The Huguenots of Spitalfields

Issue 1 - Summer 2013

Over 15,500 people participated in the Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival in April, with many asking to stay in touch wanting to hear of 'anything Huguenot'. We have received generous offers of help - some contributing ideas, others writing copy and even an offer to sing at a fund-raising event. The result is this newsletter which will evolve as contributions are sent in. If you have suggestions, do please email me at


Huguenots of Spitalfields is now a registered charity (Number 8365280). Our Objects are to promote public understanding of the Huguenot heritage and culture in Spitalfields, Tower Hamlets, the City of London and beyond. The Trustees are Dan Cruickshank, Kathryn Michael, Charlie de Wet and Magnus Boyd. We will continue to arrange tours, talks and events to raise the Huguenot profile in Spitalfields and to fund a permanent memorial to the Huguenots of Spitalfields in the Spitalfields Traders' Market.


Thank you for your support.


Charlie de Wet


Huguenot Footsteps

Tuesdays 6th August, 3rd September and 1st October, 2pm

Meet in front of Christ Church Spitalfields for a gentle stroll around the local historic area. Cost £10 per head. No booking needed. Contact


Trip to Greenwich to include visit to the Fan Museum

Friday 16th August at 10:30am

We will take the opportunity of being in Greenwich to look at the Cutty Sark, Painted Hall, Chapel, Greenwich Market, Visitors' Centre and the National Maritime Museum in the morning. In the afternoon we will visit the Fan Museum to see the current exhibition and also a selection of fans painted by Huguenot artists. Details of travel arrangements will be provided when interest is registered. Tour costs £20 a head including entry and talk at the Fan Museum.  Other costs will include your own travel and refreshments. Contact for details and booking.


Huguenot Service in Prince Edward's Chantry, Canterbury Cathedral

Sunday 27th October, 3.00pm

In October 1685, Louise XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Join us at the weekly Huguenot service (mainly in French) at Canterbury Cathedral and stay for coffee and tea with local worshippers. Before the service, do visit the Canterbury Heritage Museum in Stour Street to view the Huguenot artefacts on the first floor. The finest object on display is an extremely rare La Rochelle Bible, printed in 1588, that survived the Huguenot persecution and eventually found its way to Canterbury in 1685. Also on display are a pewter communion plate and a depiction of the weaving industry. The Museum is open 10am to 5pm (last entry at 4pm), contact 01227 475 202 / Admission is free (there is normally a charge but the Museum has kindly waived this for us). Contact for details.

The Rector's Tour of Christ Church Spitalfields

Tuesday 12th November, 4pm to 6pm

Huguenots held key roles in the commissioning, building and early life of Christ Church. Peter Prelleur was the church's first organist and many Huguenots were buried in the crypt. Join this special tour of the church and crypt by the Rector Revd. Andy Rider.  Cost £20 including refreshments. Advance booking necessary, contact

Stories of The Street, an exhibition of prints by Marc Gooderham

at The Town House, 5 Fournier Street, Spitalfields until Sunday 21st July.

Visit / for more information.


The Victoria & Albert Museum Study Day

Collecting Decorative Arts in the Twentieth Century

Saturday 16 November 2013

'I just like beautiful things' (Sir Arthur Gilbert, 1913-2001). Over the course of three decades Sir Arthur (1913-2001) and Rosalinde Gilbert (1913-1995) formed a collection of decorative arts, including Huguenot silver, that is among the finest in the world. Since 2008 the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection has been on loan to the V&A. Contact for details.



Jane Austen Contributed by Ron Dunning


Though the worlds of the Huguenots and of Jane Austen would seem almost to inhabit separate universes, a surprising number of Huguenot families had close connections with hers. I will mention the most notable.


Anyone who has seen the film 'Becoming Jane' will recognise the name of Lefroy. Antoine Lefroy, a native of Cambray, took refuge in England from the persecutions in the Low Countries in about 1587, and settled at Canterbury where he and his family engaged in the business of silk dyeing. His descendant Tom Lefroy was the one young man with whom Jane was said to be truly in love; Tom was quickly bundled off by his elders and betters because he didn't at that point have an income with which to support a wife. He rose eventually to become the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland and, at the end of his life, remembered Jane with great affection. Ben Lefroy, from a later generation, did marry an Austen – one of Jane's favourite nieces, Jane Anna Elizabeth.

The Portals were an ancient noble Protestant family of Toulouse who stood firmly by the faith of their fathers, and several of them suffered death rather than recant. They were among the Huguenots who introduced the art of fine paper making to England – Henry Portal established a mill at Laverstoke, on the Itchen River in Hampshire. He achieved such a reputation that the Bank of England awarded him the contract to produce bank notes. Living in Hampshire, the Portals had extensive social contacts with the Austens.

Jane Austen

Adela Portal married Jane's nephew Edward Knight, and the couple established a long line of descendants.


The Chenevixes were another distinguished family of Protestants, this time from Lorraine, who fled at the Revocation. One branch settled in Ireland and were much attracted to the military and clerical professions. Melesina Chenevix, the poet and diarist, and granddaughter of Richard Chenevix, the (Anglican) Bishop of Waterford and of Lismore, was the ancestor of several people linked to the Austen pedigree. Melesina married Richard Trench – the de la Tranche family had taken refuge in England shortly after the massacre of St. Bartholomew – and their granddaughter Melesina Mary Chenevix-Trench married Chomley Austen-Leigh, Jane's great nephew. A great-granddaughter, Melesina Gladys Chenevix-Trench, as well as being the mother of the famous editor of the Daily Telegraph, Bill Deedes, was the grandmother of FitzWalter Plumptre, the Baron FitzWalter – who could also trace his pedigree to the family of Jane's brother Edward.


David Papillon, the first of his family to settle in England, had been sent with his mother and siblings by his father to escape persecution. They were shipwrecked and his mother drowned. The story of the mingling of genes between David's descendants and the Austens, through the Brodnaxes, is a bit too obscure to tell here, but one individual from the Papillons featured in Jane's life – the Revd. John Rawstorne Papillon. The living of Chawton was offered to him, then to Jane's brother Henry should he refuse it. He did take it and became the rector of that parish, where Jane lived for her final years. There is a neat bracketing of Huguenot suitors for Jane's hand from the beginning and the end of her adult life – Mrs Knight, the widow of Thomas Brodnax and elderly benefactor of both the Austens and the Papillons, suggested that the Revd. John, a life-long bachelor, would make a suitable husband. With characteristic irony Jane remarked in a note to her sister: 'I am very much obliged to Mrs Knight for such a proof of the interest she takes in me – & she may depend upon it, that I will marry Mr Papillon, whatever may be his reluctance or my own – I owe her much more than such a trifling sacrifice.'



Why is Norwich City Football Club known as 'The Canaries'?

The Writers' Centre in Norwich tells us...

The name comes from The Strangers, who were European refugees who came to live in Norwich in the 16th Century. They were famous for breeding canaries, and the football club's name is one of their most famous legacies. Many people who live in Norwich now are descendants of these Strangers, whose influence can still be seen in buildings around the region, as well as in the way Norfolk people talk.

Norwich was the centre of a large textile industry, but in the 16th Century this industry was struggling. The City needed more workers and they came over from a region now covered by Belgium, France and the Netherlands. These refugees were known as 'Strangers' – the local dialect word in those days.


The Strangers taught local workers to produce new types of cloth in different ways, which helped the textile industry. They also helped to rebuild the whole area north of the River Wensum after it was devastated by a freak fire in 1507. They supported English parishes by donating money to them and Dutch and French schools were established in the area.


In Norfolk we hear people say 'he go', 'she do', 'he like her'. Why? Some people think that as the Strangers tried to get to grips with the English language they formed their own version of English, which remains part of the region's dialect. Over time the refugees became a part of the local community and were no longer 'Strangers'. Norwich continues to welcome people into its community today.

Is there an English link between the Waldensians and the Huguenots?

Randolph Vigne tells us...


Though declared a heresy by Rome in the 13th century, the church founded by Peter Waldo of Lyon in the late 12th century held fast to its faith, despite centuries of persecution in his followers' last Alpine refuge by the dukes of Savoy and French kings.


After the Reformation the Waldensians were welcomed by the Calvinists into the Protestant community in Europe. The English supported them in Cromwell's day and were stirred by Milton's famous sonnet On the late massacre in Piedmont, and in the 19th century by much support for their cause. The Waldensians made no exile settlement in Britain but among the number who came here was the pastor François Giraud, who became an Anglican minister in Kent and was the ancestor of Arthur Giraud Browning, deputy-governor of the French Hospital and founder of the Huguenot Society in 1885.


Their 18th-century ancestors would have worshipped in the French Protestant church in Threadneedle Street and in its Spitalfields 'outstation', the Nouvelle Eglise in Brick Lane, as they do in Soho Square today.


We have maintained cordial contact with the Waldensians at their headquarters in Torre Pellice, near Turin, where a party made the Huguenot Society's summer visit this year, and with their Waldensian Church Mission in England (contactable via


We have received many emails asking for help in tracing your Huguenot ancestors so we asked Stefan Dickers, Library and Archives Manager at the Bishopsgate Institute, to tell us what help is available there.  'We have a range of holdings covering the history of the Huguenots in London, and especially those in the City, Spitalfields, and the East End. To begin your research, you may be interested in our wide variety of general reference and genealogical resources. These include family history magazines, trade directories covering the City and environs from 1740 onwards, and microfiche of the IGI. As well as these, we have a range of collections which specifically deal with the Huguenots. These include transcribed registers for French churches in the City, Soho, Westminster, and Spitalfields, as well as specialist journals, pamphlets, books, and press cuttings. Our catalogue, as well as further details on our holdings, and our opening hours, is available via our website at'.

'We have a range of holdings covering the history of the Huguenots in London, and especially those in the City, Spitalfields, and the East End. To begin your research, you may be interested in our wide variety of general reference and genealogical resources. These include family history magazines, trade directories covering the City and environs from 1740 onwards, and microfiche of the IGI. As well as these, we have a range of collections which specifically deal with the Huguenots. 

These include transcribed registers for French churches in the City, Soho, Westminster, and Spitalfields, as well as specialist journals, pamphlets, books, and press cuttings. Our catalogue, as well as further details on our holdings, and our opening hours, is available via our website at'.

The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Some of us enjoyed a wonderful day at 'La Providence' the French Hospital in Rochester looking at the alms houses and Huguenot artefacts and those wonderful portraits. It was the Directors of this organisation that founded the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1885.

Their goal was to promote the publication and interchange of knowledge about the history of French Protestant migration, much of which was unknown to many Huguenot descendants. The Society also aims to form a bond of fellowship among those who respect and admire the Huguenots and seek to perpetuate their memory.


Ms Glynda Easterbrook has just been appointed the new president, having taken over this role from Anthony Wilson.


Are you a member? For details visit


We will be arranging a visit to La Providence in Rochester - let us know if you would like to join us and we will contact you when another visit is being planned.

Look out for Dan Cruickshank's programme on BBC 4 from the exhibition Houghton Hall - Revisited Masterpieces from the Hermitage.  The magnificent art collection of Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, was sold to Catherine the Great to adorn the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The collection is now reassembled in its spectacular original setting for the first time in over 200 years. Exhibition runs until 29th September. Visit

Huguenot Heritage Centre to open in 2015.  Hard to believe but we have been told that the UK is the only relevant country that does not have a Huguenot museum or a heritage centre. This will soon change. In September 2012 The French Hospital received confirmation of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to research and develop ideas for a Huguenot Heritage Centre in Rochester. This research has taken a year and the findings will be submitted this Autumn. If successful, a Huguenot Heritage Centre is scheduled to open in 2015. See attached leaflets for more information.


The London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.  It was Roberto Campana who organised the involvement of the Guild at the Big Weave during the Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival. 'We demonstrated silk weaving and spinning - this has not happened on the market site for over a hundred years. To continue this link with the Huguenots and the French we demonstrated at The Bastille Festival in Borough Market on 14 July. Our own exhibition, A Field of Cloths, will be

on show at The Gallery in the Crypt, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, from Tuesday 20th August to Saturday 14th September.'

The Gentle Author.  We know that many of you were not able to attend the Thanksgiving Service at Christ Church with the Bishop of London, Dean of Rochester and representatives from the Embassies and churches of the countries where the Huguenots fled to practise their faith. 

However you may have heard about A Dress of Spitalfields Silk especially written for the occasion by the Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life and read by Jolyon Tibbitts, Upper Bailiff of the Worshipful Company of Weavers.  If you would like to read this very special article visit


Follow The Gentle Author daily online at as he blogs about the culture of the East End - past, present and future.


Look out for Travellers Children in London Fields, a new book published by Spitalfields Life. Costing £10, this book can be purchased from or from Fiona Atkins at The Town House, 5 Fournier Street E1 6QE

Notre Père (The Lord's Prayer)


Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,

Que ton nom soit sanctifié,

Que ton règne vienne,

Que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.

Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain de ce jour.

Pardonne-nous nos offenses

Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.

Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,

mais délivre-nous du mal,

car c'est à toi qu'appartiennent le règne,

la puissance et la gloire, aux siècles des siècles.



During the Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival over 80 of us crowded into two wonderful c.18 houses for the At Home with Anna Maria fund-raising event: 2, Princelet Street once lived in by Anna Maria Garthwaite, an outstanding English silk designer (which has since been sold) and 3, Fournier Street once live in by Captain Peter LeKeux, a prosperous Spitalfields silk weaver.


Anna Maria's life and talents will shortly feature in a documentary to be broadcast in the Autumn on BBC2. Details will be posted on the website

New Dye Garden at Spitalfields City Farm  (sent in by Jenny Bettenson).  The Spitalfields City Farm Weaver Garden, part funded by The Worshipful Company of Woolmen, has been created as a horticultural resource that focuses on plants associated with traditional farming and textile industries.

The garden contains dyeing plants and plants traditionally used to make fibres and textiles.


Weaver Garden is located precisely on the former site of Weaver Street, named during the occupation of Spitalfields in the 17th century by Huguenot silk weavers, There had always been a silk industry of sorts in the area, but with the diligence and skills of the Huguenots this industry thrived, and Spitalfields became 'weaver town'.


The garden pays homage to Spitalfields' rich textile history and also illustrates alternative, more sustainable and environmentally friendly textile production practices based on British traditional botanical knowledge.


There are many more plants in Weaver garden, below is a small selection that may be of interest.


Dyer's Chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) Flowers, leaves and stalks impart a warm yellow dye that is effective in dyeing animal fibres, such as wool and silk, than plant derived fibres.


Dyer's Woad (Isatis tinctoria) Leaves and seeds for blue dye. Woad dye was used until 1932 to colour police uniforms.


Flax (Linum usitatissimum) Stems for linen; Considered the oldest textile fibre used by humans.


Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) Roots used for dye and washing. Effectiveness of soapwort for fabrics was recognized by the National Trust who for decades continued to use soapwort to clean delicate tapestries and linens because most modern detergents were too harsh.

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.


We welcome your comments, views and contributions on this, the first Strangers' Newsletter. Please contact The charity is currently lead 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

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