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The Huguenot of England, Part 2

French Persecution of the French Huguenots

At the end of the 17th century, 60,000 to 80,000 Huguenots settled in the South West of England and were known as Britain’s first refugees.

The ‘Currant Examiner’ of September 1681, contains this quote that resonates today:

Plymouth Septem. 6. This day came in hither a small bark from Rochel, (La Rochell) with thirty nine poor Protestants, who are fled for their Religion: They report that five or six Boats more full of these poor distressed Creatures parted from those parts at the same time; and we hear that one of them is already put into Dartmouth. [1]

As I read the piece it appeared that the refugees were, in fact, heading towards Plymouth, where for centuries, the Devon ports were very familiar just as the Devon mariners were familiar with the Channel Islands and the continental seaboard.

This article continues my story of the Huguenot of England and in particular, South West Devon. https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/04/25/the-huguenot-of-england-part-1/

Bristol, Stonehouse, Plymouth, Thorpe-le-Soken Parish Registers of the English Huguenots

What prompted my interest in Huguenots? Well, I was searching online for places to visit on my next trip ‘home’ when I came across a reference to the Artist Dennis Severs’ house. The website told me: “Dated from approximately 1724, Dennis Severs had purchased a house at 18, Folgate Street, next to Spitalfields in East London and there, he created a time capsule of a Huguenot silk weaver family from 1724”. [₂]

I had no idea what a ‘Huguenot’ was so I decided to find out. I took a trip around the internet and discovered some interesting tidbits.

For instance, the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland (Yes! we have a society!) tells us that the Huguenots were known as Britain’s first refugees and goes on to say “there are many inhabitants of these islands who have Huguenot blood in their veins, whether or not they still bear one of the hundreds of French names of those who took refuge here – thus bringing the word ‘refugee’ into the English language” Who knew? [3]

They were actually welcomed to England by King William III in a Declaration.

Dr William A. Pettigrew, Reader, School of History, University of Kent wrote:

As King William III’s Declaration above makes clear, a distinguishing feature of this migration was the explicit state support it received. Six months after William of Orange had landed to take the throne of England The Declaration was printed in London in April 1689. William had long supported the plight of the Huguenots. His support was not altruistic because he understood the assistance this powerful group of refugees could offer him in his war with the French King who had persecuted the Huguenots – Louis XIV. The Declaration offers the historian a useful insight into the official government approach to the Huguenot arrival.

The Declaration clearly shows how William expected the English to welcome Huguenot refugees because of a presumed empathy with them born of the shadow of state persecution extended by William’s predecessor, James II”

Here’s one Huguenot refugee’s success story from the Independent newspaper.

For 270 years after 1724, a Hampshire paper firm, Portal had – literally – a license to print money. In 1685, Henri de Portal and his brother, Pierre Guillaume were terrified refugee children, smuggled out of France in wine casks and sent on a perilous sea journey. It took the young Portals from Bordeaux to Southampton. Henri opened his mill in Whitechurch in 1712. Within a decade he had found his fortune through a banknote paper contract”. [4]

Although I was born and raised in Plymouth, England, I was very surprised to learn that the Huguenot and Walloons settled in my hometown and Stonehouse.

Kathy Chater in her book “Tracing your Huguenot Ancestors” states: “One of the major problems researching Huguenots in Devon is the impact of the bombing of the Exeter record office during the Second World War when many documents were destroyed. All the wills, for example, have been lost, although a project to reconstruct them is underway. However, it seems that even before this the records of the two Exeter Huguenot churches had disappeared”[5]

This could be one reason that I had no idea that Huguenots lived and worked in my part of the country. I wonder, is there a possibility of Huguenot ancestors in my family? Another avenue to explore!

Our ‘Mother Church’ in Plymouth is called St. Andrews and is designated a minster which is “A church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery”. [6]

An interesting note concerning St. Andrews Church is this:

Plymouth and East Stonehouse: A nonconformist congregation formed in Plymouth 1681, and closed c1762, the remaining members joining the Batter Street Presbyterians. Some records of their children are listed as ‘births of dissenters’ in the Plymouth St Andrews and the East Stonehouse Anglican registers. A conformist congregation was formed in 1681 in Plymouth, from which an East Stonehouse congregation split off in 1691. These congregations used St Andrews Church and first its Chapelry at East Stonehouse and then a Church (with separate registers) there. The Plymouth and East Stonehouse congregations merged in 1785 and were dissolved in 1810. For details of the extant pre-1840 registers see under Church Records in the respective parish pages. [7]

Some churches allowed Huguenot worship outside of normal C of E services. (C of E means Church of England) and St Andrew was one of the main parishes in Plymouth that has registers where the Huguenots recorded baptisms starting at the back of the register.

This has been a very interesting journey and learning experience about a group of people who lived worked and died in my part of the World and of whom I knew nothing – until now.

SOURCES

http://www.huguenotsofspitalfields.org/the-huguenots-of-dartmouth.html [1]

https://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/ [2]

https://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/history.html [3]

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-week-the-huguenots-count-among-the-most-successful-of-britains-immigrants-10330066.html [4]

Book “Tracing your Huguenot Ancestors” by Kathy Chater Page 38“ [5]

virtuallinguist.typepad.com/the…/the difference-between-a-minster-and-a-cathedral.html [6]

http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/ChurchHistory/Huguenot [7]

NOTES

These books on the Huguenot of South West England are of interest.

Bracken, C.W. The Huguenot churches of Plymouth and Stonehouse. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 66, (1934) pp.163-179.

Currer-Briggs, Noel and Gambier, Royston. Huguenot Ancestry, Phillimore & Co. (2001) 160 pp. [ISBN: 1860771734]

Lart, Charles E. The Huguenot Settlements and Churches in the West of England, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. 8, (1901-4) pp.286-298.

Lart, Charles Edmund. (ed.) Registers of the French Churches of Bristol, Stonehouse, and Plymouth. Huguenot Society of London pubs. vol. 20. Spottiswoode and Co. (1912) [Includes Plymouth baptisms 1733-1807; marriages 1734-1740; burials 1733-1734.]

Peskett, Hugh. Guide to the Parish and Non-Parochial Registers of Devon and Cornwall, 1538-1837, Torquay, Devon and Cornwall Record Society; extra ser., v (Printed for the Society by The Devonshire Press) (1979).

Pickard, Ransom. The Huguenots in Exeter. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 68, (1936) pp.261-297; 76, (1944) pp.129-131.

Rogers, Inkerman. The Huguenots of Devonshire, Bideford, Gazette Printing Service? (1942). [BL DSC L70/1555]

Smiles, Samuel. The Huguenots: Their Settlements, Churches, and Industries in England and Ireland, (1972) 448 pp. [ISBN: 0806304979]2    

 

 

The Huguenot of England Part 1

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.

This Spindle is the Sign of A Silk Weaver On A Huguenot House in Spitalfields, London England

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.

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.

https://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/

Huguenot Silk Weavers Houses on Fournier Street

There is still so much to write about the English Huguenot so look out for part 2.

Sources:

¹https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Nantes

²http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-week-the-huguenots-count-among-the-most-successful-of-britains-immigrants-10330066.html

³https://oldspitalfieldsmarket.com/

https://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/

NOTE:

This link is to the ‘Huguenots – Index of Names’ within Quebec.

Posted by Genealogy Ensemble author, Jacques Gagné.

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/03/06/848/

 

 

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