A two-century family odyssey in Spitalfields - part 2 - French Huguenot tales
Updated: Aug 25, 2018
Seven years after Edward Clarke’s death, yet more of my ancestors are recorded living in Spitalfields, and again at Corbett’s Court.
James Jones and Ann Maria Ivy, silk weavers, my 5x great grandparents, gave birth to a daughter there, Caroline Abigail Jones, in 1820. Caroline Abigail Martin, my 3x-great grandmother, was later named for this particular maternal aunt.
Her father Thomas Martin (1831-1893) also links to Corbett’s Court, through his 3x great-grandfather, Pierre Malandain. He was buried at Christchurch, Spitalfields, in February 1730, not long after the church construction was completed. Though he was living at King Street, Spitalfields, his sister Anne Malandain, wife of Theophilus Gabriel De Goullaine, died at Corbett’s Court, in 1748.
Like much of Spitalfields, the Court was then predominantly populated by French Protestant refugees and their descendants, with the French Church’s Charity House based there.
Pierre and Ann were both born in France, at Fécamp in Normandy. They had been forcibly removed from their parents when Pierre was still a new-born baby, under a year old, and Ann just twelve, when the family was detected attempting to flee the country, one hundred miles from their home, at the Dutch border, on 14th January 1686. This was expressly forbidden by the October 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had removed the few remaining civil rights and personal freedoms of France's Protestant population, after two decades of steadily increasing state persecution.
Their parents, Jean Malandain and Marthe Baudouin, were transported back to Dieppe and thrown into dungeons for over two years.
A first-hand account of Jean was later given by his fellow prisoner Jean Perigal:
In the prison at Dieppe, I met other prisoners who had been arrested for their religion like me, but within a few days we were told it was the will of the King for us to be sent to the dungeons of the chateau of Aumale. We were taken there in a cart of men, women and girls; some of whom were put in the rooms of the chateau and others in the cellars. The cellars were made of brick, all equally deprived of light, where we were fed only with bread and water. One of our brothers, named Jean Malandain, a strong and robust man, was led to an underground cellar which was more than one hundred steps underground.
According to Perigal's account, Jean was kept alone in these conditions for over five weeks, before much to his relief, he was finally allowed back up to re-join his fellow prisoners:
When he heard us, he was very happy. Our presence was a reinforcement to his body and spirit, and he greatly rejoiced in our company. We could speak easily from one dungeon to the other, as three of them were very close to each other, only having a door separating us. When we made our devotions, one among the three of us would say a prayer that the others could hear; this was for us a great consolation. That we did not expect to be long in these dungeons meant little - we did not think of leaving, although we could have done so extremely easily by forsaking our faith.
Steadfastly refusing to sign an abjuration of their Protestant faith, Jean, Marthe, Perigal, and their compatriots, after spending more than two years in prison, were eventually expelled from France by Order of the King:
To Monsieur Feydeau de Brou, Councellor and Consol, Master of Ordinary Requests in my town, Deputy Commissioner of the Generality of Rouen
Having now made estimates regarding the expulsion of the small number of my subjects who continue to persist in their obstinant refusal to abjure the 'Religion Prétendue Reformée', I write this letter to you, instructing you to remove from the fortresses and prisons in your community all those of the said R.P.R imprisoned there, escort them to Dieppe, and keep guard on them there until they can be embarked on a vessel to remove them entirely from my state. In this effect, I desire all the commandants, superiors and concierges, collated by you, to recall the Religionnaires, in your custody, and give into their hands a copy of this notice, serving them with their expulsion, with the exception of any women whose husbands are members of the Roman Catholic Religion, who will be retained until further notice. In this task I pray God keep Mr Feydeau in His Holy Guard.
Louis XIV, Versailles,
February 24th 1688
Accordingly, they were afterwards removed from Aumale, where they left behind the following inscription carved on a wooden beam:
Do not worry for tomorrow; each day’s sorrow is sufficient. Do not accumulate treasure on Earth, but seek it in Heaven, because where your treasure is, there too will be your heart. Bless those who curse you, Love those who hate you, and Pray for those who chase and persecute you. Love friendship, fear God, and honor the King. Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God those that are God’s.
They were transported to Dieppe on March 26th, and embarked, with ninety four other freed Norman protestants, on a 40-ton vessel bound for England, on 27th April 1688.
After a calm twenty hour voyage they arrived in Dover, Kent, and travelled by land, via Canterbury, to Rochester and Gravesend, where they sailed, by boat, up the River Thames to London, arriving in the capital, to a warm welcome from their co-religionists, on May 1st 1688.
In November of the same year, the Dutch Stadtholder, William of Orange, landed in England, and took the British throne from his father-in-law, James II, in the Glorious Revolution.
Two years later, in July 1690, Jean fought for William and the Protestant cause, against the forces of his former King and persecutor, Louis XIV, at the Battle of the Boyne. Victorious, for a time afterwards he and his wife were members of the Huguenot veteran settlement at Portarlington, Co. Laos, Ireland, where Jean is recorded acting as a Church Elder between 1693-7.
In 1699 they returned to London, perhaps to improve the prospects of their young children. Originally a farmer and ploughman in France, Jean now found work in the local Spitalfields silk trade, employed as a thrower. Though they can not have lived in particularly comfortable circumstances, their elevated status in the community, as Confessors for the faith, is recorded on the Royal Bounty Charity Payment records:
1705: Jean Malandain, of Normandy, a farmer, Confessor, age 63, and wife age 51, residence Spitalfields £7
1707: Jean Malandain, of Normandy, a farmer, Confessor, age 64, and wife age 52, residence Spitalfields, £8
Jean died shortly after the last payment, and was buried at St Dunstan's, Stepney, (the parish church covering Spitalfields, prior to the 1720s construction of Christchurch):
John Mallendine of Spitalfields, Thrower, buried on 3rd March 1707/8.
The Malandains are just one of several of my ancestral families, English and Huguenot, who made Spitalfields their home in the late 17th and the 18th century, working there mostly in the thriving silk trade.
The related Le Douxs, L'Epines and Dumoutiers were the first to settle there. Together, they fled increasing religious persecution in France, in summer 1681, settling first in Grey Eagle Street, and from 1700 in King Street, where my ancestor Pierre Malandain also later made his home.
No sooner had the Ledouxs and Dumoutiers moved out of Grey Eagle Street, then another of my refugee families, the Bacheliers, of Meaux, had moved in, also being recorded there from 1701-1703.
Jacques Molle (1655-1740), of Bolbec, Normandy, my 10x great-grandfather, appears in the burial registers of Christchurch Spitalfields as ‘James Mollet, a man, of Crispin Street’ on 28th February 1740/1. He had settled in Spitalfields as a refugee, in 1688, first at Brown’s Lane, and later at Phoenix Street. Like Jean Malandain he worked as a Silk Thrower.
His employer was his nephew, Abraham Deheulle (1669-1729), son of his sister Susan Molle, and later Abraham's son, Abraham Deheulle, Junior, (1697 – 1765). The Deheulles built up one of the most successful silk manufacturing businesses in England, operating from newly built premises in Wood Street and neighbouring Church Street, Spitalfields (now Fournier Street), from the early 1730s to 1775, during the height of the silk industry's commercial success in Spitalfields.
In 1745 Deheulle offered forty-seven of his Spitalfields silk workers as men to defend the crown of King George II, then under immediate threat from the Jacobite uprising of Bonnie Prince Charlie. These included his cousins, Jean Ledoux, then thirty-four, my 7-x great grandfather, and Jean's brother-in-law, David Malandain, then twenty-nine.
David did not survive the campaign, and was killed serving on the HMS Princess Royal on 26th March 1746, during the capture of the Earl of Sutherland in the Kyle of Tongue, as he attempted to flee from the Navy on the Jacobite ship Le Prince Charles.
Jean landed in Scotland, and likely fought at the Battle of Culloden the following month. He may have been wounded in the battle, as he died only three years later, in August 1749, at just thirty eight. He left two small children behind, my 6-x great grandmother Susannah Ledoux, born whilst he was away from home fighting in Scotland, in February 1746, and a son Jean Ledoux, born after his return, in September 1748.
Abraham Deheulle eventually moved out of Spitalfields, into a grand retirement home he had built for himself in, then rural, Tottenham. His will of February 1765 bequeathed a considerable fortune of £633,000 (Approximately £62 Million pounds in 2018 values), held in trust for his granddaughter, Mary Deheulle.
Born in the family home at 24 Church Street, Spitalfields, in February 1759, Mary was the child of his son Abraham, by his wife Mary Magdalen Garnault. She had been orphaned two years prior to her grandfather's death, when Abraham Deheulle, Junior, died, and was then being raised by her aunt, Esther Deheulle. Esther was the wife of Richard Dalton, Librarian to King George III. A portrait by the artist Johan Zoffany, of the couple, with Mary, at their quarters in St James Palace, titled 'The Drawing Lesson', is held in the Tate Gallery.
As well as the re-occurring link to Corbett’s Court, two other Spitalfields streets repeatedly and prominently appear in my own family history; Brick Lane, and Wheeler Street.
6 x great-grandfather, Edward Clarke, owned properties on both streets at the time of his death in 1813, and shortly after daughter Caroline’s birth, my ancestors James Jones and Ann Maria Ivy moved from Corbett’s Court onto Brick Lane, where they are noted in 1821 and 1822. My Martin family, who descend from Isaie Martin and his wife Marie Demarest, Huguenot refugees from Senarpont, Picardy, are also noted living on Brick Lane in June 1760.
It was also at Brick Lane, that my 7 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Deverdun, was born, in August 1722. Her parents were Antoine Deverdun, (1685-1762), a refugee from Buironfosse, Picardy, who spent his early years in Holland, and later died in La Providence, The French Hospital, Bath Street, St Luke's, and Judith Bachelier, (1683-1756), a refugee of Meaux, near Paris.
Elizabeth was married on 1st September 1751, a fortnight after her twenty-ninth birthday, at Christchurch, Spitalfields, to thirty-year-old Etienne Mourgue. According to tax records, he was a resident of Wheeler Street, Spitalfields, from 1743-1753, and it was there, on 29th May 1752, that their first child, my 6x great-grandmother, Elizabeth Mourgue, was born.
She later went on to marry Julien Francois Jaques Bellenger, (1750-1826), who was smuggled to England from Normandy, as a child refugee, aged three, with his seven year old sister, by an uncle, to escape the 'enlèvement ' laws, which allowed for the kidnap of Protestant children from their homes, and their placement in Catholic Reformatorys and Convents as Wards of State. He was initially cared for by Pastor Jacob Bourdillion, the much respected Minister of the Artillery Church, and a neighbour of the Deheulles, who secured him a place at the Westminster French Protestant Charity School.
After Elizabeth, several other children were born to Etienne Mourgue and Elizabeth Deverdun, first at their home in Wheeler Street, then in subsequent homes in Phoenix Street, and Pelham Street.
Around 1780, like many Spitalfields and Shoreditch silk weaving families, the couple and their, now adult, children, moved permanently into newer and better housing being built for the weavers in the south eastern part of neighbouring Bethnal Green.
Despite this both were buried at Christchurch, Spitalfields, Etienne being interred there in July 1790, shortly before his seventieth birthday, and Elizabeth being laid to rest with him, almost two decades later, in March 1809, at eighty-six years of age.
The couple perhaps retained a fondness for the church, having been married there and raised in the parish, though perhaps like the affluent Clarkes, they too had a family vault, as Etienne’s parents, Etienne Mourgue, Senior, and his wife Marguerite Chambon, had also been buried there, on Christmas Eve 1759, and in January 1779, respectively. At the time of her death Marguerite Mourgue was listed a resident of the Old Artillery Ground, Spitalfields.
The story of this couple’s flight into refuge is perhaps most extraordinary of all of the Huguenot ancestors in my own family tree.
They were born in the 1690s in the small, and predominantly Protestant, silk weaving village, St Hippolyte-du-Fort, located perched in the Cevennes mountains, just outside the city of Nîmes, in Languedoc, Southern France.
Etienne worked in Nîmes, as a trouser maker, for the Andrés, a prominent local Protestant family, who had amassed a fortune in the textiles industry, largely through the commercialisation, in the previous century, of the invention of their company founder, Joseph André, Serge de Nîmes, the famous “de Nîmes” fabric – now more commonly known as denim.
The temple in St. Hippolyte, where Etienne’s parents worshipped, was an early target of the religious persecutions, being demolished by order of the local authority, in 1681, on the flimsy grounds that one of the worshipers, as he came out of the church door, had been spied failing to uncover his head as a mark of respect when the host was passing, a violation of one of many petty persecutory Edicts passed by Louis XIV.
Since then meetings had by necessity been held in secret.
Along with his employer, Claude André, Etienne, and his wife Marguerite, were among fifty persons arrested on the night of January 14th/15th 1720, when one such clandestine religious meeting, held in a cave, just outside the city, (the Baume des Fees - Cavern of Fairies), was betrayed by a spy, and broken up by the approach of the King’s Troops.
Imprisoned without trial for months, it was eventually decided that several of the women would be sent to the Tower of Constancy, and nineteen of the other prisoners, including Etienne, would be sent to Mississippi as Galley Slaves.
To this effect, half-starved, they were force from their cells, and transported in heavy iron chains, on a gruelling 650 mile journey across France, lasting over a month, 400 miles traversed on foot through rough terrain, at one point crossing a mountain, and 250 miles on the galleys, the exhausted prisoners rowing whilst exposed to the elements.
On reaching the port of La Rochelle, all fell gravely ill, and two died as a result of the ordeal.
The case was now famous throughout Europe, and through the direct intercession of Princess Caroline of England, the Dutch and English Ambassadors, working together, were able to rescue the surviving prisoners from their intended fate, securing for them instead a life time term of banishment in England.
Etienne was allowed to take Marguerite, their small child, and her elderly widowed mother, Francoise Chabot, into exile with him. Marguerite had fallen pregnant again during their time under house arrest at La Rochelle. She gave birth to my 7-x great grandfather, Etienne Mourgue, Junior, during the boat journey to England, in summer 1721. Perhaps the birth was bought on prematurely by the stress of their predicament, as he was a sickly child, and for the first four years of his life, the French Charity organisations in London paid for him to be bought up away from his parents, in the therapeutic air of the Essex countryside.
As ‘Confessors’ for the faith, like the Malandains, thirty-three years earlier, their arrival in London was welcomed and celebrated throughout the Huguenot refugee community, and they were received into the Threadneedle Street congregation, by means of a special thanksgiving service, without the usual requirement of a testimony of faith and character.
The arrival of the group was also widely reported in London newspapers, and a book about the affair was later written by Pastor Antoine Court, the minister who had officiated at the fateful meeting on the night they were arrested.
The youngest member of the group, Paul Esperandieu, just nineteen at the time of their ordeal and exile, was taken under the personal protection of the British Ambassador Sir Robert Sutton, who had secured the groups release, and was given employment as a gardener on the Nottingham estates of his brother, General Richard Sutton, MP for Newark.
Claude André, Etienne’s boss, the elder of the group, was not content to start anew. Reluctant to abandon the considerable fortune he and his family had built up, in over a century in the French textile trade, in defiance of the exile, he resolved to return home by any means he could find. This proved a fateful decision, as he was killed by a lightning strike in Nîmes, not long after, in 1729.
The remaining exiles, including my ancestor Etienne Morgue, were more accepting of their lot and settled down into their new lives and homes in Spitalfields, most working in the silk trade.
A French newspaper report of 1750, reports on the conviction of a Mourgue relation, perhaps a nephew or cousin, who had remained in St Hippolyte-du-Fort, for refusing to obey the law and baptise his child as Catholic. In such conditions Etienne was perhaps wise not to follow in Andre's footsteps and attempt a risky return.
The last of the surviving male prisoners exiled to England, Antoine Mazelier, died in November 1762, and was buried at St Matthew’s, Bethnal Green. Two years earlier he had stood as godfather to one of Etienne’s granddaughters at the French Church Threadneedle Street.
Another fellow prisoner, Pierre Salle, made his home in Phoenix Street, Spitalfields. He was buried at Christchurch, in November 1742. Two years earlier he had written a letter to Pastor Court in Geneva, informing him of the group's progress in England.
It is believed he is also the likely author of the following vivid lament, which was found with this letter, in Pastor Court's possessions after his death, and later published in France, by The Bulletin of the Society of the History of Protestantism, in 1855:
Lament on the Affair of the Prisoners of La Rochelle (1721)
Listen with attention, to the affliction of a poor troop,
Who were ambushed at Nimes and punished, for the crime of an assembly.
In the year of 1720, for certain, it was the blessed day of Sunday;
In the pit of a cave, we gathered to chant to God his Holy Praises.
A rascal named Gras, without fail, at once ran back to the city;
To inform the Governor, with much pleasure, that he had discovered our place of sanctuary.
The Governor asked of him: "My friend, Can I act on your word?"
Replied he "Yes, Monsieur, certainly, though I expect to have forty pieces of silver."
They sent, at once, for one hundred dragoons, with lieutenant and captains,
and journeyed out with Gras, this Judas, this vender of human flesh.
On arrival the soldiers determined to approach us at the entrance to the cavern;
But forewarned we had already made leave, singing psalms for our salvation.
Some took to the heights in great terror, up to the tops of the mountain;
Others went out into the fields, and searched for some asylum in the countryside.
The soldiers went forth carrying themselves onto the pathways in silence,
And during the course of the night by stealth, fifty prisoners were captured.
Having taken us, the soldiers laid us down within an old ruin;
They guarded us well, and from there we were led forth into a dark prison.
With great pains the Governor's wife enquired of them "Where is the missing minister?"
She had a sullen heart when she learned he was not on the list of captured.
Having been held all of a month, they bought us several times in front of a judge
Each time threatening us and telling us we would be made to carry chains.
By order of the Intendant shortly after we were ordered to be escorted to Montpellier
linked together fastened with irons.
Of those who lead us it is necessary to name the officers of this escort:
Sainte- Marie, Lamberry and Coutelle.
Having being led by torchlight to Montpellier the jailer and the mayor of that place made us sleep in the dungeons, where lice covered our mattresses of straw.
A young girl, a mere child of ten years old, on the Intendants order was taken from us and put in isolation, a babe alone in a prison cell, without the chance to speak to anybody!
In a few days we heard the drums beating the General.
This was to accompany the prisoners to the Judicial Rooms.
The high-ranking soldiers and grenadiers, the vice-president & his guard were sat at the side.
From all directions people stared on at us.
We were led to the front facing the Intendant, Monsieur de Bernage
After interrogation we were led to believe we would be returned to our homes.
There was some change, because immediately they marched us back to prison.
Our group was then split up and sentenced to several kinds of sorrows.
The oldest went to the Galleys for their punishment.
Three women were condemned to be taken and entombed within the Tower of Constancy.
The young child of ten years was sent to a convent.
Four young girls, and eleven women remained there, the prison for their keep.
Those most oppressed, were seventeen men, two girls and a woman;
They condemned us to be put in chains and taken to Louisiana.
At the crack of dawn came the Royal Guards, who were irate towards us,
They put chains round our necks like we were madmen or savage beasts.
The soldiers and the archers made us march to Colombier, accompanying us in carts;
They gave to us wooden eating bowls, yet no carrying sacks to place them in.
In leaving Colombier the officer, the Commander of the Chain,
Shouted to us sharply ''Up, all of you!" to Lunel we were marching.
When near to Lunel, to the heavens eternal we began to chant hymns,
Exhorting us to endure, for Jesus Christ, this glorious exhaustive labour!
At Lunel, early in the morning, the officers of the Galleys made us go straight to Nimes.
They made us march in line, the brigands, paying no regard to any of us.
At the approach to Nimes the Major accorded to us this grace,
He let our relations, our wives and children, approach, and allowed them to embrace us.
The following day, ready to leave, the townsmen and women went out onto the road,
They were unable to approach us, due to the many archers and the great quantity of troops.
Our friends and our parents shouted out to us, and our children and our wives followed.
Tearfully they cried out: "Goodbye, our dear loved ones!"
The most part of the towns inhabitants were heard to say to themselves:
"This is an outrage, that for fact of religion alone, they are exposed to such carnage!"
Having taken the main road of Nemulin, in the coombs of Valguiene
We took to singing and praying 'Lord, King of Glory'
Overnight we slept at Couveaud, the horses there being evicted from their shabby pen, so we could be put down and laid out upon their dry straw.
The majority of our relatives followed us for some distance, all the way to Montelimart.
Their eventual departure greatly upset our troop.
At Montelimart we departed; to head straight to Valence;
And to sleep at Thain, as ever, forced to keep silent.
Thain we left, and we took the road for Vienne;
And, early in the morning, on to Saint-Serin, to be charged with heavier chains.
At Vienne we arrived, and we rested above the edge of Rhône;
Until the afternoon, when they put us in a prison, near to the Saône.
In prison we were locked inside, confined in a small room,
When unto us came the Monsieurs, Generaux, to provide us much.
These monsieurs are merchants, Germans, French and Swiss;
Like True Christians, their goods and their services they offered to us.
Twelve days we remained and were visited and provided for with much charity;
Motivating us to suffer, for Jesus Christ, and for our names to be set in the Book of Life.
And departing from the prison at Lyons, they led us on to Saône, going by the outskirts,
At all times followed by a large number of men.
They drove us all into a field, where they searched our bags and pockets
They hastily took away all our trinkets and silver, and again locked us up in animal pens.
The following day we were marched on and forced to climb the mountain of Tarare.
Attached like cattle two by two, we were treated like barbarians.
Tarare we left, and we took the road straight to Roanne;
There to be put on a boat, as soon as possible destined for Port-Louis, in Brittany.
We remained thirteen days, night and day, on the river of Loire,
Exposed to the elements, like a herd of animals, en route to be sold at market.
They debarked us at Saumer, fortunately there we heard the news
We were no more heading to the harbour and first were to depart for La Rochelle.
Seven days we marched: before arriving in that city so beautiful,
And having arrived there we found a great number of the faithful.
The faithful saw us and knowing us to be true brothers and sisters,
As soon as they could they received us and they provided for all our necessities.
We received mattresses and good sheets and also blanched white shirts
For us to cut away all that had built up on us, all our lice, which had much taken hold of us all.
And having seen us so beaten by so long a march
They have between them resolved and agreed they would make a charity fund.
Shortly after we were all laid low by great sickness
They found medicines for us, doctors, and ran to the butchers.
We were provided meals, boiled and roasted
And all that they could give us, pigeon, chicken, soft breads and other fine exquisite meats.
We received liqueurs of the best, some wine and preserves
And great quantities of fruits, raw and cooked, all of everything in great measure.
They wrote in our favour to the ambassadors of Holland and England;
Our Grace obtained and supported, in spite of all our adversaries.
The deputy of Paris, Monsieur Dartis, who is minister and secretary,
Brought to us the news that it was ordered we must leave for England.
When the faithful saw it was resolved, that embarkation was certain,
As soon as they could, diligently and promptly, they provided for all our affairs.
"Adieu goodbye, Brave Rochellois, the English, they wish to give us asylum;
The blessing of God be always upon you and your families"
Eleven months we spent: at their expense, and have wanted for nothing.
Always well maintained and clothed in an obliging manner.
If it necessary to make a record of neglect then it is made by my memory,
Where I have passed by a month, two or three:
'Let it not diminish their unending Glory'.
Princess Caroline of Ansbach, (Princess of Wales, later Queen to King George II) and Sir Robert Sutton, British Ambassador to France. Working together they were able to secure the release of the prisoners, and their asylum in England, by insisting on the insertion of clauses to this effect in the June 1721 Treaty of Madrid.