Huguenots of Spitalfields

August 2019 Newsletter - Issue 22

Wonderful news! Thank you to all our supporters who objected to the planning application to demolish and redevelop one of the few remaining journeymen weavers’ houses at 3 Club Row and the East End Preservation Society, Spitalfields Trust and The Gentle Author who led the campaign. Historic England has now awarded the houses at 3/5 Club Row Grade II status and saved this hugely significant part of Huguenot heritage. Follow the campaign on The Gentle Author’s website.

Club Row - Image courtesy of The Gentle Author

Michael Ritchie, from Tower Hamlets Strategic Planning, has assured us that all of the journeymen weavers’ houses still standing in Spitalfields and north Bethnal Green are within Tower Hamlets’ Conservation Area and have a degree of protection from the Borough. Take a look at their Interactive Map


Spitalfields is well-known for its silk weavers and the silk merchants’ houses whilst the contribution of the journeymen weavers is often ignored. The charity has secured funding from three different Trusts to expand the primary school educational programme: we deliver classroom, dance sessions and walks around the local area based on the story of these hard-working and often impoverished weavers and 410 pupils have participated to date.


Key Dates for your Diary

To celebrate its long history of silk weaving, Sudbury is holding a Silk Festival on Saturday 7 September. Currently home to four working silk mills, this charming Suffolk town is only 1 hour 20 minutes away from London by train. Do come and see us at our stall at this day-long programme of exhibitions, talks, walks and workshops. Speakers include Neil Thomas from Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company, Mary Schoeser and Kate Wigley from School of Textiles and a designer from Vivienne Westwood.


If you are in the Rochester area on Saturday 14 September, visit La Providence in the High Street during Rochester Heritage Day where you will receive a warm welcome - and also a good opportunity to visit the Huguenot Museum. Make sure you call in at our stand! 10am-4pm


Are you at a standstill trying to research your Huguenot family history? Do you need some help? If so, join the first Huguenot Ancestry Workshop, led by Dr Kathy Chater, at Townhouse in Fournier Street on Saturday 28 September between 11.30am and 1.30pm, £20 including tea/coffee and cake.


Our 7th Annual V&A Huguenot Lecture on Wednesday 30 October at 1pm will be presented by Lesley Miller, senior curator of textiles and fashion at the V&A, on the working practices of the journeymen weavers, pattern-makers and Master weavers in Lyon and Spitalfields. It takes place in the Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre. Free and unmissable!


Huguenot Footsteps 2019 and 2020

Dates for the Spitalfields walks this Autumn are: 29th September, 27th October and 24th November. From 2020, these monthly walks will be extended to run throughout the year (excluding December) and will also include Soho, Clerkenwell, Greenwich, the City of London and the journeymen weavers’ houses. Visit our Walks & Events page to see our 2020 dates.


Funding for the educational programme

Huguenots of Spitalfields commissioned architect and artist, Ben Rea, to produce a series of drawings to scale of an 18th century Huguenot house and he delivered the most extraordinary work. We have turned the images into two sets of postcards (standard and wide) to raise money for the educational programme – ‘Meet the Huguenots’. Contact if you would like to purchase a set for £5 (excl. P&P).  Use the following links to view the Standard 'A6' Postcards and the Wide 'DL' Postcards.


Garden News 

Sarah Finch, adviser to the charity, has recently joined a committee formed by the Rector and Church Wardens of Christ Church, Spitalfields. The Christ Church Gardens Advisory Group is keen to revitalise their gardens and is working with Tower Hamlets and the designer, Robert Myers, who has been appointed to incorporate the views of the community. Included in the plans will be the planting of the mulberry tree presented by our Patron, Lord Chartres.

Whilst talking about gardens, over 400 people visited Spitalfields Gardens Open Day, organised by the National Garden Scheme. Next year’s date has been scheduled for 13th June – a chance to glimpse what is behind the façades of some of the most interesting and unique buildings in Spitalfields.

Spitalfields Gardens Open Day

The East End Preservation Society (EEPS) organised a harvest of East End mulberry trees in collaboration with La Grotta Ices to make a special edition of ice-cream for their campaign to save the Bethnal Green mulberry. Dame Judi Dench has agreed to be Patron of the campaign and EEPS is preparing a judicial review to challenge the developers who want to dig up the 400-year-old Bethnal Green mulberry.


Film news

For 24 hours, Spitalfields stepped back in time when Fournier Street was transformed into a 19th century scene with Victorian market stalls, shop fronts, horse and carts and over 200 extras sweltering in the heat of their heavy fabrics – all to film a new production based on Sherlock Holmes’s invented sister featuring rising star Millie Bobby Brown.

Enola Holmes Film Set on Fournier Street

Can you help?

We are looking for photographs to include on our website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Do you have any interesting pictures you could share with us? If so please send them to Rachel at


Is your family Huguenot? Nearly 1,000 people have added their Huguenot family name to the Huguenot Families section of our website. Please help us to increase this number.


We couldn’t do without our wonderful group of volunteers, who help us with research, writing, stewarding or participating in our schools’ programme. If you would like to join our team, we always need ad hoc support so please Contact us.


We were told…

There are many events celebrating Huguenot descendant and extraordinary engineer, Joseph Bazalgette, this year. Visit the 'Water: from Ice to Tap' exhibition at the Institute of Chartered Engineers featuring this forgotten engineer of modern London.


There are also special events as part of the City of London Corporation’s Fantastic Feats initiative including ‘Big Fat Poo Bergers’ with the Bureau of Silly Ideas and ‘Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis.’


Actor Tim Dutton played Joseph Merceron in the final series of Poldark on BBC. Merceron was a notorious Huguenot and the subject of Julian Woodford’s book The Boss of Bethnal Green: Joseph Merceron, the Godfather of Regency London.


St Alfege Church in Greenwich received a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Heart of Greenwich, Place and People project, including restoration to the Lethieullier monument which marks the site of the burial vault of Sir John Lethieullier and Lady Anne Lethieullier. Sir John was a successful Huguenot merchant and politician in the City of London. He married Anne Hooker, the daughter of Sir William Hooker, who went on to be Lord Mayor of London. Sir John was a leading member of the French-speaking Protestant community in Greenwich who worshipped at St Alfege Church. 

Sandhurst credit: Peter Bloomfield

Major-General John Gaspard Le Marchant (1766–1812), who established the first educational institutions for military officers in Britain at High Wycombe and Great Marlow in 1801 was a Huguenot descendant. These colleges later combined to become the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, where all officers in the British Army are trained. Le Marchant’s mother, Marie Catherine, was a descendant of the celebrated French Protestant leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, from whom Le Marchant derived his middle name. Le Marchant fought with Wellington in the Peninsula Wars and died at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812. Another Huguenot hero.


Every summer we receive interesting pieces of information that our supporters discovered during their holidays. Brenda Allenby alerted us to the lovely village of St Jean d’Angely in France, which was a Protestant stronghold and strategic city controlling the approach to La Rochelle. The Siege of St Jean d’Angely in 1621 was led by Benjamin de Rohan, duc de Soubise, against Louis XIII. The City was captured after 26 days by the Catholic King. Benjamin de Rohan and his brother, Henri de Rohan, were both French Huguenot leaders in the French Wars of Religion.

Another fascinating holiday find were the Huguenots graves in the abandoned graveyard of St Peter’s Church, Whitehall, Graignamanagh, Co. Kilkenny, found by our Huguenot guide, Kate Boyle.


The Burtchael family are said to have come from Alsace-Lorraine where they were involved in the flax/linen industry; they fled via Holland and were loyal to William III at the Battle of the Boyne. 

abandoned graveyard Co. Kilkenny

The local family lived at Brandondale in a large house which still exists but the last Burtchael to live there was Richard (d. 1903) although his widow continued to live there till her death. She was so well liked that, unusually, the local Catholic population came to her funeral.


Jeanne d’Albret, mother of Henri IV, was featured in last year’s Huguenot Month, highlighting influential Huguenot women. Passing through Nérac in south-west France, we came across what was once a massive chateau and now only the north wing remains which housed the apartments of Jeanne d’Albret. This is one of the many homes in which Henri IV lived before he became the King of France.


In 1562, Gaspard de Coligny sent two ships to the New World in search of refuge for the persecuted Huguenots. The Huguenot explorer, Jean Ribault, led the expedition and charted a new course across the Atlantic, arriving off the coast of Florida. On his second voyage to the Americas in 1565, Ribault was shipwrecked and he and his men were murdered in cold blood at Matanzas Inlet near St Augustine by the Spanish Governor, Pedro Menendez, who feared French encroachment on Spanish territory. The memorial plaque at the entrance to the Huguenot Memorial Park in Jacksonville, Florida, honours these brave men.


Sally Medcalf alerted us to the Huguenot version of the 23rd Psalm (the Lord is my Shepherd) written in 1543 and set to music, which you can listen to via YouTube


A group of Spitalfields residents, Friends of Weavers’ Fields, has been formed to work with the Council to upgrade Weavers Fields, an area that used to be occupied by weavers’ cottages - homes for the Huguenots who worked in the silk industry.


The trade cards of two female Huguenot jewellers will be exhibited as part of a free outdoor exhibition this autumn: Susannah Passavant, who once worked in Ludgate (panel in Paternoster Square) and Marie Anne Viet of Cornhill (in front of the Royal Exchange). The exhibition is curated by Dr Amy Erickson, Cambridge Group for the History of Population & Social Structure, and features the British Museum’s collection of trade cards.


We’re always interested to hear about famous Huguenots wherever they lived. From Robert Nash, we heard about Huguenot descendants in Australia is fascinating: he traces the Huguenot genealogy of Aussie Rules player, Roy Cazaly, back to Peuch Bouquet in France and Spitalfields in England; and Minard Fannie Crommelin, an early conservationist who fought for Australian flora and fauna and whose ancestors were from Picardy. Her most famous family member is Louis Crommelin, who was invited to Ireland by William of Orange to improve the linen industry. Can you add to this list?


We were touched to be told that when the French Protestant Church was situated in St Martin’s-le-Grand in the City of London, during the 19th century, tokens for boots were given to poor parishioners – many of whom were descended from the Huguenot weavers who had settled in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green in the 1680s.


Archbishop Welby whose full name is Justin Portal Welby is a distant descendant of the Portals who supplied paper to the Bank of England to make banknotes.


We were asked…

Where can I get information about Anna Maria Garthwaite? We are often asked this question and The Gentle Author has written a fascinating and insightful blog post entitled 'Anna Maria Garthwaite, Silk Designer'.  Another source is Dr Zara Anishanslin’s book, Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World.


Where can I go to learn more about the difference between fabrics? The London College of Fashion runs a series of short courses entitled ‘Understanding Fabrics: Fibre and Fabrics’. These are one day courses for £250 on 16th October 2019 and 22nd January 2020


If textiles interest you, visit the Huguenot Museum in Rochester to see 'Bizarre and Curious Silks: Textiles by Hannah Robson'. Inspired by the world of Huguenot silk and silver with new textiles, drawing on the historical legacy of the Huguenots in a strikingly contemporary way. The exhibition runs until 21st September.


When did Louis XIV revoke the Edict of Nantes? 22 October 1685. The new edict was called the Edict of Fontainebleau, which took away the rights of Huguenots to practise their faith.

What is the English translation of the French inscription, ‘L’Eternel garda les fideles,’ on the Huguenot Society’s emblem? We understand that this translates as ‘The eternal (God) looks after the faithful.’

How long did the Royal Bounty last? The first grant from the Royal Bounty – annual grants paid from the Privy Purse by monarchs from James II to George III to help poor Huguenot refugees – was made in 1686 and the last in 1876.


Thank you


…to the Schroder Trust for awarding the charity a grant to conduct educational projects in areas in which the Huguenots settled in London and the regions.


…to Sally Medcalf who diligently researched 18th century living in Spitafields for our educational project.


…to Dr Robin Gwynn for his insightful talk at the Bank of England and its Huguenot founders. Not a spare seat in the house!


…to Julian Woodford for leading another fascinating journeymen weavers’ walk around Spitalfields as part of the City of London’s Fantastic Feats initiative. Another walk with Julian is planned in Spring 2020. To register your interest, contact


…to Piero d’Angelo for an absorbing and fulfilling Walk & Draw – enjoyed by everyone.


…to our volunteers. On a glorious Sunday in July, our wonderful volunteers attended a thank you lunch at a 1726 Huguenot house in Spitalfields. Guest of honour was Dr Robin Gwynn with the most delicious food kindly donated and personally cooked by Bruce Jones of For Goodness Sake catering.


Books recommended to us…


Philip Mansel’s book, King of the World, on Louis XIV is now published (£30, Allen Lane). He tells the story of how the Sun King ‘persecuted his Huguenot subjects, ravaged whole swatches of Europe and taxed France into starvation, misery and revolt.’


Fans of Dan Cruickshank will be pleased to hear he has written another book, Soho: A Street Guide to Soho's History, Architecture and People (£20, Random House). We’re keen to hear what he has to reveal about the Huguenots living and working in Soho.


Sonia Velton, who has written a novel, Black Berry & Wild Rose, featuring the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver will be speaking at the Huguenot Museum in Rochester on Saturday 12 October at 2pm (£8) describing how the world of 18th century Huguenot silk-weaving inspired her project.


If you haven’t already heard of The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse, we’ve been told it’s a good read. It is the first novel in a planned series charting the Huguenot diaspora during the wars of religion. The Guardian called it a ‘tour de force’!

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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