Spitalfields’ historic association with the silk industry was established by French Protestant refugees who settled in this area after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. By settling here, outside the bounds of the City of London, they hoped to avoid the restrictive legislation of the City Guilds. The Huguenots brought with them little, apart from their skills, and an Order in Council of 16 April 1687 raised £200,000 for the relief of their poverty. In December 1687, the first report of the committee set up to administer the funds reported that 13,050 French refugees were settled in London, primarily around Spitalfields, but also in the nearby settlements of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Mile End New Town.
The late 17th and early 18th centuries saw an estate of well-appointed terraced houses, built to accommodate the master weavers controlling the silk industry, and grand urban mansions established around the newly created Spital Square. In 1860, a treaty was established with France, allowing the import of cheaper French silks. This left the many weavers in Spitalfields, and neighbouring Bethnal Green and Shoreditch impoverished New trades such as furniture and boot making came to the area; and the large windowed Huguenot houses were found suitable for tailoring, which attracted a new population of predominantly Jewish refugees drawn to live and work in the textile industry.