Huguenot Stories

Cross-Faculty project inspired by the Huguenots history

More about this project

Inspired by the rich history of the Huguenots, many of whom settled in and around East London, studios and units across the Schools of Art, Architecture and Design have been invited to contribute to the ‘Huguenot Summer 2015’ festival, a festival organised by the Huguenots of Spitalfields in partnership with the City of London.

Students from across the Faculty are working with the tutors to develop contemporary interpretations to the Huguenot influence.

This cross-Faculty project for the academic year 2014/2015 was inspired by Gina Pierce (Course Leader for BA Textile Design) who is organising an exhibition and symposium at The Cass in July 2015, that will explore the Huguenot influence on modern textile design.

The Huguenots were French protestants who fled from religious persecution in Catholic France mostly in the seventeenth century. Some 40,000 of them were welcomed in London, transforming what was then a small city. The Huguenots migrated to the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Russia, and as far afield as South Africa and the American colonies. The Huguenot diaspora was one of the most spectacular dispersions of a religious minority in early modern Europe. They were the first so-called ‘refugees’. Their culture and skills travelled with them, to the huge benefit of their hosts.

In London the majority of Huguenots settled in Spitalfields and nearby in Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Mile End. They included silk weavers who introduced new skills and manufacturing techniques and the area soon became the centre of the textile manufacture in England. The Huguenots also settled in Soho, working as goldsmiths, silversmiths, tailors, clock and furniture makers.

The refugees introduced market gardening and new ideas about food, horticulture and medicine, skills in banking and finance, books and teaching, industry and the army, architecture and building as well as talents that appeared in art, music and on the stage. All sorts of people today claim Huguenot ancestry. They helped London become one of the great multi-talented, multinational capitals of the world.

Cass Projects has developed the project brief and offered research skills. So far project shave been proposed by Year 1 Architecture BA, MA by Project, Jewellery and Silversmithing BA, Interior Design BA, Interior Architecture and Design BA and Interior Design MA.

Image credit: Cass Projects (The Projects Office) photos by Abi Baker and Julie Asis