Celebrate Huguenot Heritage All Summer

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 31 months ago
Celebrate Huguenot Heritage All Summer

London has Louis XIV to thank for its rich Huguenot heritage. In 1685 the magniloquent, bewigged twit renounced the Edict of Nantes, effectively turning France into a living hell for thousands of Protestants. Many were left with no choice but to flee for foreign shores. France's loss was our gain: London, in particular the east, became flush with Huguenots, who soon established themselves as the coolest damned set of weavers, like, ever.

Huguenot Summer is an annual, epic festival — this year running 2 June-25 September — celebrating the legacy of the Huguenots in the East End, other parts of the city and, indeed, country. Yes, there's plenty of events focused on weaving, but 2015's festival is a veritable tapestry of Huguenot history — including their silverware, poetry, religion, hospitals and more. Here's our pick of the best.

Attend a service at the Dutch Church. Photo by G Macdonald in the Londonist Flickr pool.
Attend a service at the Dutch Church. Photo by G Macdonald in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Walk in the Huguenots' footsteps

Myriad walks take place over Huguenot Summer, treading in the footsteps of our French forebears. Every day between 15-22 June (11am) The Immigrants' Walk scopes the streets of Spitalfields and discovers the immigrants who made it what it is (Huguenots very much included). Other perambulating events include one led by Charlie de Wet, chair of Huguenots of Spitalfields (4 August and 1 September, 2pm) and a foray into the lesser-known Clerkenwell of the Huguenots (16 September, 11am).

Attend a Huguenot church service

A charter from King Edward VI allowed both French Huguenots and Dutch Protestants to practice their faith in England — and said charter was signed at the Dutch Church (aka Austin Friars) in the City. On 21 June you're invited to a special Sunday Service here, led by minister Joost Roselaers.

Play the Huguenot card to access cool places

Huguenot Summer is opening up doors to a couple of places that would usually turn the hoi polloi away. One such institution is the Garrick Club, which, on 1 July (10am), will let you slip in for a cup of tea and a chat about the famous actor-manager after whom the club is named (David Garrick was a descendent of the Huguenots). There's also a special private tour of the Old Naval College in Greenwich (20 July, 1.30pm); many wealthy Huguenots thrived in this part of London. There are also a couple of rare opportunities to visit the Museum of London's archive of Spitalfields silk (24 July, 12pm and 2pm).

Townhouse in Spitalfields is hosting a series of talks with tea and cakes. Photo by Andrea Liu in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Do tea and cake, Huguenot style

There's a series of four Tea, Cake and Talk sessions throughout the festival (all at Townhouse in Spitalfields, all at 3pm). Between them they touch on the restoration plans for Mount Nod Cemetery in Wandsworth (3 June), a discussion on poet Walter de la Mare with his grandson Giles (16 June), a talk on the French Hospital in Rochester (8 July), and an appearance from the Gentle Author, discussing his latest book Spitalfields Nippers (28 July).

Visit Huguenot stuff in not-London

You may have heard the rumour that there are places not in London. Wonderful as the capital based events are, it'd be disingenuous of us not to mention some of the day trips, including a jaunt to Canterbury of the Huguenots (2 August, 12.15pm) a gander at Winchester Cathedral's treasury, with its hoards of Huguenot silver (22 September, 11am), and an exploration of the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree (19 June, 9.30am), which contains over 60,000 paper designs, photographs, costume, hand-woven silks and printed textiles.

Huguenot Summer runs 2 June-25 September. Prices vary and some events are free (though booking is always recommended). For more information and to book, visit the Huguenots of Spitalfields website.

Last Updated 24 May 2015