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.