STRANGERS -
THE HUGUENOTS AND WALLOONS IN CANTERBURY

Initially in 1575 the City of Canterbury accepted 100 families. At that time the English called them Walloons. They were mainly weavers, dyers of wool. Their techniques were superior to the English at that time and their woollen cloths were a far better quality. The English at that time in history, had a lot of wool but didn’t have the technical skills to weave it into a superior cloth.

The Huguenots who went to Canterbury were mostly silk weavers and they were the finest silk weavers that England has ever known. Within a century they had set up their Chartered Weavers Company.

The old weavers house, built in 1500, still exists today.

St Alphege was the first church where they were allowed to worship and the people of the town called them “the strangers”. The parish registers show many strangers names.
Within a year, they became too many to be confined to one church and the western end of the Canterbury Cathedral crypt was given to their use. In the 18th Century they were given the south aisle of the crypt. Almost complete registers for the birth, marriages and burials exist from 1576 to the 18th Century.

In the 18th century, the refugee families had begun to integrate. The girls married local men and their names changed. Many of the others anglicised their names and most became English citizens. Also in the 18th Century, quarrels over trade forced a great deal of the silk weavers to Spitalfields in London.

Read about the Huguenot Cross