1600 – The Huguenots Arrive

1604 ROYAL CHARTER OF JAMES I

1626 ROYAL CHARTER OF CHARLES I

1642 English Civil War

1660 The Restoration

1666 GREAT FIRE OF LONDON / ORIGINAL WEAVERS HALL BURNT DOWN

1669 NEW WEAVERS HALL COMPLETED

1669 THOMAS EARLY APPRENTICED TO WITNEY BLANKET WEAVERS

1670 FIRST WEAVERS’ ALMSHOUSE, SHOREDITCH

1685 EDICT OF NANTES REVOKED & INFLUX OF HUGUENOT WEAVING REFUGEES

1685 EXTENSION OF RIGHTS BY JAMES II

A Troubled Century

This civic pageantry was at its peak in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. But the seventeenth century was to prove a time of upheaval and of great financial strain for all Livery Companies, because of the hostility between King and Parliament which led to the Civil War and the Commonwealth period. The Restoration of Charles II in 1660 was welcomed with great joy and a magnificent parade in the City, with Liverymen lining the streets in their robes. Five years later the Great Plague struck, killing one third of London’s population. The areas where weavers lived and worked, Cripplegate, Whitechapel and Southwark, were particularly severely affected. Life was just beginning to return to normal in 1666 when on 2nd September in the early morning a fire started in a baker’s in Pudding Lane which in a few days destroyed most of the ancient city. On that day Weavers’ Hall was burnt down. The Company’s devoted Clerk, James Cole, with the help of the Beadle and the Porter managed to save the great chests containing the Company’s ancient charters, most of the records, plate and pictures, as well as two bags of gold which had been kept to repay debts.

There was, of course, no insurance—the great fire gave the impetus to the formation of the first fire insurance companies—but funds were raised for the rebuilding of the hall through subscriptions and donations. On Election Day, 25th July 1669, the Weavers’ Company dined in its new hall. It was a remarkable effort; only five other Companies had rebuilt their halls before 1670. City pageantry revived and in 1673, having previously hired a barge for the water procession on Lord Mayor’s Day, the Company commissioned its own barge in which it sailed to Westminster every year until 1733 when the barge had to be broken up.

Huguenots in Spitalfields

After Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, thousands of French Protestants (Huguenots) came to England. Many of them were skilled craftsmen: clock‑makers, jewellers, shipwrights, glassworkers and fine silk weavers. These last, able to produce gorgeous figured silks, gave a great impetus to the silk industry although such a huge influx was bound to upset the native weavers, many of whom complained of loss of employment and unfair competition. However, the immigrants settled down and established a French colony in Spitalfields. Many of them were admitted to the Weavers’ Company, but it was not until the 1730s that immigrants began to be admitted to the Livery and Huguenot names began to appear on the Company records—like Duthoit, Ouvry and Ogier.

The Great Fire of London
Top
The Weavers' Company Crest

Copyright © 2021 The Weavers' Company. All Rights Reserved.