Peter Guillery: The Forgotten Weavers' Housing of the Spitalfields Silk District

Together with the Huguenots of Spitalfields, SPAB London is hosting this fascinating talk by Peter Guillery.

Peter Guillery is a senior historian and editor at the Survey of London, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is currently leading a project to document the history of Whitechapel's buildings for an interactive website (see and the 54th volume in the Survey of London series. His publications include a guidebook to St George's German Lutheran Church, The Small House in Eighteenth-Century London, Built from Below: British architecture and the vernacular and Mobilising Housing Histories: learning from London's past.

The houses of Georgian Spitalfields might seem well known. However, alongside the silk-merchants' houses that currently line the streets, there were also tenements and cottages for the weavers of Spitalfields' vital silk industry. Few of these humble dwellings survive. In this talk, Peter Guillery reconstructs the character of this forgotten Georgian Spitalfields, examining remaining fragments alongside archival evidence.

The St George's German Lutheran Church is owned and managed by the Historic Chapels Trust. St George's is the oldest surviving German Church in the British Isles, opened in 1762.

Today only the church and its former school adjacent are left to remind us of this huge refugee population in an area once called 'Little Germany'. The history of this part of London is one of successive waves of immigration: Huguenots, German speakers, Jews, Bangladeshis. Today the German episode in this story is far less known even though Aldgate and Whitechapel was home to the largest German speaking population outside the German lands for over a century.

The Church will open at 6pm for the talk to begin at 6.30pm.

 To book Peter Guillery's talk please follow this link

Journeymen 2


Huguenots walking tours in Spitalfields take place on the first Tuesday of each month from May to October. We meet guide John Halligan at Christ Church, Spitalfields at 2pm. This Huguenots of Spitalfields walking tour takes place on Tuesday 3rd October.

Donation £10 per head goes towards the Huguenots of Spitalfields educational fund. You can turn up on the day but to guarantee a place, please buy your tickets in advance.

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Many of the Huguenots (French Protestants) who left France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 were weavers - over the years 25,000 settled in Spitalfields. They brought their skills (known as “the Mysteries of the Strangers”), new techniques, new ideas and the incomparable French style. The master weavers lived in large, elegant houses whilst the journeymen weavers lived in small houses north of Spitalfields and Bethnal Green. You will hear about the silk industry, famous pattern designers, fashions, the weaving process and much more. Notably we will pass Anna Maria Garthwaite’s house and the hear the compelling story of this remarkable woman who died over 250 years ago.

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The Huguenots of Canterbury
Monday 23rd October at 2pm

Join us for a 90 minute walk to hear about past residents of Canterbury, religious refugees who helped transform the textile industry.
The first arrivals were Walloons and Flemings who fled Catholic persecution in the Low Countries and came to Canterbury via Sandwich. By the end of the sixteenth century these French-speaking ‘Strangers’ constituted around a quarter of the city’s population. A century later a second influx of refugees, Huguenots from France, joined the existing community. Many of the Strangers were weavers who introduced ‘new draperies’ to England and subsequently made Canterbury an important silk-weaving centre.

At first they worshipped in St Aphege Church but as numbers grew they were invited to use the Cathedral crypt. A French church service has been held there every Sunday since 1576.

This walk is part of a campaign to highlight the contribution that these industrious, talented and courageous refugees gave to this country

Meet at 2pm on Monday 23rd October at Buttermarket (outside Canterbury Cathedral).

Donation £10 for the primary school educational fund. To book please click on this link


weavers house




Meet outside Shoreditch High Street overground station at 2pm on Saturday 7th October.  Walk round the area to see and hear about the lives of these hardworking weavers. You will need to bring your imagination with you as some of the houses are in a poor state of dilapidation – but they tell a story of Huguenot weavers whose contribution is not often recognised. Donation £10.  

You can turn up on the day but to guarantee a place, please buy your tickets in advance by following this link

For more information about this walk please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.