Huguenot settlements in Ireland

Elizabeth encouraged such settlements in Ireland to a certain extent; but, while many Flemish settlements were established in England during her reign, almost the only one of a similar kind established in Ireland, of which we have any account, was that of Swords, near Dublin. Of that settlement, according to the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, V. p. 306, Sir Henry Sidney (in the Memoir of his Government in Ireland, written in 1590,) says:

“I caused to plant and inhabit about fourtie families of the Reformed Churches of the Low Countries, flying thence for religion’s sake, in one ruinous town called Swords; and truly, Sir, it would have done any man good to have seen how diligently they wrought, how they re-edified the quite spoiled ould castell of the same town, and repayred almost all the same, and how godlie and cleanly they, their wiefs, and children lived. They made diaper and ticks for beddes, and other good stuffs for man’s use; and as excellent leather of deer skynnes, goat and sheep fells, as is made in Southwarke.”

It was not, however, until the early part of the reign of James I., that any considerable progress was made in the settlement of foreign artizans and merchants in Ireland: In 1605, John Vertroven and John Van Dale, of Brabant, Gabriel Behaes and Matthew Derenzie, of Antwerp; in 1607, William Baell, of Antwerp; in 1608, James Marcus, of Amsterdam, and Derrick Varveer, of Dort; and, in 1613, Wybrant Olferston and John Olferston, of Holland, obtained grants of Naturalization, and settled in Ireland, most at Dublin and Waterford, where they carried on business as merchants. It is supposed that the Vanhomrigh and Vandeleur families entered Ireland about the same period. The strangers made good their footing, and eventually established themselves as landed proprietors in the country.

The Earl of Strafford, as chief deputy of Ireland, in the reign of Charles I., applied himself with much zeal to the establishment in that kingdom of the linen manufacture; sent to Holland for flax-seed; and invited Flemish and French artizans to settle in Ireland. And, in order to stimulate the new industry, the earl himself embarked in it, and expended not less than £30,000 of his private fortune in the enterprise. It was afterwards, says Foster (in his Lives of Eminent British Statesmen, II. 385), made one of the grounds of Strafford’s impeachment, that “he had obstructed the industry of the country by introducing new and unknown processes into the manufacture of flax.”

The Duke of Ormond followed the example of Strafford in endeavouring to induce foreigners to settle in Ireland; only two years after the Restoration the Duke of Ormond had a Bill carried through the Irish Parliament, entitled “An Act for encouraging Protestant strangers and others to inhabit Ireland,” and it duly received the Royal assent. The Duke actively encouraged the settlement of the foreigners. He established some four hundred Flemish artizans at Chapel Izod, near Dublin; in Kilkenny, under Colonel Richard Lawrence; there built houses for the weavers, supplying them with looms and raw material; and a considerable trade in cordage, sail-cloth, and linen shortly grew up in that neighbourhood. The Duke also settled Walloon colonies at Clonmel, Kilkenny, and Carrick-on-Suir, where they established, and for some time successfully carried on the making of woollen cloths and other branches of manufacture.

But the earlier immigrations of foreign artizans into England were surpassed by those occasioned by the religious persecutions which prevailed in Flanders and France for a considerable period after the Reformation. Two great migrations of foreigners then took place from the Continent to England: the first of which was in the latter half of the 16th century, and consisted partly of French, but principally of Flemish Protestants; and the second, towards the end of the 17th century, consisted almost entirely of French Huguenots.

According to Agnew, “There was a reluctance on the part of England to pass a general Act of Parliament for the Naturalization of Protestant strangers. Charles II. undertook to suggest the step to Parliament in 1681, but legislators were deaf to the hint for a quarter of a century …

And so Naturalization had to be doled out to individuals by Letters-Patent from the King, and by private Acts of Parliament.” After the Order in Council in 1681, the first grant of Naturalization is in favour of “Peter de Laine, Esq., French Tutor to our dearest brother James, Duke of York (afterwards King James II.) his children, etc.;” and is dated from Whitehall, 14th October, 33 Car. II. (1681).

The Refugees were pursuing their respective trades when the English Revolution of 1688 occurred; and again Ireland was thrown into a state of civil war, which continued for three years, but was concluded by the Treaty of Limerick in 1691.

No sooner was the war at an end than William III. took steps to restore the prostrate industry of the country. The Irish Parliament revived their Bill of 1674 (which the Parliament of James II. had suspended), granting Naturalization to such Protestant refugees as should settle in Ireland, and guaranteeing them the free exercise of their religion.

When William ascended the Throne the following Declaration was issued (and was printed at London by “Charles Bill and Thomas Newcomb, Printers to the King and Queen’s Most Excellent Majesties, 1689”):—

“At the Court at Whitehall, 25th April, 1689. Present:

The King’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council. H. R. H. Prince George of Denmark.

Lord President.

Lord Privy Seal.

Duke of Norfolk.

Duke of Shomberg.

Duke of Bolton.

Lord Steward.

Lord Chamberlain.

Earl of Oxford.

Earl of Shrewsbury.

Earl of Bedford.

Earl of Bathe.

Earl of Macclesfeld.

Earl of Nottingham.

Earl of Portland.

Earl of Fauconberg.

Earl of Monmouth.

Earl of Montagu.

Earl of Marlborough.

Viscount Newport.

Viscount Lumley.

Viscount Sydney.

Mr. Comptroller.

Sir Henry Capell.

Mr. Vice Chamberlain.

Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Hampden.

Mr. Boscawen.

Mr. Harbord.

“By the King and Queen.[4] A Declaration for the encouraging of French Protestants to transport themselves into this Kingdom.

“Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to deliver our Realm of England and the subjects thereof from the persecution lately threatening them for their religion, and from the oppression and destruction which the subversion of their laws and the arbitrary exercise of power and dominion over them had very near introduced: We, finding in our subjects a true and just sense hereof and of the miseries and oppression the French Protestants lie under,—for their relief and to encourage them that shall be willing to transport themselves, their families, and estates into this our Kingdom, We do hereby Declare, That all French Protestants that shall seek their refuge in, and transport themselves into, this our Kingdom, shall not only have our Royal protection for themselves, families, and estates within this our Realm, but We will also do our endeavour in all reasonable ways and means so to support, aid, and assist them in their several and respective trades and ways of livelihood so that their living and being in this Realm may be comfortable and easy to them.”

King William the Third’s admiration for, and employment of, the French Refugees explain to a great extent the meaning of Defoe’s allusions in the following lines from True-born Englishman:

“We blame the King that he relies too much

On strangers, Germans, Huguenots and Dutch;

And seldom does his great affairs of State

To English councillors communicate.

The fact might very well be answered thus:

He has so often been betray'd by us,

He must have been a madman to rely

On English gentlemen’s fidelity.

For (laying other arguments aside),

This thought might mortify our English pride,

That foreigners have faithfully obey’d him,

And none but Englishmen have e’er betray’d him.”

A large number of William’s foreign officers at once availed themselves of his Declaration, and of the privilege of being permitted the free exercise of their religion; and settled themselves at Youghal, Waterford, Portarlington, and Kilkenny; whilst colonies of foreign manufacturers at the same time planted themselves at Dublin, Cork, Lisburn, and other places. The refugees who settled at Dublin established themselves for the most part in “The Liberties,” where they began the manufacture of tabinet, since more generally known as “Irish Poplin.”[5] The demand for the article became such that a number of French masters and workmen left Spitalfields, and migrated to Dublin, where they largely extended the manufacture. The Combe, Pimlico, Spitalfields, and other streets in Dublin, named after corresponding streets in London, were built for their accommodation; and “Weavers Square” became a principal quarter in the city.


[4] King and Queen: It may be here stated that the first year of William and Mary began on the 13th of February, 1689, and ended on the 12th February, 1690 (New Style).

[5] Irish Poplin: According to Dr. W. Cooke Taylor, in the Statistical Journal for December 1843, p. 354, there are no certain records for fixing the precise date when silk-weaving was commenced in Dublin; but it is generally believed that an ancestor of the present family of Latouche commenced the weaving of tabinets or poplins, and tabbareas, in the Liberties of Dublin, about 1693. The La Touches were a noble family of the Blesois, between Blois and Orleans, where they possessed considerable estates. David La Touche fled to Amsterdam where his uncle obtained for him a commission in Caillemotte’s Dragoons, with which he afterwards served in the Irish campaigns, and fought bravely at the Battle of the Boyne. At the close of the war the regiment was disbanded in Dublin, where many of the officers settled, amongst others Digues de la Touche, who, joined with another Huguenot, established, a silk, poplin, and cambric manufactory, for the sale of which a shop was opened in High street, where the said Digues de la Touche more lately established “La Touche’s Bank.” At his death his eldest son David succeeded to the Bank, and his younger son James to the poplin trade, both of which prospered. Both brothers founded families, from which have descended the Latouches of Bellevue, Marlay, Harristown, and Sans-Souci.

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