huguenots of spitalfields
huguenots of spitalfields
huguenots of spitalfields
huguenots of spitalfields
huguenots of spitalfields
huguenots of spitalfields

huguenot footsteps

Join us and retrace the footsteps of the Huguenots in Spitalfields, Soho, Greenwich, City of London and Wandsworth. No need to book just turn up and donate £10 to the educational fund on the day. Please click here to go to Huguenot Footsteps.

huguenot families

Are you descended from a Huguenot Family?  Add your name to our List

huguenot traces

Huguenot Traces - a list of Huguenot paintings, artwork, artefacts, buildings, street names etc. Please help us by adding your findings to the list.

c2a city walks

Designed for groups, organisations, companies and parties of ten people or more. The City of London Walking Tours can be booked throughout the year. Click here for programme.

Sir John Cass Primary Foundation School

Please email if you wish to purchase postcards. Designs by the pupils of Sir John Cass Primary Foundation School. Cost £2.50 including postage.

Sir john Cass Primary SchoolSir john Cass Primary School

huguenot logo


Refugees were invited to settle in Thorney, in the fenlands, Norfolk, East England because of their expertise in draining land, which could then be cultivated and farmed. Coming to Thorney offered advantages: Oliver Cromwell declared that if they bought or farmed lands the newcomers were accounted “free denizens of the Commonwealth”. In a proclamation by Oliver Cromwell, the settlers were given extra rights, including some tax relief and exemptions from military service overseas for forty years. They worshipped in the ruins of Thorney Abbey, where there is a marble memorial tablet on the north wall inscribed to Ezekiel Danois of Compiegne, France, the first minister of the Huguenot colony which fled to England to avoid persecution and settled in Thorney. He was at Thorney Abbey for 21 years, and buried there, aged 54, in 1674. Huguenot pastors continued to minister at Thorney until 1715.

The settlement had two further influxes. The first was caused by Queen Elizabeth who sent the Artois Walloons from Southampton to Thorney. The second influx was caused by the French Church in London in about 1685. They moved a group of Huguenots from the south up into the Thorney area to "take part in that congregation" to 'bolster' the population. The real reason was that the French Church had been having trouble with the Walloons at Thorney and Norwich for a long time. The Walloons spoke and read a different language, not a patois or dialect or French but their own language, Romand, which is a romance language very like French but said to be much older, and they did not want pastors coming out from London to preach in French so they arranged for their pastors to come from the Netherlands.

huguenot logo


Outside of London, the largest foreign communities in England in the late 17th century were settled in Devon, Canterbury and East Anglia; approximately one third of the population in each. The largest groups were resident in Exeter and Plymouth in Devon, South West England. These settlements came about because of each town’s proximity to the sea and relationship with the textile trade, where immigrants could hope to obtain work. In Exeter there would have been opportunities for skilled weavers in the flourishing serge business. The City briefly became famous for carpet production thanks to Swiss Huguenot Claude Passavant, who purchased a London workshop in 1755, and brought many of the weavers to Exeter. The designs they wove are thought to have been bought from France. Just three Passavant carpets have survived, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Petworth House and in a private collection.

A Huguenot conformist congregation was started at St. Olaves Church, on Fore Street in Exeter in 1686 – one of two churches used by the settlers in the City.  There was also a non-conformists congregation, founded earlier in 1620. Those that attended at St. Olaves were recorded to be 120 strong in 1715, under the minister Andrew Majendie. Services were conducted in French, and the church was popularly known as the French Church. This ceased in 1758, when its members joined the Anglican Church.

A link to Exeter’s Huguenot past exists today in the gentlemen’s outfitters Luget, located in the Cathedral Yard. The Lugets – Anne and James - are thought to have been French Huguenots, who married in Exeter in 1806. Their son Follet Luget, born on 17 December 1817 became a tailor and established the name’s association with tailoring in the City.

huguenot logo


The first Huguenots settled in Colchester in Essex, South East England in 1565, with permission from Elizabeth I. Their number had increased to 500 by 1575. The population in the town was further swelled in the 1590s as the Privy Council, concerned about overcrowding in London and supported by the foreign church, looked for a means to disperse immigrants. A new Dutch settlement was first established in Halstead, Essex, but these settlers moved to Colchester, after suffering discourtesies from the locals. Whilst the area the refugees inhabited became known as the Dutch Quarter – as the town centre continues to be known today - many were not Dutch but Walloon and Flemish Huguenots.

Like many English towns with a new Huguenot population, the textile industry grew, as the settlers introduced weaving techniques learnt on the continent, establishing the New Draperies. Colchester owed much of its 17th and 18th century prosperity to the textile industry, particularly specialising in woollen cloth. Most inhabitants were employed spinning, weaving, washing, drying and dressing. The industry in Colchester was served by Bourne Mill, now a National Trust property which was built on the site of a Tudor fishing lodge. Between 1640 and 1840 it served as a Fulling Mill, a mechanised process for eliminating oils, dirt and other impurities from the wool, and making it thicker. The mill drove the fulling hammers.

huguenot logo


arrivalCropped240Dover’s coastal position and proximity to France made it a natural landing and first point of settlement for Huguenot refugees. Many stayed temporarily, moving on to larger communities in London and Canterbury, or before returning home during periods of relatively greater safety. Early in the seventeenth century a census was taken of the foreign persons residing in Dover; it was found that there were seventy-eight people “two were preachers of God's Word; three were physicians and surgeons; two were advocates; two esquires; three were merchants; two were schoolmasters; thirteen were drapers, butchers and other trades; twelve were mariners; eight weavers and wool-combers; twenty-five were widows; two were maidens; one the wife of a shepherd; one a gardener and one a nondescript male”.

As in many towns where Huguenots had settled, the Dover textile industry grew and was an important means for the newcomers to earn a living. Dover, and nearby Sandwich in Kent, South England, were particularly known for woolcombing, the process of arranging the fibres so that they are parallel, ready for spinning.

There was a French Church in Dover from the 1640s, following the tradition of the Flemish congregation that had been in the town since the 16th century. It was part of a triumvirate of Churches with Guisnes, in northern France, and Cadzand, in the Dutch province of Zeeland, which had a mobile population, many of whom moved to Dover and then back onto the mainland. The Dover Huguenot settlement was considered sizable enough between 1689 and 1693 to receive monies from the civil list given by William and Mary.

huguenot logo


The Huguenot settlement in Canterbury in Kent, South England, started when the authorities considered the community in Sandwich, Kent, to have grown too large. 100 families were accepted in 1575. Its numbers continued to swell in the years following the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in France and the second revolt in the Netherlands, and it came to represent the largest foreign population outside London.

The welcome extended to Huguenot refugees in part reflected the perceived benefit to the English economy, particularly the potential for developing the textile industry. Using the textile processing and weaving techniques learnt on the continent, New Draperies were established in textile towns such as Canterbury. They produced lighter fabrics, made from a mix of fibres, suitable for export to Europe, rather than making traditional woollen fabrics. The benefits led the Privy Council to protect Huguenot weavers in Canterbury when they were attacked by locals. Many successful Spitalfields weavers established the viability of their businesses in Canterbury. As Spitalfields weaving flourished in the 18th century, the Canterbury industry went into decline, ceasing entirely in 1837 as a result of mechanisation.

The Huguenot congregation in Canterbury was first allowed to worship at St. Alphege Church, but as their numbers grew, they were invited to use the Western Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral. Movement towards Spitalfields and assimilation saw numbers fall, and they moved to the smaller Black Prince Chantry in the Cathedral, where the Eglise Protestante Française de Cantorbéry [The French Protestant Church of Canterbury] still meets today.