Huguenots – c. 17th century

Fournier Street in Spitalfields – an area where many Huguenots fled to from France.
  • By the late 1600s, as a Protestant country Britain was becoming the key Protestant nation. And its major Catholic enemy became the France. In France there was conflict between the Catholics – who were in power –and the minority of French Protestants (called Huguenots) who faced discrimination.
  • In 1685, the French King Louis XIV decided to take away the rights of the Huguenots to observe their religion.
  • As a result of their loss of religious freedom, thousands of Huguenots left France and migrated to Britain and other Protestant countries. Huguenots had generally lived in towns and had pursued skilled crafts, such as textile weaving and watchmaking, and professions like law and banking.
  • Between 40,000 and 50,000 Huguenots settled in England, mainly in major towns such as London, and they continued their crafts and professions.
  • They joined easily into English society, learning the language and worshipping in the Protestant manner. Many of the Huguenot refugees had been very successful in business and finance, and they brought their wealth with them from France to Britain. The first Governor of the Bank of England, Sir James Houblon, came from an old Huguenot family.