There are traces of the Huguenots all over Britain, can you find these towns on a map of Britain? Why do you think the Huguenots chose to settle in these towns?
Bristol was one of a second group of towns, after Ipswich and Rye in 1681, in which new Huguenot settlements developed. From the end of the 17th century, between 400 and 500 Huguenots moved to Bristol, making up 2.5% of the population. They received money from the Civil List, allocated by William and Mary, between 1689 and 1693.
St. Mark’s Church on College Green was given to the Huguenots by the City Corporation. They used the church between1687 and 1722. Mrs. Gautier, wife of the Reverend Gautier the French pastor, opened a boarding and day school.
A few of the Huguenots who settled in Bristol came from wealthy merchant families from La Rochelle and other French Atlantic ports. These include the Peloquins, Laroche and Goizin families. Their trading contacts with other Huguenot and Dutch merchants in America ensured they quickly established themselves and contributed substantially to the city’s prosperity.
One famous Bristol Huguenot was Francis Billo, a metalworker, who became well known for his chandeliers in the West Country. He created a ceremonial crown (c.1733) in copper, to wear for the Processions of the Trades, modelled on a Royal crown. It is now in Bristol Museum. Another renowned Bristol Huguenot was silversmith Solomon (Huguenots were often were baptised with Old Testament names) Egare who then settled in America.
The Huguenot settlement in Canterbury started when the authorities considered the community in Sandwich, Kent, to have grown too large. 100 families were accepted in 1575. Its numbers continued to swell in the years following the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in France in 1572, and it came to be the largest foreign population outside London.
The welcome extended to Huguenot refugees reflected, in part, the perceived benefit to the local economy, particularly the potential for developing the textile industry. Using the textile processing and weaving techniques learnt on the continent, new draperies were established in textile towns such as Canterbury. They produced lighter fabrics, made from a mix of fibres, suitable for export to Europe, rather than traditional woollen fabrics. The benefits led the Privy Council to protected Huguenot weavers in Canterbury, when they were attacked by locals. Many successful Spitalfields weavers established successful businesses in Canterbury. When Spitalfields weaving flourished in the 18th century, the Canterbury industry went into decline and ceased entirely in 1837.
Canterbury’s Huguenot congregation was first allowed to worship at St. Alphege Church but as their numbers grew they were invited to use the Western Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral. Migration to Spitalfields, and assimilation, saw numbers fall, and they moved to the smaller Black Prince Chantry in the Cathedral, where the Eglise Protestante Française de Cantorbéry [The French Protestant Church of Canterbury] still meets today.
Dover’s coastal position and proximity to France made it a natural first point of settlement for Huguenot refugees. Many stayed temporarily, moving on to larger communities in London and Canterbury. Early in the 17C a census was taken of foreign residents in Dover. There were 78 people “two were preachers of God’s Word; three were physicians and surgeons; two were advocates; two esquires; three were merchants; two were schoolmasters; thirteen were drapers, butchers and other trades; twelve were mariners; eight weavers and wool-combers; twenty-five were widows and makers of bone; two were maidens; one the wife of a shepherd; one a gardener, one a nondescript male and one other.
As in many such towns where Huguenots, the Dover textile industry grew and was an important means for the newcomers to earn a living. Dover, and nearby Sandwich, were particularly known for wool combing; the process of arranging the fibres so they are parallel, ready for spinning.
Following the tradition of the Flemish congregation that had been in the town since the 16th century there was a French Church in Dover from the 1640s,. It was part of a triumvirate of Churches with Guisnes, in northern France, and Cadzand, in the Dutch province of Zeeland, which had a mobile population, many of whom moved to Dover and then back onto the mainland. Between 1689 and 1693 the Dover Huguenot settlement was considered large enough to receive monies from the Civil List given by William and Mary.