05 Oct

Huguenots of London – walk & talk

300 years ago, the streets around Spitalfields were filled with the sound of French voices and the rhythmic repetitive sound of weaving looms. For many years, this part of London was home to thousands of French Protestants called Huguenots, who fled to London to escape persecution in France.

Incredibly skilled craftsmen, especially in silk-weaving, they found refuge in the streets around Spitalfields. Although their language, their clothes & their food set them apart, they soon made a very positive impact on the area – the beautiful silks & ribbons they produced became highly sought after by the English upper classes. The Royal family & members of the court glittered in Spitalfields silk, the composer Mozart often sported a silk waistcoat and even as late as the 1830s, the silk for Queen Victoria’s wedding dress was woven in Spitalfields. At the height of the silk trade, there were 500 master weavers supervising thousands of skilled craftsmen.

On this walk we’ll explore the atmospheric streets of Spitalfields and see the grand houses and weaver’s workshops built by the Huguenots. You’ll discover just how much silk weaving was central to their lives and I’ll show you how their houses still provides a poignant reminder of their continuing fear of persecution.

I have adapted this walk into a talk for groups and historical societies – please contact me for further details.