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The Hanbury Hall in Hanbury St was built in 1719 as a Huguenot Church, standing back from the road behind a courtyard with a pump.
The building was extended in 1864 and is now the church hall for Christ Church, Spitalfields. Graffiti in French recently uncovered in a weavers’ loft in Elder St Former Huguenot residence in Elder St.
It was not a planned immigration, it was about getting out when you could.
And, because their skills were in their hands, weavers could leave whereas those whose livelihood was tied up in property or land couldn’t go.
Many sought a place where they could set their conscience at rest, because they may have been forced to take communion in France and needed to atone.
The best-known church was “L’Eglise Protestant” in Threadneedle St in the City of London, it dealt with the first wave of refugees by building an annexe, “L’Eglise de l’Hôpital,” in Brick Lane on the corner of Fournier St.
If you compare Spitalfields with Westminster, it was the gentry that stayed in Westminster and the working folk who came to Spitalfields – there was a significant class difference.
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Inspired by the Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival, I set out in search of what other visual evidence remains of the many thousands that once passed through these narrow streets and Dr Robin Gwynn, author of The Huguenots of London, explained to me how they came here.
“Spitalfields was the most concentrated Huguenot settlement in England, there was nowhere else in 1700 where you would expect to hear French spoken in the street.