St. Helen's Bishopgate, London (p 338)". London : Mitchell & Hughes. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  2. ^ "London's 7 most memorable lord mayors". Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  3. ^ Parsons, Frederick G. (1932). The History of St. Thomas's Hospital, Vol. 2. London: Methuen & Co. p. 9.
  4. ^ a b "Chronological list of aldermen: 1651-1700", The Aldermen of the City of London: Temp. Henry III – 1912 (1908), pp. 75–119. Date accessed: 15 May 2012
  5. ^ a b "Notes on the aldermen, 1502-1700", The Aldermen of the City of London: Temp. Henry III – 1912 (1908), pp. 168-195. Date accessed: 15 May 2012
  6. ^ "Fellows Details". Royal Society. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  7. ^ "The Rulers of London 1660-1689 A Biographical Record of the Aldermen and Common Councilmen of the City of London". British History Online. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  8. ^ Norman, Phillip (1893). London Signs and Inscriptions (PDF). London: Elliot Stock. p. 212. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  9. ^ Armytage, George J. (1932). Allegations for marriage licenses issued by the Bishop of London, 1520 to 1828. London: Harleian Society. p. 99. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  10. ^ a b "".
  11. ^ "St Helen Bishopsgate, City of London and its monuments". Bob Speel. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  12. ^ "MRP: Inventories". Retrieved 3 March 2022.

3 Annotations

First Reading

Betty J Burchard  •  Link

Hello, I am trying to find descendants of Sir John
Lawrence Lord Mayor of London 1664-1665.I am related
Katherine Theodosia Lawrence B; 16 Apr 1758 Lincolnshire. Eng. She married Samuel Barnard, ESQ 4 Oct 1779 in Lincolnshire, England. Her father was B:
21 Mar 1751/52. His name was John Lawrence B:1615 in
London, England.
Samuel B:1751 had a son Samuel. This is where I connect.The son was B; 1782 England. This Samuel*
I have talked to the library in London, they referred meto the public library. NO help!!
* married my Great grand mother. I would like to know
how the descendants go from there to me. Hope you can make this out.Thank you.
Betty Donnel Burchard
14005 N Trade Winds Way
Oro Valley, AZ. 85755 USA
# 520 825 7710

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Sir John Laurence, afterwards distinguished for his great benevolence during the period of the great plague.
--- Wheatley. Diary, 1904.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Sir John Lawrence, Lord Mayor of London 1664–65

In the awful days of 1665, as the plague swept across London, it was Lord Mayor Sir John Lawrence who, when Charles II with his Court, the gentry and the wealthy classes left the city, assured the terrified citizens that he, his sheriffs and aldermen would stay to provide order and justice.

Quickly Lawrence and his councilors issued Plague Orders – regulations copied from the modus operandi of Italian authorities who were familiar with the plague.

Lawrence appointed watchmen to attend to affected households; employed women 'searchers' to seek out the bodies; and appointed physicians to help prevent infection.

They also punished the inevitable looters and plunderers of the sick and dying, while dealing with the increasingly-desperate populace with consideration.

In particular, Lawrences succeeded in keeping the bread ovens baking and food supplies plentiful, which earned him considerable praise.

As The City Remembrancer later recalled: “Everything was managed with so much care and such excellent order observed in the whole city, and suburbs, that London may be a pattern and example to all cities of the world for the good government and excellent order that was everywhere kept even in the most violent infection and when the people were in the utmost consternation and distress.”

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.