Norwich’s Huguenot heritage will be celebrated at a special event at the city’s Guildhall on Saturday 13th June.
The event is organised by Norwich’s Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) in partnership with the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) to celebrate the ‘Huguenot Summer’, a series of commemorative events taking place across the country from May to September.
The Huguenots were French Protestants, many of whom settled in Britain after fleeing religious persecution in their native France during the 16th century. Those who were drawn to Norwich would go onto make important contributions to the local culture and economy. Some became wealthy entrepreneurs thanks to their famous skills in silk weaving and clock making, while others, such as the Martineau family, would go on to make waves in politics and letters.
The day features free, drop-in children’s activities, including a quiz and the chance to make your own Huguenot clock. Grown-ups can find out more about researching their family history with an exhibition from the NRO, and there will be a display of beautiful silk samples, on special loan. Local historian Frank Meeres will be presenting a talk on ‘The Huguenot Story’, and leading guided walks around the city to witness first-hand how the Huguenots’ legacy survives today.
Frank Meeres said: “Norwich has welcomed refugees over many centuries, including Huguenot individuals and families. The names of some of the latter, such as Martineau, Columbine and Boileau are well-known in Norfolk history, and they have made a great contribution to the cultural and economic life of their new homeland.”
Jo Archer, Project Lead for HEART, said: “HEART are delighted to be working with the NRO and Frank Meeres again on this joint event inspired by the Society of the Huguenots of Spitalfields, who are celebrating the Huguenot Summer.
“We have had terrific support from some fantastic volunteers in creating the family activities, and researching Huguenot-derived surnames. Come along to The Guildhall and find out whether you could have Huguenot ancestors. And make sure to book your place for the talk and walks with Frank Meeres – they’re filling up fast!”
The family activities and exhibition are open on a free, drop-in basis. Tickets for Frank Meeres’ talk and heritage walks cost £5 and booking is essential via Eventbrite.