Huguenots of Spitalfields

November 2014 Newsletter - Issue 5

With Huguenot Threads behind us, planning is well underway for Huguenot Summer 2015. The Huguenot culture, heritage and genius will be in the news next year with the opening of the Huguenot Heritage Centre in Rochester and a special exhibition celebrating the extraordinary French legacy of the Huguenots artwork at Boughton Hall in Kettering, often described as the English Versailles and owned by the Duke of Buccleuch; the Huguenot Society is organising a major international conference in London in September; the third festival based around Spitalfields and the City of London will run in June and July and, throughout the summer, there will be events to highlight the Huguenot heritage in towns where they settled including Plymouth, Rye, Colchester, Canterbury, Thorney, Norwich and Taunton.

More information will be posted on from January 2015 and, of course, in future Newsletters.  If you live in an area where the Huguenots settled, we would love to hear from you.

Boughton Hall


Huguenot Footsteps

The last walk around Spitalfields will take place on Tuesday 7th October at 2pm. Meet your guide, John Halligan, outside Christ Church. Donation: £10. The next walk will be on Tuesday 5th May 2015 and thereafter, the first Tuesday in the month until October 2015.


Strangers In Kent and East Sussex Canterbury Christ Church University is running a Study Day on Saturday 15th November from 10:30am to 4:30pm tutored by Dr Gillian Draper.  Cost: £29.50.  The Study Day will introduce these Strangers in the context of religious dissent in Kent and Sussex, investigate their beliefs and practices, where they settled, how they worshipped, and what they did for a living. To book a place contact 01277 863451, or email


Winter Festival

Spitalfields Music Winter Festival returns this December with music in some of East London¹s stunning spaces. Discover London's East End with BAFTA Award-winning storyteller Alan Gilbey, be intrigued by wild country dances, intimate songs and refined music as The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments retell the story of Shakespearian actor Will Kemp¹s nine-day dance from London to Norwich and find out what happens when the imagined and the real seep into one another with vocal ensemble The Clerks. 


Huguenot Summer 2015

We always welcome ideas from Strangers and one gentleman from the West Country suggested a heritage trail in France. We immediately approached ACE Cultural Tours who have created a special tour as part of Huguenot Summer:

HUGUENOTS OF THE LANGUEDOC: Remembering the French Wars of Religion, 31st August to 7th September 2015. This tour will be of interest to anyone with Huguenot ancestry as well as those interested more generally in ancien régime France and religious history. It will explore some of the key sites where history was made, whilst enjoying the beautiful and rugged landscape of the Cévennes and traditional southern French food and wine.


The tour travels to the heart of the French Wars of Religion as we explore the Languedoc, with its rich history of religious dissent and resistance. Beginning with visits to Orange and Crest, we then head deep into the Cévennes National Park to discover the important sites and battlefields at the heart of the Camisard revolt. Our journey culminates as we join thousands of others for the annual Assemblée du Désert, marking the long years during which Protestantism was illegal in France.


The tour director, Dr Lionel Laborie, is a specialist in religious toleration and dissent in early modern Europe, with a particular interest in the Camisards’ rebellion (1702 - 1710). To register your interest, contact  01223 841055 or



Once again you amazed us with your interest and support. Our target was to attract at least 1,000 people to listen to expert speakers who were willing to share their knowledge of Huguenot culture. Over 1,500 came to the events. 

Topics covered included Huguenot history and religious practices, their wide-ranging contribution to the military, commerce, science, fashion and their craftsmanship and musicianship.

Thank you to those of you who alerted us that you were unable to attend, we were able to pass most of your tickets on to others on the waiting list who were genuinely very appreciative. Your feedback has been helpful and overwhelmingly positive and we thank the few of you who took the trouble to highlight a few glitches, as we now know what we need to do to tweak future events to make them even better.



Well over 200 people visited Town House at 5 Fournier Street to add their Huguenot family name to the huge map of Spitalfields created by Adam Dant for the Huguenot Threads Festival. Fiona Atkins of Town House said:

‘When I had the idea of pinning Huguenot families on a giant map of Spitalfields, I had no idea how it would catch people’s imagination! For two months we have had people coming from far flung places to pin their families on the map and it has been fascinating talking to them. 

Huguenot Map of Spitalfields drawn by Adam Dant

In the end the map was so full it was becoming difficult to add more people to some streets! It is now being prepared for printing and small and large versions will be for sale soon’.

Thank you to artist and Spitalfields resident, Marenka Gabeler, for permitting us the use of her beautiful photograph for the poster which was so much admired; the team at Christ Church, Spitalfields, Peter Dunne at the Water Poet, Fiona Atkins at Town House, British Land, the City of London Corporation and the many volunteers who helped make the event a success.  Our special thanks to our advisers, Dr Tessa Murdoch, Elizabeth Randall, Kathryn Michael, Dan Cruickshank and Spitalfields Music.


Monies raised from the sale of the Sir John Cass Primary School post cards depicting silk designs will go towards a web-based teaching resource on the Huguenots for primary school teachers. 

Sir John Cass Primary School post cards

We are developing this resource in partnership with Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives and Canon Barnett School. As part of this project we want to tell the story of the Huguenot escape from France, with a focus on children - their journey to England, where they settled and how they survived. If you have information we could include on real family stories please email us no more than 300 words to give a snapshot of those who sought the freedom to practise their faith in this country. These need not be Spitalfields families - we want to include the other towns where the Huguenots settled.



Huguenot Heritage Centre will open in Rochester in Spring 2015.

The upper two floors of 95 High Street are being transformed into light, airy exhibition spaces. Work has begun to open up boarded windows in the new shop and reception area and we are starting to get an idea of what the museum will be like for our visitors next year.  The new Director and Learning Officer are currently researching and planning the new displays, exhibitions and events for 2015.  For pictures of work in progress and to sign up for regular updates, vist their Facebook or Twitter pages.  If you would like to make a donation to support the new museum, contact Karen Sussex on 01634 789347 or email



Frequently we are asked `Where can you see anything Huguenot? What is left and where is it?‘. Anthony Wilson and Jeanne Mann of the Huguenot Society have started us off by listing artefacts, street names, buildings, paintings, churches etc. We plan to post this on the website early next year.


If you know of any traces of the Huguenots (in a town, museum or art gallery etc.), please let us know.



Plymouth Septem. 6. This day came in hither a small bark from Rochel, 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, (1681).

Dr. Charity Scott Stokes M.A., D.Phil., Oxon. of the Dartmouth History Research Group has written a detailed account of Huguenots in Dartmouth which you can read here



A fascinating exhibition was recently staged at Rye Castle’s East Street Museum aptly called “The French Connection”.  (Rye was owned by Fecamp in France from 1017 to 1247 and some of the displays referred to this period). 

Documents were on view relating to Huguenot migration during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and yet more after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  Jo Kirkham has written a hugely informative booklet, 'Huguenots in Rye and Winchelsea' available from the East Street Castle Museum for £4.50.



Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner

Around 1900, photographer Horace Warner took a series of portraits of some of the poorest people in London - creating relaxed, intimate images that gave dignity to his subjects and producing great photography that is without comparison in his era. Only seen by members of Warner's family for more than a century, almost all of these breathtaking photographs are published here for the first time. With an introduction by The Gentle Author. Cost £20 Visit Spitalfields Life for more information.


Published by Spitalfields Life Book on 1st November

Thank you.

We warmly appreciate all the support and help that you give to the Huguenots of Spitalfields Charity.

The views and opinions expressed in these article are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Huguenots of Spitalfields charity.

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