The Huguenot Cross.
A window at Canterbury Cathedral England where Huguenot descendants still worship every Sunday, in French.
‘Huguenot’ What does that mean to you? For me, living in Quebec, Canada it is a part of Quebec and France’s history but did you know that England also has a vast amount of history about Huguenot? I was amazed to learn that!
After I recently read a short article about English Huguenot, it made me want to find out how and why they ended up in England.
The Edict of Nantes (french: édit de Nantes), signed in April 1598 by King Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in the nation, which was still considered essentially Catholic at the time.
The Huguenot were Protestants in a largely Catholic populated country and after Louis XIV cancelled their civil rights granted to them by the ‘Edict of Nantes’ in 1685, about 50,000 fled France across the English Channel.¹
Once in England, they spread out not only to London but to 20 towns from Canterbury to Norwich, Plymouth to Rochester. As time went on, many of them drifted towards the Church of England and names became anglicized. Ferret became Ferry and Fouache became Fash most often due to mistakes made by English clerks!
In the 1600’s, Huguenot in England was called Journeymen journéee – ‘day’ in French – because they were, yes! paid daily. Journeyman is a word still in use in England today. Huguenot homes included a feature that marked a journeyman weaver home or a ‘sign’ such as the one below.
They set about settling in and transformed their homes to suit the valuable silk trade. They enlarged the windows in the attic to let in the maximum light for the weavers and designed a staircase positioned right by the front door to allow access to the upper floors without entering the workshop. This protected the expensive silks from dirt and soot from the streets. As the silk trade in the East End took off, they formed a community of working-class tradespeople that transformed Spitalfields into “Weaver Town”.
These talented artists brought to England many high-skilled trades. In addition to being famous for their silk weaving and beautiful fabrics, they brought to England paper-making, hat makers cabinet makers watchmakers gunsmiths goldsmiths jewellers and many more skilled trades.
By 1710, at least 5 percent of the population of London – then around 500,000 – were French Protestants. In the French enclaves of Spitalfields and Soho, that proportion was much higher. London soon had 23 French Protestant churches. Within a few years, a society totally unacquainted with mass migration had given a home to the equivalent – in terms of today’s population – of 650, 000 new arrivals.
According to one estimate, one in every six Britons has some Huguenot ancestry. Some famous Huguenot names in England include Simon Le Bon, from the pop group Duran Duran actor Sir Laurence Olivier, author Daphne Du Maurier and Samuel Courtauld (1793 – 1881) an English industrialist who developed his family firm Courtaulds to become one of the leading names in the textile business in Britain.²
Today, in the lively East End area of London, there is an area known as Spitalfields. Home to artists, creative fashions and food, Spitalfields is well known for its history of silk weavers. Fournier Street – built in the 1720’s – with its grand old Georgian terraced houses of the master weavers attracts visitors each year.³
There is a thriving Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland formed in 1885. 4
In Fournier Street, at number 18 the elegant home belongs to the Artist Denis Severs. He bought a dilapidated 10 room property in 1979 and used it to re-create a Huguenot home for his own pleasure. Word got around and it has now been open to the public for 35 years.
There is still so much to write about the English Huguenot so look out for part 2.
This link is to the ‘Huguenots – Index of Names’ within Quebec.
Posted by Genealogy Ensemble author, Jacques Gagné.
Recently, I was in the Montreal Courthouse accompanying a friend selected for Jury duty.
It was a four-hour wait so I had time to drink my coffee, look around and daydream. I watched as many lawyers dressed in black robes rushed in to buy coffee and dash out again. Others sat casually with clients over legal documents and I could tell they were lawyers only by their stiff white collars.
As I sat there, a distinct memory came back to me from my last courtroom visit to the Old Bailey in London, England when I was 13.
After my parents’ divorce when I was seven, I infrequently saw my Dad, but in 1958 he took me on a holiday to the capital. My dad was tall and dark and a very quiet, introspective man. I was a chatty individual but, somehow, we had a meaningful time together. At the end of our holiday, he bought me presents to take home, for my mum and sisters. He never told me he loved me, but I have a lovely memory of a man I never really understood or got to know and I like to think this was how he showed his love.
Me and Dad in London, 1958
It was a wonderful holiday, just the two of us. We visited The London Palladium Theatre and saw a show; we shopped on Oxford Street; we went to the London Zoo and Trafalgar Square where I fed the pigeons and had my portrait drawn in pencil by a street vendor, we even ventured to Soho, a notorious part of London frequented by prostitutes, drug dealers and ‘Teddy Boys. ‘So exciting’!
The Old Bailey was built in 1673, it’s predecessor, the medieval version had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. During the Blitz of World War II, it was bombed and severely damaged. In the early 1950s, it was reconstructed and, in 1952, the restored interior of the Grand Hall of the Central Criminal Court was once again opened by the Lord Mayor of London. This was the Old Bailey we visited. Although the Old Bailey courthouse was rebuilt several times between 1674 and 1913, the basic design of the courtrooms remained the same. 
I remember the entrance to that grand hall. It was like a palace, huge and so beautiful.
The Grand Hall Inside The Old Bailey, the design mirrors the nearby dome of St Paul’s Cathedral
My Dad and I sat in the visitors’ gallery to watch a trial. I have no recollection of the details of the trial. I was too busy looking around at the wood-panelled walls, the prisoner, the solicitors, the policemen and, of course, the judge. He was dressed in a red robe and a horse-hair wig and sat slightly raised on a dais so he could gaze down upon the proceedings.
The ‘accused’ or ‘prisoner’ as they referred to him stood at the ‘bar’ or ‘dock’ with his Solicitors and Barristers (as lawyers are called in England). These 1950’s British lawyers were attired in flowing black robes like the 2018 Montreal lawyers, but with stiff-winged collars with two bands of linen in the front of the neck. They also wore wigs. And what wigs!
Type of Wigs Worn In Court
Some were white, signalling that a lawyer had just started out in his chosen profession; others were yellow with age, signalling more experienced lawyers. To me, all of the lawyers in the courtroom looked stern and forbidding.
Proceedings moved very slowly with no drama. After a few hours, I got bored and Dad and I left for lunch. But still, what a memory! And how very different was the Old Bailey courtroom compared to the modern Montreal Courthouse where informality seems to be the rule.
A court is held at the Old Bailey eight times a year for the trial of prisoners for crimes committed within the city of London and the county of Middlesex. The crimes tried in this court are high and petty treason, murder, felony, forgery, petty larceny, burglary, etc.
This link below shows Court Cases being heard today, at the Old Bailey.
When I visited the Old Bailey, everyone was attired in wigs but that is now changing in England. For non-criminal cases, lawyers and judges will cease wearing wigs and I cannot help but feel sad that yet another centuries-old custom has gone.
Here is a 2 -minute read on the subject. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-wigs/wigs-off-as-britain-ends-courtroom-tradition-idUSL1287872820070713
Unfortunately, now strict security measures make it impossible for visitors to go into the main body of the building. However, the clip below, shows the Lord Mayor of London opening the newly restored Old Bailey in 1952. This was the hall I entered in 1958 with my Dad.