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

Alexander Hamilton is regarded as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He was one of the signatories of the Constitution of the United States of America and was a delegate from New York.

Hamilton was born about 1755, apparently on the island of Nevis, British West Indies. He was the illegitimate son of a Scottish merchant, James Hamilton, and Rachel Faucette, an English-French Huguenot.

After his father abandoned the family in 1765, and his mother’s untimely death three years later, Hamilton became a ward of his mother’s family and moved to America to attend King’s College (now Columbia University, New York). In his twenties he became George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Revolutionary War. After the war he became the first Secretary of the Treasury from 1789 and was the creator of the US central banking system. He died in 1804, after being shot in a duel.

Source: &

Alexander Hamilton 2 

Alexander McQueen was a British fashion designer and maker of haute couture clothing. He was born in Lewisham, London, to Ronald and Joyce McQueen and was of Huguenot descent on his father’s side.

His ancestors, who were stonemakers, settled in East London in the late eighteenth century. In 1806, one ancestor, also called Alexander, married a woman of Huguenot descent named Sarah Vallas, whose heritage greatly appealed to McQueen.

McQueen knew that he wanted to be a fashion designer from an early age, and served an apprenticeship in Savile Row and attended the Rossetta Studio Workshops. McQueen received his Masters degree in fashion design from Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design in 1992, which kickstarted his career as a fashion designer.

DSC00528R0104056.JPGThe Derby Porcelain Factory began as a very small business around 1748. It was probably set up by a Londoner called Andrew Planché. Planché was the son of Huguenot refugees and had briefly been an apprentice jeweller. No-one knows how Planché learned to make porcelain but it is possible that it was something that he was taught by members of the French exile community in London, some of whom worked in the factories at Bow and Chelsea. It is unclear why he left London but Planché is known to have arrived in Derby between 1748 and 1751.

An unsigned agreement in 1756 between Planché, William Duesbury, an enameller, and John Heath, an investor, established a business partnership for the ‘art of making English China’. Planché seems to have left Derby and the porcelain industry not long after this date, leaving Duesbury and Heath in charge of the Nottingham Road factory.

Many of the details of his life remain a mystery but Planché is thought to have modelled a number of the figures seen during early 1750s. Although we can’t prove conclusively exactly who made the figures, the early period of porcelain figure making in Derby is often referred to as the Planché period.

David Garrick (1717-79) was an English actor, playwright and theatre manager. He was the third child of Peter and Arabella Garrick and was born in Hereford. David’s grandfather, David de la Garrique, was a Huguenot who fled Bordeaux, France, when the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685. His son Peter was brought to England two years later.

David travelled to London, alongside Samuel Johnson, in order to seek fame as an actor. He made his legendary debut as Richard III in east London in 1741. In January 1742 William Pitt described Garrick as ‘the best actor the English stage has ever produced.’ From then on, his reputation and fame soared.

He became the manager of Drury Lane Theatre in 1747 and directed its productions for 29 years, before giving it up in 1776. He died in 1779 and is buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.


David Garrick 2





David ‘Davy’ Crockett (1786-1836) was an American folk hero, soldier, frontiersman and politician. Davy was the fifth of nine children born into the rough world of the American frontier. Many European immigrants changed or altered their surnames, and this is also true for the Crockett family. The name was originally Crocketagne, and the family were descendants of Huguenots that fled to England, Ireland and America.

In 1812, Crockett volunteered as part of a group of militia against the Creek Indians. His duties included reconaissance and fighting both the Creek nation and the Red Coats (the British). Following the war with the Creek nation, Crokett became one of the principle commissioners of peace in Lawrence County, Tennessee, and was chosen by his contemporaries to be the Lieutenant Colonel of the 57th Regiment of Militia.

He ran for Congress in 1826, and was victorious. In 1827 he won the congressional seat in the election, but he was not reelected in the 1833 election due to his distaste of Andrew Jackson. Crockett had ambitions to liberate Texas from Mexico, but died at the hands of the Mexican army at the Alamo in 1836.


Davy Crockett 2



georgeWashingtonGeorge Washington was the very first President of the United States (1789–1797) and one of its ‘Founding Fathers’. He helped to write the United States Constitution, which is still the law in America today.

He was known as the ‘Father of his country’. He was an effective President who was good at organising things and who discussed problems with other people before making decisions

George Washington was born in 1732. His father died when he was 11 years old. He had a very basic education and his mother could not afford to send him to college, so he left school at the age of 15.

He joined the US Army and was a Major by the time he was 20, rising to become a Lieutenant Colonel, then Colonel and finally a Major General

He led the US Army; he was brave in battle and a good leader.

He played an important part in the American Revolution, when the American colonists won their independence from British rule.

George Washington was the great–great–great–grandson of a Huguenot named Nicholas Martiau (1591–1657). Martiau was born near the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle in France. He left France to come to England and he was mentioned in the register of the famous Huguenot church of Threadneedle Street, London in 1615.

In 1619, Nicholas was naturalised English. A year later he left England on a ship called the Francis Bonaventure and arrived in Virginia. He built a fence around the Jamestown Fort and this helped the settlers to survive a Native American uprising in 1622.

When George Washington married, his wife wore a dress of yellow brocade, silver bodice & silver petticoat. The dress was made in Spitalfields by the Huguenot silkweavers.

There have been 43 US Presidents, and 21 of them have Huguenot ancestors!

Faberge egg 2Gustav Fabergé founded the jewellery firm of Fabergé in 1842. The Fabergé family was originally from north eastern France and were Huguenots. The family first fled to eastern Germany, then settled in the Russian province of Lovinia, now part of Estonia.

Gustav’s father Peter enjoyed the patronage of Catherine the Great. Gustav was apprenticed to Andreas Spiegel and after his apprenticeship joined the firm Keibel, and is recorded as ‘Master Goldsmith’ in 1841.

He opened his first shop in St Petersburg. His son, Carl, took over the family business in 1870. The production of the famous imperial Fabergé eggs started with Carl, and they became a favourite of the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II. The Fabergé company continued to prosper both locally and internationally throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.




Hablot Knight Browne, who went by the pseudonym ‘Phiz’, was a famous book illustrator who worked with Charles Lever,Harrison Ainsworth and, most notably, Charles Dickens. Browne was of Huguenot descent, was born in Lambeth in 1815, and he was the fourteenth of Catherine and William Loder Browne’s fifteen children.

At a young age Browne was apprenticed to the skilled engraver William Finden. However, he soon found that he was unsuited for engraving. In 1833, he was awarded an important prize from the Society of Arts for a drawing he made of John Gilpin, which led him to abandon engraving altogether, in order to develop his skills in other mediums, such as etching and drawing.

Browne met Charles Dickens in early 1836, when Dickens was looking for someone to illustrate The Pickwick Papers.Thus began an important friendship and working relationship for both men, with Browne illustrating ten books, including David Copperfield and Bleak House.


Hablot Knight Browne

Jacques Le Moyne (1533-1588) was a Huguenot cartographer and draughtsman of flowers and natural history who joined Laudonniere’s expedition to Florida in 1564. Le Moyne was the first artist to travel to the New World and documented Florida’s coastline, local flora and fauna, along with the Timucua Indians. When the Spanish attacked the French settlement of Fort Caroline, Le Moyne was lucky enough to escape, but sadly almost all of his illustrations were destroyed. He sailed back to France and redrew his pictures from memory. As a Huguenot, Le Moyne had to flee France and settled in England in around 1581 and lived there until his death in 1588. Whilst living in London he was patronised by Sir Walter Raleigh and courtier Mary Sidney to name a few. In 1584 he published the book ‘La Clef des Champs’ (The Key to the Meadow), a pattern book to serve as inspiration for artists and craftsmen.

Florida worship french column 1591


James Tillard (1754-1828) was born in London. The Tillard family was originally of Huguenot descent and had settled in Devon in the sixteenth century. A number of the family members became mayors of Totnes in the early seventeenth century.

James' wealth, it would appear, was due to an inheritance of a good deal of property in east London around Norton Folgate, Bishopsgate and Spitalfields. By 1827 all the Tillard estate in Norton Folgate was owned by James Tillard.

On his death in Ramsgate in 1828 James Tillard bequeathed not only £2,000 to rebuild St Mary's Church in Lower Hardres/Petham but also contributed to the erection, enlargement and repair of other neighbouring churches. He bequeathed substantial sums of money to local hospitals and asylums, parishes and other institutions. He was also a member of The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and bequeathed £30,000 towards work of the Society in Calcutta.

James Tillard's memory is "ever honoured and regarded as a pattern to the wealthy; as a friend to the distressed".

Tillard Estate

The St John and Tillard Estate

Jean Tijou was believed for centuries to be a Huguenot and became known as one of the most influential ironworkers of the seventeenth century. He was probably trained in ironwork at Versailles.

He arrived in England in around 1689 and enjoyed the patronage of many notable individuals, such as the current King and Queen, William and Mary.

He produced screens and grilles for St Paul’s Cathedral, Chatsworth and Hampton Court Palace. His iron screen at Hampton Court can still be seen at the end of the Privy Gardens, which were installed in 1701. The screen was the first exhibition at the new Victoria and Albert Museum before they were returned to the Palace. Unfortunately Tijou was never fully paid for his services and disappeared from record after 1710.

Source: &



The son of Huguenot refugees in Geneva, Liotard (1702-1789) is best known for his pastel paintings and portraits. His work is characterised by his careful craftsmanship and attention to detail, which contrasted the more common use of pastel as a loose, light medium, and highlighted the realism of Liotard’s approach.

Pastels were also easily transportable, allowing Liotard to travel widely in search of new subjects and commissions. He studied in Paris and then moved all over Europe including to Rome, Amsterdam, Constantinople, Vienna, and London. His explorations led him to paint some of the most famous individuals of his era, such as Marie Antoinette, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the actor (and Huguenot) David Garrick.

He met his wife, Marie Fargues, the daughter of a Huguenot merchant living in Amsterdam, on his travels and went on to create studies and portraits of her and their children together.

Sources: and

Jean Etienne Liotard 10







Joan Crawford 2Joan Crawford (c. 1904-1977) was an American film and television actress. In 1999, she was ranked on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest actresses of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

Born Lucille Fay LeSueur, she was the third child of Thomas LeSueur and Anna Bell Johnson, who was of French Huguenot descent. She began her career as a dancer, and in 1925 she started her onscreen career with MGM.

The actress gained recognition in 1928, with the smash hit Our Dancing Daughters, and a prolific and enduring career followed. After a lull in her career, Crawford left MGM and signed with Warner Brothers in the early 1940s. In 1945, Crawford won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Mildred Pierce in the film of the same name.

Source: &



dollandAitchesonBrandJohn Dollond was the son of a Huguenot refugee, who was a silk weaver. He was born in Spitalfields in November 1706 and died in November 1761 aged 55. Initially he followed his father’s trade, but also found time to study Latin, Greek, mathematics and physics, and later became an optician, joining his eldest son, Peter who had started in business as a maker of optical instruments.

glassesJohn Dollond became known for his successful optics business and for patenting and selling achromatic lenses. His reputation grew rapidly and he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, publishing accounts of his various experiments. In 1761, he was appointed optician to the King, George III and the Duke of York and Albany.

After his death, his son Peter carried on the business and in 1781 he made bifocal spectacles. At the Great Exhibition in 1851 in London, the Dollonds were awarded a medal for the excellence of their optical instruments.

Today, Dollond & Aitchison is still a well-known name in the field of optics. However, the company was absorbed into Boots opticians in 2009 and most of its stores are now branded under the Boots Opticians name.


Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) is widely considered to be one of the most iconic actors of the twentieth century, dominating the British stage and appearing in over fifty films.

His great-great-grandfather was of French Huguenot descent and, in fact, Olivier came from a long line of Protestant clergymen; his father was ordained a Reverend in the Church of England. Olivier supposedly imitated the forceful sermons he saw his father give while his mother steered him towards dramatic speeches from plays.

Olivier, encouraged by his parents, acted in school productions and embarked on a career on stage and behind the scenes. He played a variety of Shakespearean roles and was made the first Artistic Director of the National Theatre in 1970. His film roles include Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1939) and Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (1940). Olivier won two Academy Awards, three BAFTAS and was the first actor to be made a Lord.


 laurence olivier quim abella










silverCupPaul Lamerie was born in the Netherlands in April 1688 and died in August 1751 aged 63.

He was the son of a Huguenot French nobleman who had left France following the issue of the Edict of Nantes, which forbade the Protestant religion in France. His father moved to London in 1689.

silverShieldIn August 1703 Paul de Lamerie became apprenticed to a London goldsmith of Huguenot origin, Pierre Platel. Ten years later, de Lamerie opened his own workshop and was appointed goldsmith to George I in 1716.

His early work is in the simple Queen Anne styles, following classical French models, but later de Lamerie is particularly noted for his elaborate Rococo style which was fashionable in the 1730’s.

Among his customers were Tsarinas Catherine and Anna, Sir Robert Walpole, the Duke of Bedford and other members of the English aristocracy. He served on the Goldsmiths’ Company committees, and also served in the Westminster Volunteers.

A two-handled silver cup and cover by Paul de Lamerie, dated 1720, was among the wedding gifts of Queen Elizabeth II.

Paul de Lamerie died in London and was buried in St. Anne’s Church, Soho. There is a memorial plaque at the site of his workshop, 40 Gerrard Street, which was unveiled in January 1992.


Peter Nouaille was the son of a Huguenot refugee who came to Spitalfields after 1785.

He was born in 1723 and in 1763 married Elizabeth De La Mare whose Huguenot father lived at and owned property called Greatness, near Sevenoaks, Kent, 23 miles from London.

It included a water-powered corn mill which Peter inherited and in 1760 he turned this into a silk mill.

In 1733, the Spitalfields’ weavers got Parliament to give them a monopoly of all weaving within 20 miles of London. The mill at Greatness was just outside the statutory limits so Peter escaped the monopoly. He specialised in silk crepe which was becoming a fashionable product.

In 1816 the mill was 140 feet long and 40 feet wide with at least two storeys – one of the biggest in Kent. It used an improved undershot water-wheel which he patented in 1812 and new methods of spinning (‘throwing’) silk.

Here he employed over 100 people, mainly women and children for whom he ran evening classes, and hired a local doctor to provide health care. He also built a row of cottages for senior staff.

In 1793, he briefly joined forces with another Huguenot friend, George Courtauld, but they did not get on and Peter later said that ‘he would not continue such a man in business for 500 a year’.

He also had much wider interests. ‘His house was constantly frequented by the most distinguished literary characters of the time’ wrote a friend later.

When the first Peter died, his son took over but after the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815, and the removal of protective tarrifs in 1823, the silk industry ran into problems, so the second Peter decided to close the business and sell the mill which was demolished not long after.

Peter Prelleur 1705 - 1741
The first organist who played Richard Bridge’s magnificent organ (built in 1735) at Christ Church Spitalfields was Huguenot Peter Prelleur, who led an extraordinary double life. He lived in Rose Lane and, as well as playing the organ at Christ Church and composing religious music, he often played in pubs including the Angel & Crown Tavern in Whitechapel. Prelleur’s major legacy is a guide for musicians entitled The Modern Musick-Master published in 1731 and described as “an introduction to singing, after so easy a method that persons of the meanest capacities may (in a short time) learn to sing (in tune) any song that is set to musick”. For three hundred years this was considered the most important singing manual.


prelleur peter 1


R.L. Roumieu designed the French Hospital in Victoria Park, Hackney in 1857. It was built by 1865, requisitioned in 1941 and moved to Rochester in 1960 where there is a portrait of Roumieu. His design was described at the time as 'a French chateau of the age Francis 1'. Roumieu supervised the building of the hospital himself as the surveyor fell out with him.
His practise was continued by his son Reginald St Aubyn Roumieu ARIBA who worked with two partners, firstly Thomas Kesteven and then Alfred Aitchison. He seems not to have been as productive as his father, but was better known for his philanthropy. His obit in The Builder (7 July 1877) lists many of the charities he was involved in, and for which he was made a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. He was governor of the Foundling Hospital, London; Honorary Architect and Director of the French Hospital, Hackney, which was designed by his father; and he helped to found the Huguenot Society of which he was Treasurer and later President.

lunnBunsallyLunnPlaqueA Sally Lunn is a large bun or teacake made with yeast dough including cream, eggs, and spice, similar to the sweet brioche breads of France.

It is served warm and sliced, with butter.  It was first recorded in 1780 in Bath in south west England.

There are many myths about the origins of the Sally Lunn.

It is said that the recipe was brought to Bath in the 1680s by a Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon, who became known as Sally Lunn.

Samuel Courtauld (1876- 1947) was an English industrialist and art collector who founded the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1932.

His ancestors were Huguenot refugee silk weavers who left France in the late sixteenth century. They settled in Essex and continued their silk weaving trade. The family business grew over time and eventually became a major local and international company in the early twentieth century.

Although the family appeared to have no interest in art or art collecting, Courtauld’s interest developed late in his life. He had a passion for modern art, such as the works of Gaugin, and bequeathed his wonderful collection to the Courtauld Institute upon his death in 1947.



Samuel Romilly (1757- 1818) was a British legal reformer. He was born in Frith Street, Soho, to Peter Romilly, a watchmaker and jeweller. His grandfather had fled Montpelier after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and married Margaret Garnault, a fellow Huguenot refugee.

Samuel was well educated and became a good classical scholar with a particular interest in French literature. Romilly was determined to go to the bar, and entered himself at Gray’s Inn, Chancery Lane, in 1778. Romilly was a staunch supporter of the abolition of the slave trade, and gave his support to William Wilberforce’s abolition campaign.

With his law reforms he abolished and repealed many draconian statutes, including hanging, drawing and quartering, and the Elizabethan statutes of stealing and soldiers begging without permission from their commanding officer being capital offences.


Samuel Romilly 2







Sir John Houblon was the first Governor of the Bank of England from 1694 to 1697.

He was born in March 1632 and died in January 1712 aged 79. He was the third son in a family of ten sons and three daughters. He became more eminent than any of his nine brothers, four of whom were also prosperous merchants and two of whom served on the Board of the Bank of England.

fiftyNoteThe Houblons were descendants of a Protestant family from Lille, and Sir John had close ties with the French Protestant church in Threadneedle Street where he was an elder. He was a successful merchant, trading with Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean.

He was a member of the Grocers livery company of which he was Master in 1690/91 and was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1695.

He married Mary Jurin in 1660, who came from a Flemish Protestant family and they had five sons and six daughters, but only two sons survived their father.

He had a magnificent house just off Threadneedle Street on the site later occupied by the Bank of England and also acquired a country house at High Ongar in Essex.

In 1994, to mark the tercentenary (300 years) of the foundation of the Bank of England, Sir Johnʼs portrait was included on a new £50 note, which was withdrawn ten years later.

Sir Robert Ladbroke (1713-1773) was a prominent member of the Huguenot community in East London. He was a merchant banker in the City, Lord Mayor of London in 1747 and, from 1754, a Member of Parliament. Ladbroke was married to the daughter of John Peck, an influential dyer in the Spitalfield’s silk industry.

A monument to Ladbroke, sculpted by John Flaxman RA and erected in 1794, sits on the north side of Christ Church in Spitalfields. He is displayed in his Lord Mayor’s robes.

Sources: Dan Cruickshank, Spitalfields: Two Thousand Years of English History in One Neighbourhood (London: Windmill, 2017) and

Robert Ladbroke

The Chamberlen family were French Huguenots who had been forced to flee France after the decree of Catherine de Medici that ordered the slaughter of Huguenots in France during the wars of religion (1562-1598). Many of the male members of the family pursued medical careers, focusing on midwifery. William Chamberlen (c. 1640-96), the patriarch, together with his family, settled in Southampton in 1569. He his, eldest son Peter(1560-1631), and his second son, also called Peter (1572-1626), became barber-surgeons and midwifery practitioners.

Peter the Elder became surgeon and midwife to Queen Anne, wife of James I, and is believed to have invented the first forceps, which initiated the family’s success in difficult deliveries. He and his younger brother fought to keep the creation a secret in order to protect their trade, and the family’s secret was kept for over 100 years.

Peter the Younger’s son, another Peter, who went by the name ‘Dr Peter’ (1601-83), carried on this subterfuge, however his grandson, Hugh (1664-1728), was believed to have revealed the secret to the family’s success.


Chamberlen forceps 2



In order to provide you with the best online experience the Huguenots of Spitalfields website uses cookies.

By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More

I agree