Legacy of the Huguenots celebrated at Christ Church, Spitalfields
The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, joined over 350 attendees at Christ Church Spitalfields for a special thanksgiving service to celebrate the heritage of the Huguenots.
The service is part of the wider festival being held to celebrate the contribution of the Huguenots to Spitalfields and to raise funds for a permanent memorial commemorating their life and work.
The Huguenots were French protestants who fled persecution at home in Catholic France in the 16th century. Over 20,000 settled in Spitalfields, where their skills in weaving and working with silk left an indelible mark on the area.
Christ Church itself is a vivid testament to the influence of the Huguenots on Spitalfields. The very first organist appointed to play the church’s Richard Bridge organ was Peter Prelleur, a local resident of Huguenot descent. In the 18th century, Jean Rondeau, of Huguenot ancestry, was elected to be Sexton at Christ Church Spitalfields. Many other Huguenot families are recorded on memorial plaques in this church.
During the service, the Dean of Rochester contributed a reading from Dr Robin Gwynne’s ‘Huguenot Heritage’, while Giles De La Mare read the poem ‘All that’s past’ by his grandfather, poet and novelist, Walter De La Mare, commemorating the family’s Huguenot history. There were also readings by Patrick Streeter, Chairman of The Spitalfields Trust, Jolyon Tibbitts Upper Bailiff of the of The Worshipful Company of Weavers, and Peter Duval, Deputy Governor of The French Hospital. Prayers were also said by representatives of countries who welcomed Huguenot refugees. The retiring collection was in aid of Huguenots of Spitalfields Public Art Fund and the Huguenot Heritage Centre in Rochester.
The service is part of the wider festival being held to celebrate the contribution of the Huguenots to Spitalfields and to raise funds for a permanent memorial commemorating their life and work. It is being held in 2013 to mark the 415th anniversary of the signing of the Edict of Nantes by Henry IV of France. This served as a guarantee to the Protestant Huguenots that their rights to worship would be respected. However, it was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685, resulting in the flight of many Huguenots to England.
Christ Church will be host to a number of other events during the festival including a lecture on the human remains excavated from the crypt of the church and a church tour. Rector, Andy Rider, will also be participating in a roundtable at Guildhall exploring the questions: "What is a Huguenot? What is a Protestant?"
The Revd Andy Rider, Rector at Christ Church Spitalfields, said:
"It was a privilege to host this special service of thanksgiving to commemorate the Huguenots of Spitalfields. We celebrate not just their impact on this area but to London and the many places that the Huguenot community settled following their times of trial and persecution. We celebrate not just their business endeavours, their art and culture but principally we remember them as a people of deep biblical Christian faith."
For more information on the festival, please visit: www.huguenotsofspitalfields.org.
Photo credit: Jeremy Freedman.