Huguenots of Spitalfields

June 2016 Newsletter - Issue 11

Thank you to those of you who have already booked places at the Immigrants of Spitalfields Festival. The programme of daily walks, talks and events can all be booked via Eventbrite.


It is appropriate that one of the events Three Faiths: One Humanity starts at Sandys Row Synagogue. In 1766 the Huguenots purchased a plot of land there for £400 and founded L'Eglise de l'Artillerie (the Artillery Church). In 1786 it merged with the London Walloon Church and later became the Salem Chapel and Parliament Court Chapel.


In 1853, fifty Dutch Jewish families formed a Hebra (Friendly Society). As the community expanded, the Society raised sufficient funds to purchase the lease of the Chapel and in 1867 L'Eglise de l'Artillerie became Sandys Row Synagogue. The mortgage of £700 was paid off in 1929.


Nathan Solomon Joseph, one of the most famous synagogue architects of the time, remodelled this former Huguenot chapel. Many of the original features of the Georgian interior were retained, including the roof and the balcony. Archeologists have recently uncovered the footprint of the original chapel, whose entrance is still visible inside.

The chapel once fronted onto Sandys Row (not Parliament Court as previously thought) and the original staircase, which is now inside the building, was formerly an exterior staircase possibly surrounded by burial grounds.

Sandys Row Synagogue

So please join us on Tuesday 21st June at 10am to visit Sandys Row Synagogue (some Huguenot pews can still be seen), as well as Hawksmoor’s masterpiece Christ Church and Brick Lane Mosque. Come and meet the Rabbi, Pastor and Imam – and ask a few questions about their communities. Dr Dan DeHanas of King’s College, London will be our host. Fee £10. Click here to book your place for this unique event.


Have you met the Gentle Author of Spitalfields? If not, book to hear All About the Irish and see the remarkable portraits of the Spitalfields Nippers. Underground Cinema at The Water Poet, 9-11 Folgate Street at 5.00 pm on Sunday 19th June. There are rumours that refreshments will be served.


We receive many enquiries from people who want to trace their Huguenot ancestry.  To find out more, come to Dr. Kathy Chater’s talk at Hanbury Hall on Monday, 20th June at 11.00 am.


To hear about the life and times of the silk weavers of Spitalfields – a story of riches to rags - don’t miss Mary Schoeser’s talk at 1.00 pm at Hanbury Hall on Monday, 20th June.


At 3pm Professor Markman Ellis will tell us about the East India Company. His talk is entitled: "A Tea Drinking Nation: How Britain came to identify itself with a migrant alien in the early 18th century" – sound intriguing? Fee £5. To book, click HERE


There are still some seats left to hear Dan Cruickshank’s talk about ‘the Outsiders’ at the Guildhall Library at 5.45 pm on Tuesday, 21st June. Called ‘The Other Migrants’. Dan will also be talking about the Roman Catholic communities in Spitalfields.

Huguenot Plaque

Drop by the newly renovated Hanbury Hall, (and see the plaque outside dedicated to the Huguenots that was paid for by public subscription). You will be able to watch a weaving demonstration by the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and hear Shagufta Shameen talking about the pleasure of wearing saris at Hanbury Hall on Monday 20th June.

Robert Winder (author of Bloody Foreigners) and Dr Philip Mansel will be in the Crypt at Christ Church at 6.30pm on Wednesday 22nd June for ‘Refugees or Migrants? Huguenots, Jacobites and Louise XIV”. For the fourth year running, Peter Dunne of the Water Poet has supported the Festivals and is kindly providing refreshments. This event is free – but do reserve a seat by clicking here.


Please support other Festival events: A Touch of Bengal on 21st June at 3.00 pm at TownHouse, 5 Fournier Street, film screenings at the WhiteChapel Gallery and Toynbee Studios, the Close-Up Film Centre and the daily cultural Bengali, Jewish and Huguenot Walks.


Historic Places to Visit

Check for opening times to visit Dennis Severs’ House, German Lutheran Church, Bevis Marks, Sandys Row and Nelson Street Synagogues and the Brick Lane Mosque. You will get a warm welcome.

(Dress code applies). If you have any questions, email

German Lutheran Church, London

Daily Walks

Please help our fund-raising efforts by taking one of the Daily Heritage Walks in Spitalfields during Refugee Week. There is no need to book. The walks start outside Christ Church Spitalfields at 11am and 2pm every day 19th to 24th June. Please join us on the Huguenot Story, the Immigrants Story, or the Silk Weavers of Spitalfields. Please spread the word for us, and contact if you have any queries. To reserve a place click here.


Huguenot Street

Earlier this year Mary Etta Schneider, president of Huguenot Street New Platz, (located in the Hudson Valley, 90 miles outside New York), paid a visit to Spitalfields. The weavers of Spitalfields were high on her list of interests as were the silk merchants houses, places of worship and the stories of the hardworking journeyman weavers fascinated her. Do visit the Huguenot Street website and see where, in 1678, a group of Huguenot families established a community. Seven historic stone houses still exist as well as a reconstructed 1717 Huguenot church. There are archaeological sites, a burial ground that dates from the first settlers as well as an extensive archive. Mary Etta presented the charity with a superbly well-researched book on the Huguenots of New York called ‘Huguenot Refugees in Colonial New York: Becoming American in the Hudson Valley’ by Paula Wheeler Carlo published by the Sussex Academic Press.


Huguenot Footsteps: Greenwich and Clerkenwell

We could not have chosen a colder nor windier day in April to visit historic Greenwich had we tried. Our guide, Kate Boyle, worked wonders to keep us away from the searing wind and despite the weather, captivated us with the wonderful stories of the characters and places linked to the Huguenots. An extra treat was the presence of Adam Pollock on the tour. Having lived in Greenwich for many years, Adam gave us some local colour to feed our imagination. Just knowing the names of the illustrious Huguenots who lived in the fine houses added to our knowledge.


We were welcomed to the Fan Museum by its founder, Madame Helene Alexander, who gave us a personal tour highlighting some of the more unusual fans. She was so inspirational and her enthusiasm and knowledge impressed us all. We were intrigued to realise that Fan Street, in the City of London, was where a group of Huguenots fan makers first settled after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes – later they moved to Soho.


We sheltered in St Alphage and were treated to a superb lunchtime recital and had the chance to look at another of Hawksmoor’s remarkable churches.

Goldsmiths' Centre

Happily, the sun chose to shine on us for the Clerkenwell visit. Although tickets were limited for the Goldsmiths’ Centre, those that were able to gain entry saw some stunningly beautiful items that quite took our breath away. The creativity, sheer talent and superb workmanship by young craftsmen and women was so impressive to see at close hand, particularly the skills of the engravers. Quite by chance, a descendant of Isaac Basire, the first of a Huguenot family of prolific map engravers was in the party. 

Isaac worked with John Rocque’s on his 1746 map of London. Our excellent guide, David Evans, took us for a walk in the area and brought so much of the Clerkenwell Huguenot heritage to life.


90 minute walks: Huguenot Footsteps in Spitalfields will be take place on 7th June, 5th July, 2nd August, 6th September and 4th October. We meet at 2pm outside Christ Church, Spitalfields. Donation is £10 towards the educational fund. No need to book – our guides will be there waiting for you and your friends.


Huguenot streets in Spitalfields

The team at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives has supplied a list of street names with Huguenot links in Spitalfields. We thought you would find it interesting.


Companies with Huguenot ancestry

Did you know that Hermès, the French luxury goods company, is a Huguenot family?  They have kindly sent details of their family history - the persecution and, when the Dragonnards were active, their emigration. It is heartening to know that the craftsmanship that is admired all over the globe, has its roots in the skills of the Huguenots.


Can you help us identify other Huguenot companies? Apparently Mr. Ede of Ede & Ravenscroft, the oldest tailor and robe makers who supply academic, legal and military dress, had Huguenot ancestry.  We have been told that Mr. Tate of Tate & Lyle and Mr. Peek of Peek Freans were both of Huguenot descent. Do you know of other companies with Huguenot ancestry?


Dr. Tessa Murdoch at the V&A

Huguenot Silver: New Discoveries at the V&A promises to be a captivating talk by Dr. Tessa Murdoch. She will look at Huguenot craftsmanship within the museum’s collections, show how French refugee craftsmen promoted excellence in the design, execution and quality of their work. This will be the Fourth Huguenot Lecture at the V&A and is taking place on Wednesday 29th June at 1pm in the Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre. For further details please visit here.

Dr Tessa Murdoch

The Gentle Author at the National Portrait Gallery

It was a Huguenot, Marcellus Laroon, who was the first individual artist to be credited for his Cries of London in 1687. The Gentle Author will be talking about this remarkable series of engravings at 7pm on Thursday 23rd June. He will show a selection of Cries spanning the past four hundred years, telling the stories of artists and traders, and revealing the unexpected social realities contained within these cheap colourful prints produced for the mass market. For more information and to book tickets click here.

Christopher Marlowe

We are planning to strengthen our relationships with our Huguenot partners in Norwich and Canterbury. Christopher Marlowe was born in the latter and the last play that he wrote was called The Massacre at Paris (1593) about the carnage of St Bartholomew’s Day 1572. If you are interested in visiting historic Canterbury and finding out a bit more about the life of Marlowe, the Canterbury Christopher Marlowe Museum is putting on a summer exhibition at the Eastbridge Hospital, 25 High Street, Canterbury June 2nd - July 6th 11- 4pm Monday-Saturday. Entrance to Eastbridge is £2 and then the exhibition is free. Joanna Labon will give you a warm welcome.

Christopher Marlowe

Spitalfields Garden Openings

You have probably walked down Fournier, Wilkes, and Princelet Streets many times but on Saturday 11th June 10am-4pm you will be able to go through the houses and see the gardens hidden beyond. For information please visit the National Garden Scheme.


We were asked…

How can I trace my Channel Island Huguenot ancestors?

We have been recommended to approach the Channel Islands Family History Society who can be found at, and the Jersey Archive


With our Immigrants of Spitalfields Festival almost upon us, we know that Bengali and Jewish ancestry is relevant so these organisations may be of some interest: Families in British India Society (FIBIS) and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain


Thank you

We are grateful for all the support provided by you in so many different ways: website critiques, ideas to generate funds, providing visuals and even practical help - Susan Whitehead joined in three one hour teaching sessions to 10 and 11 year olds at Canon Barnett Primary School recently where, using the Huguenot story, we managed to cover numeracy, literacy, science, design, history, and geography. The role-playing of re-living the experiences of a Huguenot refugee provided moments of hilarity - at the same time as gaining an understanding of some of the emotional difficulties the Huguenot refugees faced as they sailed for England.  


Finally most of our events couldn’t take place without the support of our wonderful volunteers. We are still looking for some help for the NGS Spitalfields Garden Opening on Saturday 11th June and some events at the Immigrants of Spitalfields Festival. If you are interested in helping out, please contact Carole Bonifas at

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.

Please contact with your comments, views and contributions or requests for previous issues of the Strangers' Newsletter.  The charity is currently led by volunteers so do bear with us if there is a delay in the reply to your message.

Visit the Huguenots of Spitalfields website at

Modify your subscription    |    View online