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Our Lord’s words on persecution in Matthew 10 were at the forefront of my mind at the weekend.

On October 2, 2015, an article appeared in the Daily Mail about the Hussain family from Bradford who converted to Christianity from Islam 15 years ago.

Since 2003, the persecution — broken windscreens and harassment — from Muslim neighbours has not stopped. The police largely refuse to intervene. To date, only one investigated incident has resulted in a successful prosecution. The Mail states:

Mr Hussain said he feels so let down by police he has lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

He also criticised the Anglican Church for failing to provide any meaningful support.

In fact (emphases mine):

Mr Hussain had worked as a hospital nurse but was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work. He owns several properties and now lives off rental income.

Although their faith remains strong, Mr and Mrs Hussain no longer attend church. ‘We have given up on the Church of England, they have done nothing for us,’ said Mr Hussain.

A meeting, arranged by a friend, with a local imam – who ‘listened and promised to help’ – also led to nothing, said Mr Hussain.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation. All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.’

Poor reaction

The younger Hussain children attended a local Church of England primary school. Most of the students are Muslim. The Hussains arranged a car sharing arrangement with Muslim neighbours whose children attended the school. When the neighbours found out the Hussains were Christian, the ride-sharing stopped. This escalated as word circulated among the other students at school. The Hussains’ youngest daughter was bullied:

Leena, now 14, was told by her friends ‘our parents say we mustn’t mix with you because you are a convert.’ Mr Hussain said: ‘She was heartbroken and made to feel like a second class citizen.’

England’s foremost Anglican blogger, who writes under the pseudonym of Archbishop Cranmer, finds the school episode:

frankly, quite literally incredible. Teachers and headteachers bend over backwards to ensure that Every Child Matters: when it comes to children’s well-being, Church of England schools have rigorous anti-bullying policies, in accordance with statutory requirements on child protection and safeguarding. And they implement them.

I’m not so sure about it being ‘frankly, quite literally incredible’ under the circumstances. It is quite possible that teachers would not want to intervene in an interfaith conflict, especially if any disciplinary action brought out angry older brothers, fathers and uncles en masse. Has Cranmer thought this through?

He added:

Bradford’s churches and schools are now under new management: the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. The new Bishop of Bradford is the Rt Rev’d Dr Toby Howarth, and his boss is the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev’d Nick Baines, who had been Bishop of Bradford for the preceding three years.

He concluded:

If it be the case (and it may well be) that no ministry team in Bradford has provided “any meaningful support” to the Hussain family, might we have a few more details? If it be true (and it may well be) that the Church of England has “done nothing for us”, could we please know a few specifics and particulars, so that Bishop Toby and Bishop Nick might learn from the Church’s past errors, shortcomings and pastoral deficiencies? Instead of just trashing the entire institution (though it may well deserve it) in the Daily Mail, might someone who knows something please get in touch and explain why a brave family of Bradford ex-Muslims has been so terrorised and persecuted by gangs of devout Bradford Muslims that they had no choice but to depart the Church of England?

Why didn’t Cranmer look for more information himself? A simple search would have uncovered InfidelsAreUs, the website of Anniesa Hussain, age 21. Anniesa has documented everything.

Anniesa’s story

Before exploring Anniesa’s story, it is worth mentioning that Mr Hussain was one of the converts featured in a 2008 Dispatches documentary on Channel 4. I saw the programme and was deeply concerned for the safety of all the ex-Muslim families involved. They were incredibly bold to appear on television. Although most of the filming was done discreetly, someone who wanted to harm these people could probably identify them. And so it was in the case of the Hussain family.

However, their persecution did not start then.

Anniesa tells us that it started in 2000. (Incidentally, the family converted to Christianity through a mostly Jamaican Pentecostal church.)

From the time I was 6 years of age, my siblings and I endured daily verbal abuse, physical altercations, car and house window smashing. School playground hostility and school-mate deprivation. Death threats. Mob rule. Initial prevention of riding our bicycles in the neighbour common ground to then prevention of us playing on the street directly outside our property. I watched my father’s effort in erecting a 6ft fence in his backyard to protect his children become effectively decimated. I can’t ever imagine his pain, his helplessness when his fence still never stopped the glass bottles and bricks being hurled at his children as they played in their own back garden.

After the Dispatches programme aired, the Hussains’ neighbours accused Mr Hussain of making hateful statements about Islam, which he never did. Family A spread the rumours. As for school:

Life at school for my youngest sister became increasingly unbearable. She’d come home in tears, weeping that her Pakistani classmates had turned on her and weren’t allowed to associate themselves with a Christian – something I knew all too well. Dad could never comprehend the hostility in he found himself in the school playground as he collected my sister, nor why he would receive glares and jostles as he walked by certain parents. Until one day when he was approached by one parent to say ‘you haven’t said anything offensive about Islam! I’ve researched you on Youtube’. Seeing Dad’s baffled expression he explained that one of the brothers of family A had many of the school parents convinced that Dad was anti-Islamic and was preaching hatred on Youtube. However, upon his own research and refusal to rely on this ‘information’ of Dad, this parent – Muslim himself- proved to be a loyal supporter, berating any school parent who treated Dad with contempt. The school situation deteriorated to the point where the brother of Family A stormed up to Dad provocatively, threatening to kill him in order to goad him into a fight. That incident marked official police involvement in our lives yet again. Numerous meetings have been set up with school leaders, police officers and religious leading figures in the community, to achieve the most politically correct of outcomes: nothing.

Anniesa’s posts are well worth reading in full for the rest of the family’s story. She writes beautifully. I hope she becomes a journalist.

More on the family’s trials

Cranmer might also want to look at the articles about the Hussain family on the Barnabas Fund site.

After Britain’s May 2015 elections, Mr Hussain wrote to his MP. The Barnabas Fund includes the full text of the letter. Part of their preface to it reads as follows:

Nissar Hussain, a British man who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996, has written a letter to his local MP recounting some of the long catalogue of violence, abuse and other attacks that he has suffered at the hands of some Muslims in the area of Bradford where he lives. Recently Nissar and his wife, Kubra, who have six children, have each had false allegations against them brought to the police for separate “offences” resulting in each of them being held at the police station for hours. Their car has been maliciously damaged four times, making it almost impossible for the family to meet the repair and insurance costs. Yet despite appealing to local authorities and organisations for support, Mr Hussain has struggled to find support and help.

In August 2015, the Barnabas Fund reported:

a mob of around 40 Muslim young men of Pakistani descent gathered outside his home in Bradford on 18 August in a patent display of intimidation.

In response to the Daily Mail article from October, the Fund issued this statement:

Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says, “Barnabas Fund has supported Nissar Hussain throughout the violence and persecution he faced after his conversion to faith in Christ. We work with converts and with Muslim and Christian leaders to bring about a day when no one will be penalised and persecuted for accepting the claims of Jesus.”

Premier Christian Radio interviewed Mr Hussain after the Mail article appeared. They contacted the police and local clergy for a response:

West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation.

“All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth (in the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales), said: “I am aware of considerable attention and support which has been offered and indeed provided to Mr Hussain by his local Anglican vicar, supported by myself and my predecessor.

“Mr Hussain’s vicar has met with him on many occasions and has worked with the local police, the local council and other bodies including representatives of the local Muslim communities  in trying to resolve this difficult matter.

“I fully support the ongoing work of  the Multi Agency Hate Crime Conference, of which the local vicar is a member, which continues to try to bring a resolution to this situation.”

It would appear that Mr Hussain is not wrong. Indeed, what he has said about lack of real help appears to be accurate.

In 2014, Christian Concern reported that he was planning on starting a series of safe houses in the UK for ex-Muslim converts:

It is hoped that the network, provisionally named “Converts to Jesus”, will launch in the Autumn and be chaired by Nissar Hussain, a convert from Islam, who lives in Bradford. 

Nissar, his wife and children, have all suffered as a result of following Jesus. He has been shunned by his family and labelled a “Christian Jew dog” while his wife has been sworn at and spat upon and his children have been ostracised by school friends.

In a related story from 2014, Rob James for Christian Today said that Jesus is weeping for His Church:

Hussain talked about how he was also upset by the reception he got from Christians. “We are broken people” he said, “I have given up on the Anglican church and independent churches. We are in a no man’s land; we are completely and utterly isolated”.

Is this the kind of Church Jesus envisaged when he said “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”?

We need to remember that Jesus views this sort of love as a key to mission too for just before he died he prayed “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”.

Jesus will build His church, of course. And He will take care of Nissar Hussain and his family. But I do wonder how He feels when he sees a Muslim convert admit that his experience of church has left him feeling “broken” and “utterly isolated”.

Too right! However, how to accomplish this is not easy in a school context when most of the pupils are Muslim. Rightly or wrongly, teachers may well fear reprisals.


The more I read about the Hussains’ plight, the more I pray for them.

However, it is difficult to understand why they have not moved to a safe majority-Christian area after all these years. That is the story which interests me.

Matthew 10:23 says:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Let us pray that the Hussains find a new home in a new community soon. If I see an update, I’ll be sure to report on it.

Friday’s post featured a French paediatrician and nutritionist who said that children should not be forced to eat breakfast.

If you, like me, do not eat or like breakfast, read on!

In August 2014, The New York Times looked at two studies on breakfast’s effect on the body. More research needs to be done, but these showed that skipping breakfast has little to no adverse effect.

The smaller study of 33 participants took place in England at the University of Bath under the leadership of Dr James A Betts. The Bath Breakfast Project examined resting metabolism, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. The NYT article tells us (emphases mine):

After six weeks, their body weights, resting metabolic rates, cholesterol and most measures of blood sugar were about the same as they had been at the start, whether people ate breakfast or not. The one difference was that the breakfast eaters seemed to move around more during the morning


Contrary to popular belief, skipping breakfast had not driven volunteers to wolf down enormous lunches and dinners …

Dr Emily Dhurandhar led the larger study of 300 volunteers done at the the University of Alabama at Birmingham in which other institutions also participated. Those who normally skipped breakfast were told to eat a morning meal and those who normally ate one were told to stop for the duration of the study. The objective was to see if any participants lost weight as a result:

Sixteen weeks later, the volunteers returned to the lab to be weighed. No one had lost much, only a pound or so per person, with weight in all groups unaffected by whether someone ate breakfast or skipped it.

Dhurandar concluded:

breakfast may be just another meal.

She added:

I guess I won’t nag my husband to eat breakfast any more.

Betts, on the other hand, is not much of a breakfast eater:

I almost never have breakfast,” Dr. Betts said. “That was part of my motivation for conducting this research, as everybody was always telling me off and saying I should know better.” Based on the results of these studies, he said his habits won’t change.

The comments following the article were helpful. One mother said that she lets her children eat as much or as little as they want for breakfast. One child has a glass of orange juice, another a bowl of cereal and toast. She says that, regardless of whether or what they eat in the morning, they are all of normal weight and healthy.

Some readers had bad experiences with breakfast as children and were sick to their stomachs. One man said his father stopped forcing breakfast on him after a particularly bad episode of post-brekkie illness one morning.

In closing, not everyone, including children, is a breakfast eater. The best solution for youngsters, as the French paediatrician said, is to make sure they have a small snack to eat late in the morning when necessary.

More on breakfast and intermittent fasting tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post provided an overview of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) immigration to Europe.

Just as importantly, it includes an explanation of the truth behind the death of Aylan Kurdi, whose picture you will have seen within the past several days.

Today’s post looks at the Calais crisis, which is nearly 20 years old.

The Channel Tunnel opened to passenger traffic on November 14, 1994.

We travelled business class on Eurostar the following summer. My better half, our friends and I will remember it as one of our great train journeys as well as three lovely three in Paris.

That said, the tunnel was always a contentious project from the time it was first conceived in 1802. The threat of a Napoleonic invasion understandably caused the British to reject the plan because of national security issues.

Flash forward nearly two hundred years later. Only a few years after the Channel Tunnel opened, illegal immigrants and some asylum seekers began camping in Sangatte with the objective of entering the UK via the train, either freight or Eurostar.


The name Sangatte has its origins in Dutch and means ‘gap in the sand’ (Zandgat). However, with the increasing numbers of migrants, it became known popularly as ‘sans gate’, ‘without gate’.

By 1997, the informal yet growing migrant colony in Sangatte attracted international news attention. Two years later, the Red Cross opened a refugee centre in a disused warehouse to provide aid and establish some sense of order.

In 2001, migrants were mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran with others coming from African and Eastern European countries. By 2002, the centre accommodated 1,500 people at any one time, their goal being to get to the UK. Several riots took place during that two-year period. The result was that migrants began storming the fences to the tunnel. Others were able to procure legitimate Eurostar tickets although they had no legal identity papers.

Wikipedia explains (emphases mine):

Most illegal immigrants and would-be asylum seekers who got into Britain found some way to ride a freight train, but others used Eurostar. They would usually get on board trucks, which would then get onto the freight trains. In a few instances, groups of men claiming to be refugees were able to sneak into a tanker truck carrying liquid chocolate and managed to survive, though they did not enter the UK in one attempt.[134] Although the facilities were fenced, airtight security was deemed impossible; refugees would even jump from bridges onto moving trains. In several incidents people were injured during the crossing; others tampered with railway equipment, causing delays and requiring repairs.[135] Eurotunnel said it was losing £5m per month because of the problem.[136] A dozen refugees/illegal immigrants have died in crossing attempts.[132]

Eurotunnel sought an injunction twice against Sangatte. Local UK and French authorities did the same. Thus started the blame game between Britain and France:

The United Kingdom blamed France for allowing Sangatte to open, and France blamed the UK for its lax asylum rules and the EU for not having a uniform immigration policy.[136]

The European Commission stepped in and determined that, because of poor security, France was hindering the free transfer of goods. At that time 250 people a day were attempting to stowaway to Britain. A £5 million double fence was erected, which brought down the number of stowaways to zero.

However, Sangatte was too troublesome and costly to maintain long term. It frequently made newscasts and newspaper reports. At the end of 2002, France agreed to close the centre. In return, the UK took an agreed-upon number of refugees. Jacques Chirac was President and Nicolas Sarkozy Interior Minister at that time. Tony Blair was Prime Minister.

Calais jungles

As soon as Sangatte closed, the first of what are termed the ‘jungles’ opened near the Port of Calais. Jungles open and close; they have no fixed location. The original was at a former landfill site. By 2015, it was one of nine Calais jungles.

French authorities have bulldozed some of them over the years, but the migrants find new sites. Living conditions are poor and life is tough. Some manage to locate abandoned warehouses where they set up squats, leaving tents behind.

Between 200 and 800 people live in each jungle. Most inhabitants are young men. Although the migrants still come from Afghanistan and Iraq, today, more have their origins in Syria, Darfur, Eritrea, Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

A British television documentary said that the migrants are segregated for living purposes by nationality. However, that does not prevent fights, sometimes violent, between different national or cultural groups. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. Mosques predominate as houses of worship, although this year a church is being erected.

Pity the lorry drivers and business owners

Calais jungle residents are hardly quiet and patient, although they are, in effect, supplicants. They will stop at nothing to get across the English Channel.

In addition to the Channel Tunnel crossings, many also break into lorries headed for the UK.

UK lorry drivers can be fined £2,000 per stowaway found in their vehicles. This makes small hauliers extremely vulnerable. Each driver must check his truck to ensure no one is in the trailer.

This summer, shipments of fresh produce and urgent medicines had to be rejected because of human contamination such as urine and faeces.

Going back further, a 2009 article in The Mail on Sunday reported:

at a truckers’ cafe the owner is at his wits’ end. He has had knives pulled on him so many times by the clandestins, as they are known in these parts, that he is ready to throw in the towel altogether.

Other businessmen have already done so. The caravan showroom is now boarded up, while a yard once piled high with second-hand pallets lies empty – stripped bare by the migrants.

The problems along this nondescript street are down to geography. It backs on to an area of open land where the people of Calais used to take the air, to walk their dogs, to picnic in the summer.

Not any more. Today it is a no-go zone known simply as The Jungle – a sprawling shanty town that grows by the day and which has become the latest focus in this sorry and seemingly unending saga.

Two months after that report, The Telegraph described the confused and tense situation in Calais. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) advised all migrants intending to go to Britain to have their claims applications sorted out in advance, otherwise they would return to France and risk deportation. Even then, migrants were paying smugglers £1,000 for a safe passage. The UNHCR was and is working with the French agency Terre d’Asile, which is helping migrants in the jungle. Meanwhile, Calais’s mayor — from then to the present day — Natacha Bouchart blamed, as she does now, the UK for lax immigration policies:

She said the UK government’s policies were “imposing” migrants on the town, costing the local economy millions.

Mrs Bouchart even suggested that border controls should be torn down altogether, allowing migrants to get to the UK as quickly as possible.

In September 2009, it seemed to most people that the problem had ended when French police demolished the jungle — after Ramadan had ended, of course. But, no, others existed.

In March 2010, the Anglo-French co-ordination centre was created. This cost UK taxpayers £15 million and was designed to be a high-tech means of surveillance and information sharing between the two countries. The then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to repatriate more illegal immigrants in return for British financing of the project. However, the British had their doubts even then. Whereas the UK had sent 23 chartered flights returning illegal immigrants to Afghanistan, France had sent only three.

Latest documentaries

I watched two documentaries on the Calais crisis recently. One was on Channel 4 and the other on ITV.

The ITV programme, part of the Tonight series shown on Fridays, was sympathetic to the migrants. That said, the presenter also interviewed lorry drivers who talked about contaminated goods, especially produce from France and Spain. One owner said he was not sure how much longer he could stay in business. There were times this year when he lost between £10,000 and £20,000 a shipment because of what the stowaways left behind.

A lorry driver said he was on the edge of his nerves between checking his lorry and crossing the Port of Calais. He fears being ganged up on by a group of illegal immigrants with knives or other weapons. He asked, ‘What can I do then?’

The presenter followed some of the migrants, at least one of whom managed to reach the UK. This twenty-something man was from Afghanistan. His brother, working in London, paid to have him smuggled to the capital. The brother wired the money to the smuggler. The new arrival was in the process of having his asylum claim processed. This begged the question why the brother did not apply through legal channels for his brother’s asylum.

Another man ended up in Germany and was shown drinking beer, very pleased with himself.

In the Channel 4 documentary, Breaking into Britain: the Lorry Jumpers, a sympathetic presenter filmed the jungle for a year, befriending and following some of its inhabitants. A DigitalSpy television forum recaps the main parts of the show rather aptly. Given that many of DigitalSpy‘s participants are left-of-centre, it was surprising to read their responses to the programme. Many had little sympathy for the stowaways’ plight and were unnerved that they could obtain housing and benefits within days of their arrival.

The programme was shocking to see. On a logical level, yes, I’d read reports for months. On the other, to see how generous the British system is and how soon it kicks in was an eye-opener.

Everyone interviewed wanted to come to the UK for housing and money: free stuff. Sure, they all wanted to notionally work and study. One wonders how true that is in all cases.

The presenter interviewed migrants about what they hoped to do in the UK. One said he wanted to be an accountant. Another replied, ‘Heh. That’s a good one’, as if to say such an answer would get him anywhere.

Another young man was staying with friends in a disused warehouse near the Calais jungle. He was so hostile towards the French that he said, ‘If the police come here, they will die.’ Ominous, to say the least.

The presenter smuggled himself into the back of a British lorry with two other illegal immigrants. Fortunately, the lorry driver made a thorough inspection before setting off and discovered all three men, ordering them out immediately, ‘including you, press man’.

Then there was the curious case of Fatima from Sudan. She could not speak a word of English. She was tough — fearless, actually — and often tried storming the fences on her own at night. In the end, she met up with two other migrants. Within days, she was in the UK. She now lives in Liverpool and has a taxpayer-funded flat and allowance. She still cannot speak a word of English. Now that she is here, she says it was wrong of her to enter illegally, but one can notionally repent once one has achieved one’s goal. The rough-tough girl posed in a comely fashion on her balcony talking to the interviewer via an interpreter.

A notional Christian ended up in Glasgow, also being funded by the taxpayer. He waved his Bible around and, when asked about his questionable entry method, got tetchy with the interviewer and told him, ‘Jesus said not to judge others until you know yourself!’ Well, that’s us told, then.

These stories left me thinking that a number of these people must have police records, convictions and/or prison terms behind them which causes them to enter illegally rather than through proper channels. If that is the case, which it must be for some, we must all be on our guard.

On Wednesday, September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving British monarch.

The Telegraph reports:

The Queen will surpass Queen Victoria’s record reign of 63 years seven months and two days at around 5.30pm on Wednesday. She will spend the morning opening a new railway line in the Borders before returning to Balmoral.

She will spend the evening with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, but the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be carrying out engagements elsewhere after the Queen insisted the day should be “business as usual”.

The Telegraph article has a number of fascinating photographs, never before seen.

In 1991, the BBC made a documentary of the Queen called Elizabeth R. A BBC book accompanied the series.

David Secombe, 53 — son of the late comedian and practising Christian, Sir Harry Secombe — was the BBC photographer assigned to take pictures of the monarch as she went about her daily work. He took many stills over the course of eight months.

Secombe explained that his camera had to be silent the whole time. It was put in what he calls a blimp, which looked like a ‘large biscuit tin’. He also had to be unobtrusive. He told The Telegraph that he felt like David Attenborough observing wildlife. Few words were exchanged between Secombe and the Queen.

Oddly, this prestigious assignment did not catapult Secombe into a star photographer, as beautiful and captivating as his stills are. In 1992, he says, he had hardly any work. However, the Queen remembered him:

It did, though, mean I got to do a couple of official portraits of the Queen in subsequent years, one of the Queen and Prince Charles in the 1990s and one for the Golden Jubilee in 2002.

Do take a few moments to look at Secombe’s Royal photographs, which were not included in the Elizabeth R book. They show a completely different side to the Queen, normally seen publicly only at official engagements or in portraits.

Long may she reign over us!

Meanwhile, photographers interested in seeing more of David Secombe’s atmospheric work can visit his site The London Column.

My mouth watered as I read My French Heaven‘s post on how to navigate local markets!

Stéphane Gabart, the author, grew up in Bordeaux surrounded by some of the best food — and wine — in the world. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all wine merchants. Gabart chose food, studied under Paul Bocuse in Lyon and later worked for the Ritz-Carlton group in the United States for several years. In 2005, he returned to Bordeaux and opened the rather grand family home to the public as a bed and breakfast.

He takes his own very professional and highly atmospheric photos. They and the accompanying prose are the next best thing to getting a personal tour of local markets, villages and landmarks in that part of France.

As for markets, Gabart advises buying from people who actually farm the land. Vegetables and eggs should have a bit of dirt on them!

When in doubt, ask older customers for advice on the best stalls, fair prices and traditional recipes.

As for those who run the stalls:

“Authentic” vendors, the ones who actually have a farm and/or actually produce, raise or catch what they sell, are really passionate about their products and are always very eager and excited to talk about them. Passion, advice and service that can never be found under the neon lights of a supermarket.

The products are grown/produced/raised/caught locally (I am still referring to the “authentic crowd”). They are also in season, fresh and mostly organic.

Check provenance to make sure you’re buying local French products, though. A few stall holders and their products are from abroad. (I noticed this in Cannes, by the way.)

As Stéphane Gabart says:

A real Farmers’ Market is timeless. What I mean in that if you are in France or Italy, it makes you feel like you could very well be back in 1955. Like Brigitte Bardot or Claudia Cardinale could pass you by on a Vespa and you wouldn’t be surprised. It’s good to be in a place were you can forget about your Iphone for a second or two…

How true!

Here in England, we are fortunate to have the occasional French market. Granted, this is not as good as being there, but it is a reasonable substitute, especially for cheese, sausage, ham, olives, garlic and bread.

French Markets has a description of what one can expect and where upcoming markets will be in England.

My better half and I went to a French market several months ago and were delighted with the assortment of proper artisinal products on display — all at reasonable prices. The various cheeses, many with beneficial raw milk, and Lautrec garlic were heavenly!

Several years ago, we went to another French market with stalls from Brunomart, which has been trading in the UK for nearly ten years. Brunomart has an excellent selection of food. The sellers are friendly and helpful. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

What surprised me at both was how much children enjoyed the samples of food they were given. One boy at the extensive cheese counter wanted his dad to buy one of everything!

This Brunomart video shows the French market novice what he can expect. If you have such a market coming to your town, by all means, go, go, go!

One interesting aspect about people watching is observing how Christians present themselves to others.

Several of the churchgoers in my area look permanently miserable, angry even. They are eager to talk about their problems and illnesses. Their conversations revolve around them. Rarely have I heard from them a friendly hello or a sincere ‘How are you?’ Smiles are nowhere to be seen.

They do not seem to have purpose.

They seem devoid of hope.

One wonders about their faith.

If I were not a believer, they would not be the ones bringing me to Christ Jesus, that’s for sure.

‘Church is a hospital for the sick,’ they say.

Yes, the spiritually sick, so they can be saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Churches and related committees — meant to serve the congregation — should not overly indulge or encourage personal psychodrama and moaning.* If they do, something is wrong somewhere.

Navel gazing denies the lordship of Christ. It prevents loving one’s neighbour. It’s spiritual darkness.

If such ‘Christians’ think they are evangelising, they’re giving a poor example to everyone they encounter.

A number of these people have spouses and children who shy away from attending church. I’m not surprised, based on what they experience at home. It’s no wonder secularists are winning the battle for hearts and minds.

Self-absorbed pewsitters would do well to pray honestly for our Lord to show them purpose with regard to others, starting with their own families. Along with that should be a private study of the Bible with the aid of a sound commentary. Too many programmes, like Alpha, encourage a non-judgemental ‘Scripture is what I think it says’ outlook, which can often hinder faith.

Navel gazers should focus on divine grace which would allow them to progressively leave their self-preoccupation behind and become a more responsible spouse, parent and church member. Those in my area should also give thanks for their God-given blessings: a comfortable house, good neighbourhood, patient family members and much more. Millions in Britain would love to be in their shoes.

It’s hard to know whether such self-obsession results from a lack of faith, a surfeit of pride or both. Whatever it is, it isn’t good or helpful for these people — or others.

The best ambassador for Christ I can think of lives in our street. She is an elderly lady who suffers from a debilitating illness. Sometimes she needs a zimmerframe (‘walker’, for my American readers). Often, a friend has to accompany her to church. However, she stops to talk to her neighbours and actually converses with them. She’s perpetually cheerful. I’ve never heard her discuss her ailment, even though she’s probably in chronic pain. She shows interest in other people and things. She and I had a lengthy conversation about the ornamentals in our front garden one day.

She is a delightful woman and a good Christian.

Would that more emulated her fine example.


*  I have seen it first hand, and it’s put me off serving on church committees for good.

slipperyMany thanks to loyal reader Llew, who sent in the link to the Spiked article cited below!

The UK Parliament will be debating assisted dying in September 2015. Over the past few years, several high profile cases have come to light of older Britons who have ended it all with professional help. Sometimes this was because of terminal illness, however, not always.

Secularist supporters

In August 2015, university lecturer and author Kevin Yuill wrote an article for Spiked — the UK’s libertarian, secular humanist/atheist site — about the curious case of retired nurse Gill Pharaoh.

Pharaoh was 75 and relatively healthy when she died on July 21, 2015, at the LifeCircle clinic in Switzerland. Yuill says she was ‘healthy’, but her final entry states that, in recent years, she’d suffered an attack of shingles, ongoing tinnitus and joint pain. A lot of other older people have these ailments, too. But she wanted to end her life her way.

Yuill cites Pharaoh’s blog. She wanted

people to remember me as I now am – as a bit worn around the edges but still recognisably me!

But how was she to know what she would be like in five or even 15 years’ time? Only the Almighty knows that. Maybe she would have continued to age gracefully apart from physical complaints which are entirely normal, albeit annoying, aspects of growing old.

Pharaoh had no faith. She objected to British law with regard to assisted death because it

originates from a god in whom we have no belief.

Pharaoh blogged about her decision-making regarding ending her own life. She also gave a interview to The Times (Murdoch paper, ergo paywall), summarised in the Daily Mail. Yuill says she was searching for validation and recognition. He introduces his article with a précis of Christopher Lasch‘s excellent 1979 book, The Culture of Narcissism. If you can buy or borrow a copy, it will be more relevant today than when it was written. I read it in the early 1980s in the US and was shocked. Needless to say, my work colleagues told me the man was talking out of his hat. Yet, how correct he was. His book warns about attention-seeking behaviour which demands that everyone else acquiesces to one’s wishes. What Pharaoh wanted was a change in the law.

The Daily Mail article quotes Pharaoh as saying that her mother had dementia and that, if she could have done so, she would have helped her mother die. My family members and I have had parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s, for shorter and longer periods of time. None of us, even the agnostics, ever thought of putting them to death.

Another high profile case in Britain was that of 68-year old Bob Cole, who ended his days at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland on August 14, 2015. Cole’s wife Ann Hall, who suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy, had died at the clinic 18 months before.

Cole had mesothelioma, a lung cancer, which left him doubled over — in his words, ‘crouching like an animal’. He, too, wanted a change in the law. The Telegraph reports (aforementioned link) that he told The Sun (another Murdoch paper, like The Times) in an interview:

I should be able to die with dignity in my own country, in my own bed. The law needs to change. How do you change the law? People have got to take a stand. So that’s what I’m doing today. 

The politicians need to have the guts to change this law. Just bite the bullet. Accept that the British public want this change. If they don’t it will be forced upon them because the public feeling is overwhelming.

Is ‘public feeling overwhelming’ on this issue?

In any event, there are British organisations promoting legalised assisted death. Dignity in Dying were informed once Bob Cole died. Gill Pharaoh had been a member of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS). What role do such groups play in encouraging personal publicity for past and future high profile assisted suicides?

Yuill has a point when he says that people who want to terminate their lives through assisted dying should do so quietly with no publicity.

Judeo-Christian supporters

Only days after my reader Llew forwarded me the Spiked article, I read an article in The Telegraph which left me speechless.

‘”There is nothing sacred about suffering”, insist faith leaders in assisted dying call’ shocked me.

Among these faith leaders are

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism and Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain a leading figure in Reform Judaism …

That is bad enough. However, there are Christians, too: Baroness Richardson, first female President of Methodist Conference, along with prominent Anglicans such as Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, and ‘a handful of Anglican clerics’.

It should be noted that the Church of England officially opposes euthanasia.

These men and women, Jews and Christians, are opposing the government — and God.

In a letter to The Telegraph, the article says, they wrote that:

far from being a sin, helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to “gracefully hand back” their lives to God.

There is, they insist “nothing sacred” about suffering in itself and no one should be “obliged to endure it”, they insist.

Wow. Just. Wow.

How can one ‘gracefully hand back’ one’s life to God by terminating it? He gave us life. Only He can legitimately end it. It is not up to us to decide when that moment is. Not so long ago, this sort of attitude would have been rightly condemned.

Well, Rob Marris (Labour) will have his Assisted Dying Bill debated within the next few weeks. May life-respecting and God-fearing heads prevail.

Why the law should stay as it is

The Telegraph article included the following rationale for maintaining the status quo:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, co-chair of the Campaign group Living and Dying Well, which opposes a change, said: “The law exists to protect us, all of us and especially the most vulnerable among us, from harm – including self-harm.

“People who are terminally ill are especially vulnerable. As a society we go to considerable lengths to discourage and prevent suicide.

“Licensing assisted suicide for terminally ill people would fly in the face of that.”

I couldn’t agree more. In 2014, I pointed out that children’s euthanasia was already legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. There’s no minimum age in Belgium and in the other two countries a child only needs to be 12 years old before he can request his own death. These kids could be disabled, suffering from terminal illness or have a curable condition such as anorexia. This is a very slippery slope.

Returning to the Spiked article, Kevin Yuill pointed out that, on the other end of the age spectrum, a Dutch citizen’s initiative Uit Vrije Wil (Out of Free Will) received 117,000 letters of support in 2010 for a relaxation of the Netherlands’ law which would allow persons over the age of 70 to end their own lives just because they were tired of living!

And this isn’t a European phenomenon, either. My aforementioned post from 2014 gave these statistics:

In 2005, Gallup’s poll on the subject found that a majority of Christians in the United States support euthanasia: 75% of Catholics, 70% of Protestants and 61% of Evangelicals. A majority of Catholics and Protestants also support physician-assisted suicide, PAS — 60% and 52%, respectively — although only 32% of Evangelicals do.

It’s pretty clear that the rise of secularism in the 1960s, possibly before, brought about legalised control over life and death, beginning with abortion. A person can be his own god, making decisions only the Almighty rightly has control over.

Does God pardon Christian suicide?

John MacArthur’s Grace to You (GTY) ministry team wrote a worthwhile article, ‘Can one who commits suicide be saved?’

It’s short and well worth reading. On the one hand, as Christians are saved, in principle, suicide

can be forgiven like any other sin.

HOWEVER … on the other hand …

GTY say that this would be (emphases mine) only 

in a time of extreme weakness.

They explain:

… we question the faith of those who take their lives or even consider it seriously–it may well be that they have never been truly saved.

In which case, there is the issue of the second death at Judgement Day leading to eternal condemnation.

Their article cites Scripture saying that a true Christian has hope and purpose in his life. As such, suicide would not enter into the equation. And:

Furthermore, one who repeatedly considers suicide is practicing sin in his heart (Proverbs 23:7), and 1 John 3:9 says that “no one who is born of God practices sin.” And finally, suicide is often the ultimate evidence of a heart that rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ, because it is an act where the sinner is taking his life into his own hands completely rather than submitting to God’s will for it. Surely many of those who have taken their lives will hear those horrifying words from the Lord Jesus at the judgment–“I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

The article concludes:

So though it may be possible for a true believer to commit suicide, we believe that is an unusual occurrence. Someone considering suicide should be challenged above all to examine himself to see whether he is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Bible verses against suicide and assisted death

There are many web pages with notional Scripture verses against suicide which includes assisted death. However, most of the verses are not very helpful.

The best page I have found is Adrian Warnock’s on Patheos.

Warnock is a physician and author. He also serves as part of the leadership team at Jubilee Church London.

Any Christian who is considering ending his own life through assisted dying would do well to read Warnock’s selection of Bible verses, meditate on them then pray fervently and frequently.

Here are the first three (emphases in the original):

This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it (John 11:4).

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10).

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8–10.)

His page has several more.


Christians who listen to their clergy and leaders who advocate for euthanasia or assisted dying are in danger of dying an everlasting death. As they are making a considered, premeditated decision, they are guilty of murdering themselves.

Clergy advocating assisted dying would do well to examine their hearts humbly before the Lord, repent and publicly say they were wrong. They could be sending Christians — and themselves — to an eternal death. Theirs is such an irresponsible and reprehensible position to adopt.

No one knows why the Lord sends us debilitating and lengthy illnesses. However, He works everything to His purpose. In these situations, Christians must have hope, faith and pray whilst seeking palliative relief.

The basic problem is — and this seems to include certain clergymen, too — lack of faith, a love of self and pride in one’s own abilities and decision-making. I’ll return to these themes soon in another context.

This is my final entry on Huguenots for 2015. All being well, I’ll have another series next year.

Until the 19th century, many English clockmaking firms were in business. The English, being scientifically minded (until the past 20 years), had exceptional talents when it came to inventing ways to improve horology and keeping time.

Unfortunately, tempus fugit and, with cheaper clocks coming from the Continent combined with the loss of the United States as an export market around a century ago, the industry has diminished.

Present day situation

Today, only two English firms exist: Thwaites & Reed, established in 1740 and operating near Brighton on the south coast, and a newcomer, Newgate Clocks, founded in 1991 in Shropshire.

That said, the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, established in 1631, still exists. It is the oldest surviving horological institution in the world. The Company’s motto is Tempus Rerum Imperator, Latin for Time is the ruler of (all) things. Isn’t that the truth!

Compared with the history of lace making in this country, no one argues about Huguenot participation in timepiece making.

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers have a museum, created in 1814, which has the best of ancient and fine timepieces. Before the collection relocated to the Science Museum in the summer of 2015, the curator was on hand in April in the Guildhall location:

The Curator will be at the Museum for the most of the day on Tuesday 9th April and will be happy to answer any questions from visitors and highlight the Huguenot clocks in the display cases.

It is regrettable that the Guildhall and the Clockmakers were unable to arrive at an agreeable negotiation for renewal. The museum had its home there for 150 years. The Guildhall location closes on September 1, 2015.

The Clockmakers Collection is now on the second floor of the Science Museum and visits are free of charge.

Huguenot horologers

British History Online tells us that records of English clock and watch manufacture are thin on the ground. What follows is a summary of the article.

Were it not for the mandate to stamp gold and silver watches with the manufacturer’s name, we would know even less than we do. What is lost are the names of those who worked behind the scenes.

In London, clock and watch makers lived and worked in the City — the oldest part of London — and the West End, the political centre near the royal Court. Another watch and clock making centre was to the northwest of London in Middlesex.

The Huguenots settled in Soho (part of Westminster) in the West End.

The article states:

Some of the most skilled clockmakers employed in England during the 16th century were foreigners. Nicholas Cratzer or Craczer, (fn. 3) a German astronomer, was ‘deviser of the King’s (Hen. VIII) horloges,’ and lived thirty years in England. He was a Bavarian, born in 1487. Six French craftsmen were imported in the time of Henry VIII to make a clock for Nonsuch Palace. Nicholas Oursiau, Frenchman and denizen, was clockmaker to both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, and constructed the old turret clock at Hampton Court. (fn. 4) He as well as his two assistants Laurence Daunton of the French Church and Peter Doute of the Dutch Church, are returned as living in Westminster in 1568.

Many Huguenots involved in the industry were workers, not owners. However, their well-honed skills and attention to detail helped English manufacturers ensure quality products for the Royal Family, the gentry and wealthy merchants.

Notable Huguenot watchmakers and clockmakers

A few Huguenots owned their own firms and were very successful.


The Debaufre (de Beaufré) family settled in Soho in the 17th century. They were highly skilled watchmakers. Peter Debaufre’s workshop was located in Church Street and the company was in business from 1686 to 1750. Debaufre was admitted to the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1689.

In 1704, he, Jacob Debaufre and Nicolas Facio (Faccio, Fatio de Duillier) were granted a patent for jewel bearing, the application of jewels to the pivot holes of watches and clocks.

Incidentally, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a fellow of the Royal Society, was a controversial figure. Although he was a brilliant Swiss mathematician with a keen interest in astronomy and physics, he became involved with the ‘prophetic’ Camisards around the time this patent was granted. In 1705, he became the ‘chief’ of this radical and violent French political-religious sect. Parliament suspected Fatio de Duillier of plotting against the state and, at the instigation of the French Church in London, sentenced him to be pilloried as a common cheat and impostor spreading ‘wicked and counterfeit prophecies’. He was nearly killed on the day by a violent mob. Afterward, he left England for a tour of Europe and Asia, returning in 1712. He died in 1753, near Worcester. But I digress.

Once the Debaufres’ patent was granted, they put a sign up in their shop advertising jewelled watches. You can see an example of a ‘Debauffre’ watch in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Peter Debaufre also devised a dead-beat or ‘club-footed’ verge escapement, later adopted and adapted by several other watchmakers.

James Debaufre joined the family firm in 1712. The business closed in 1750.

De Charmes

Simon De Charmes escaped to England in 1688. He was admitted to the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1691.

He was highly successful and was able to build a grand family house in Hammersmith (west London), Grove Hall, in 1730. His son David succeeded him in the business. David died in 1783.

DiscoveringClocks tells us that the Huguenots (emphases mine):

brought with them many skills which enlightened and changed fashion and brought luxury items to the market place.  Furniture and clock-making reached their zenith in this period.

DiscoveringClocks has two photos of a surviving De Charmes carriage clock, neither of which I wished to copy here as the object is so rare:

It has a green lacquer case and the domed top is exquisitely decorated with polychrome floral sprigs set against a soft bottle green ground colour …

The case has four gilt metal flambeau finials and is surmounted by carved gilt wooden sound frets set below the dome; it also retains its original gilt metal foliate handle.  One can image how colourful it was when the purchaser brought the clock home, fresh from the workshop.  It has mellowed over a period of time but it is still strikingly beautiful.


British History Online mentions Francis Magniac. His workshop was in Clerkenwell (east London) and was in operation between 1770 and 1794.

Magniac was a highly skilled maker of complicated clocks and automata.

In addition to his mechanical expertise, he was also a colonel. He exported many of his wares to China.

Magniac married an Englishwoman, Frances Attwood, who gave birth to their son Hollingworth in 1786 in Bedfordshire. They also had two other sons, Daniel and Charles.

Francis Magniac sent Charles to Canton to keep an eye on the family business interests in that part of the world. Charles established Magniac & Co in China. It soon became one of the most powerful and successful trading houses there.

To avoid too much commercial control by the East India Company, which monopolised British trade in Asia, prominent British businessmen there renounced their citizenship for that of another European country. John Reid, a Scot, was the first to do so in becoming an Austrian citizen. Charles and Hollingworth followed suit under Prussian nationality.

Amazingly, Reid became the Chinese Consul by appointment of the Emperor of Austria. Charles was appointed Prussian Consul and Hollingworth Prussian Vice-Consul.

Charles Magniac was killed in Paris in 1824. The Wikipedia article did not state the circumstances. Daniel took over Magniac & Co but fell into disrepute when he married his Chinese mistress.

This put Hollingworth in charge, but, by then, the company was rapidly falling into decline. The Magniac brothers knew Scottish merchants William Jardine and James Matheson well. Hollingworth appointed Jardine senior partner and Matheson also received a highly responsible position.

Hollingworth returned to England in 1828. He left his capital in trust to Jardine and Matheson. His former company continued to trade as Magniac & Co until 1832, when it became Jardine Matheson and Company, a Fortune 500 company today.

In England, Hollingworth married in 1827 and became a partner of a merchant banking firm Magniac, Smith & Co in 1835, agents for Jardine Matheson. When Jardine returned to England, the merchant bank was renamed Magniac, Jardine & Co.

Hollingworth died in 1867. He is buried in the Magniac mausoleum in Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire.

Vuillamy – Swiss not French

My final mention here is of particular interest to me, as I occasionally have an opportunity to see and hear a Vuillamy clock when I am a guest at a private member’s club in Pall Mall.

Justin Vuillamy moved from Switzerland in England around 1730. He was already a skilled watchmaker and went to work for Benjamin Gray in Pall Mall. Gray was the clockmaker for George II and the Clockmakers Collection at the Science Museum has several of his specimens on display.

Vuillamy married Gray’s daughter and succeeded Gray as head of the business. British History Online tells us:

The watches made by this firm were of very fine quality: one of them fetched £120 15s. when the Hawkins Collection was dispersed by auction in 1895. This beautiful example had an outer case of gold and crystal and a diamond thumb-piece to press back the locking spring, the inner case being enamelled in colours with a garden scene.

Vuillamy’s son Benjamin later took over the business. He was a favourite of George III:

and much consulted by the king on mechanical subjects, especially in connexion with Kew Observatory.

His son, Benjamin Lewis Vuillamy, born in 1780, was the next head of the firm:

and obtained a high reputation for the exactness and excellent finish of his work, both in clocks and watches. Until his death in 1854, the office of clockmaker to the reigning sovereign continued to be held by members of the Vulliamy family.

The royal palaces and Windsor Castle have several Vuillamy clocks.


Among the public timekeepers made by B. L. Vulliamy were the large clock at the old Post Office, St. Martin’s-leGrand, and one at Christ Church, Oxford.

Benjamin Lewis Vuillamy also wrote:

several pamphlets on the art of clock-making; one of them being on the construction of the deadbeat escapement.


He was a very active member of the Company of Clockmakers, of which he was five times master; in recognition of his services to them, the company presented him with a piece of plate in 1849.

The Vuillamy clock I have the pleasure of seeing is beautifully made, although without much ornamentation. The highlight for me is when it strikes the hour. The delicate chime is heavenly. I’ve not heard the likes of it before or since.

A contentious subject among some English historians is whether the Huguenots were involved in lace making in our country.

Each side makes its own case for or against.

The case against

Those discounting Huguenot involvement say that an English cottage industry of lace making already existed by the time they arrived in the 16th century. This is true. However, very few examining this aspect of history ever said the Huguenots or their Flemish counterparts actually brought lace making to England.

What could be said is that the Huguenots and the Flemish improved our lace by bringing Continental techniques and materials to England.

Another aspect which needs to be taken into account is the association of certain types of lace with the Huguenots. Some of the laces linked to them were not devised until long afterward. However, it is possible that a few older historians misunderstood or accidentally mis-stated this.

An example of this can be found on the Wikipedia talk page for the Huguenots entry, which has an extensive analysis of lace making in England and Huguenot involvement. This involves the foremost history of English lace making, Romance of the Lace Pillow, written in 1919 by Thomas Wright. Emphases mine below:

3. The whole of Wright’s argument then turns on his statement “From this time Bucks [Buckinghamshire, southern England] point lace developed: it is a combination of Mechlin patterns on Lille ground.” In effect he is arguing that the two groups of refugees must have been responsible for the development of East Midlands lace because its style is derived from the two styles of lace of the regions from which the refugees came. Although this argument may sound plausible to the layman, it is based on the fallacy that what is now known as Mechlin lace existed at the time of the immigration from Flanders, which according to Wright was several years before 1572 (i.e late sixteenth century).

On what evidence is our knowledge of the history of lace based? Lace was primarily a fashion item, and the most extensive evidence for the development of styles of lace is from portraits, which can generally be dated accurately. Written records document the existence of lacemaking and lacemakers in particular regions at particular times, which is the basis for saying that lace was made in the East Midlands as early as 1596. However we know very little about what type of lace was made there in the seventeenth century because no descriptions have been found.

What we do know from portraits is that the lace now known as Bucks Point did not appear until the end of the eighteenth century. (It was at this time that the Lille ground was adopted by lacemakers all over Europe because it could be made more quickly than the Mechlin ground.) Santina Levey, a textile curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, writes in her highly respected “Lace, A History” (Maney, 1990: ISBN: 0-901286-15-X) that Mechlin lace developed in the first half of the eighteenth century (pp.45 and 47), while Lille lace with its typical mesh ground first appeared towards the end of the eighteenth century (p.90).

Therefore, according to this potential editor, Socialambulator:

One final point that I haven’t addressed previously (because my views on this are subjective) is why the idea gained currency that the Huguenots influenced English lacemaking. Like Seguin and others, I think it was probably economic. French lace was regarded as of higher quality, and commanded a higher price, than English lace. Associating E. Midlands lace with the Huguenots would have been used to give it a French association (and price tag). It should be mentioned that, Harry Armstrong, the publisher of Thomas Wright’s “The Romance of Lace Pillow”, himself sold lace under the name of ‘Mrs’ H Armstrong.

The case for

One of the problems in pinpointing Huguenot influence and involvement is that many records from the time no longer exist.

Yet, Irish historians have little problem linking Huguenot refugees with lace making. A short piece from the Irish Times states:

After the end of the Williamite wars, large Huguenot settlements were established in Portarlington, Youghal, Cork, Dublin, Waterford and Lisburn, where they became celebrated for their expertise in textiles, specialising in weaving, lace-making, and glove-making. In the course of time, they became thoroughly absorbed into Irish society through intermarriage, and names such as Boucicault, Maturin, Le Fanu and Trench are still familiar in Ireland today.

Therefore, if Huguenots were involved in Ireland’s industry, why not England’s?

Lace making researchers from Buckinghamshire and elsewhere in England point to Huguenot participation in the craft.

The Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney, Bucks, has exhibits on various aspects of Georgian life. Of local lace making, a related page states:

Lace was probably made in the Eastern Counties (Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire) prior to 1563. This was, and still is, a flax growing area. The first wave of lace makers from the continent came in 1563 to 1568. They were Flemish Protestants who left the area around Mechelen (Mechlin / Malines) when Philip II introduced the Inquisition to the Low Countries …

Second wave of lacemakers, many from Lille, left in 1572 after The Massacre of the Feast of Saint Bartholomew. Exactly how many is not known but many hundreds came to Buckinghamshire and Northampton.

Local noblemen, the Museum says, offered these refugees sanctuary:

In 1586 Lord William Russell, son of the Duke of Bedford, owned property near Cranfield, Bedfordshire. This is about 10 miles from Olney. He had fought for William the Silent in the Low Countries and he was married to Rachel, daughter of the Huguenot Marquis de Rivigny. He invited many refugees to settle under his protection. Another English gentleman, who had fought for William of Orange, was George Gascoigne: he invited other Huguenots to settle near his manor at Cardington, Bedford. Huguenot emigration continued untiI the Edict of Nantes in 1598. However when the Edict was rescinded in 1685 by Louis XIV, there was another wave of religious refugees. About 10,000 left Burgundy and Normandy. The lace makers found their way to the by now well-established lace villages in the counties of Buckingham, Bedford and Northampton. Flemish and Huguenot names still common in this area are listed below; naturally most have been Anglicised over time.

The Olney Lace Circle page says the same thing but goes further:

It was the Flemish Protestants who brought lace making to England during the 1560’s. Many of these immigrants were lace makers and as they moved out of the overcrowded ports they began to settle into areas now regarded as the historic centres for the craft of lace making. In the county of Buckinghamshire these immigrants settled in Newport Pagnell, Buckingham and of course Olney

During the following decade the Huguenots fled France and a great many French lace makers also settled in this area.

A Genealogy page on bobbins also states that this technique came from the Flemish and Huguenots:

Bobbin lace making was a cottage industry probably introduced into England by Flemish refugees in the sixteenth century. They were Protestants escaping from the Inquisition. Many drifted to the Midlands, particularly Olney, Newport Pagnell. and Buckingham, and on into Northamptonshire. The Huguenots, lace makers from Lille in France, soon joined them. These refugees brought with them the tools of their trade and their expertise. Thus pillow lace making was established in the Midlands.

The Geni page on Huguenots tells us about their settlement in neighbouring Bedfordshire and Norwich:

Other Huguenots arriving in England settled in Bedfordshire, which was (at the time) the main centre of England’s lace industry. Huguenots greatly contributed to the development of lace-making in Bedfordshire, with many families settling in Cranfield, Bedford and Luton. Some of these immigrants moved to Norwich [East Anglia], which had accommodated an earlier settlement of Walloon weavers; they added to the existing immigrant population, which comprised about a third of the population of the city.

The Pierre Chastain site has an extensive timeline of Huguenot history. The entry for 1567-1568 reads as follows:

Huguenot thread and lace makers established in Maidstone [Kent], England. Others escaped to Cranfield in Bedfordshire and others to the shires of Oxford, Northampton and Cambridge. Huguenots established glassworks in London during this period.

An essay by a family member about the Godfrey sisters in Buckinghamshire, lace makers in the early 20th century, states:

The elderly lacemakers pictured are but three of a long line of Godfrey’s dating back, in my records, to 1654, and probably of Huguenot stock, `Godefrai’ by name. My maternal grandmother Elizabeth was one of a family of eight, and the trio pictured are her three maiden sisters with whom she lived when not out nursing at homes in the vicinity. Earlier she had married Richard Green of Olney, but he died shortly after my mother and her brother were born.

The development of lace making in England

A Sixteenth Century Industry traces the history of lace making in England. It was written in the early 20th century and discusses the making and selling of lace as well as working conditions. The photographs are marvellous.

The 32-page PDF compilation of articles and essays tells us that Continental Europe was much more advanced than England in this cottage industry (PDF pp. 9, 11):

It is true that the English made what they called ‘lace’, but this was really embroidery, whether drawn linen or cut work, very attractive certainly, but not lace as we now understand this term.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, those who could afford it were married and buried in lace (p. 10).

Lace making, rightly associated with the poor, was also a hobby among gentlewomen. It has often been said that Catherine of Aragon, one of Henry VIII’s six wives, introduced the art to Bedfordshire when she retired there at Dower House in Ampthill Park (pp. 11, 12).

Mary Queen of Scots also made lace, which kept her occupied during her years of captivity (p. 12).

By the time Elizabeth I began her reign, lace making and design were much more sophisticated (p. 12).

Protestant refugees from Flanders and France helped to advance the industry (pp. 13, 14):

The Flemish and French Huguenots may be looked upon as the real founders in this country of the lace industry

Bucks Point is adapted from the Lace of Lille and Mechlin. It is possible that it was recognised as a distinct lace under Queen Elizabeth, and was probably made to some extent in the reign of James I, but it was firmly established in the reign of James II and William III.

The development of Bucks Point points to the influence of the Flemish from Mechlin and the French from Lille. The sentence does not say that this is the Mechlin lace of the 18th century nor that it was created in Elizabethan times.

Giddylimits‘s page on lace making tells us of another French influence:

One of the most popular and widely practised forms of lace making is Torchon Lace – this word comes from the French for dishcloth or duster. Another name for Torchon Lace was beggar’s lace and was not widely thought of but now it has made a renaissance and is popular with modern lace makers. It is also thought to be a good lace to start with as it has a structured form which is easy to pick up and follow.

The Revd Louis Fitzgerald Benson’s The Huguenots: their settlements, churches and industries in England and Ireland (1932) states:

Some lace-makers from Alenyon and Valenciennes settled at Cranfield, in Bedfordshire, in 1568 ; after which others settled at Buckingham, Stony Stratford, and Newport-Pagnell, from whence the manufacture gradually extended over the shires of Oxford, Northampton, and Cambridge. About the same time the manufacture of bone-lace, with thread obtained from Antwerp, was introduced into Devonshire by the Flemish exiles, who settled in considerable numbers at Honiton, Colyton, and other places, where the trade continued to be carried on by their descendants almost to our own time — the Flemish and French names of Stocker, Murch, Spiller, Genest, Maynard, Gerard, Raymunds, Rochett, Kettel, etc., being still common in the lace-towns of the west.

In the 17th century, men as well as women wore lace. Charles II wore a lot of it, with elaborate cuffs and jabots. William III once spent an unimaginable £2,459 on lace alone one year (p. 13, A Sixteenth Century Industry). Most of his subjects would have struggled to earn or spend £1 at any one time.

Lace in 18th and 19th century England

As the lace industry developed in England, more styles from other countries were absorbed into the repertoire. By the 18th century, the migration from Flanders and France had largely ended.

Fashion changes and the elaborate lace clothing of the centuries before gradually gave way to more modest trim. New styles refreshed the linens market: tablecloths, d’oyleys (p. 21), towels, bedclothes and curtains.

Maltese was a highly popular style in the 18th century. Buckinghamshire lace makers developed an offshoot of this called Bucks Cluny which also incorporated aspects of old Italian lace on display at the Cluny Museum in Paris (p. 18). Auvergne was another lace style also popular at the time.

Although we think of lace as being crafted exclusively by women prior to mechanisation, men and boys also made it. An article in The Agricultural History Review tells us that, in the countryside, it was a good means of making an earning when fields lay fallow. A farmer’s wife and daughters would often make it all year round. Farmers and their sons were also known to make it seasonally when not tending the fields. In towns and cities, lace making was taught to the poor, particularly children. Lace schools developed, run by a lace mistress. The primary activity was supplemented with just enough reading, writing and arithmetic to get by. Lace making was also promoted as a good way for the disabled to make a living. As long as their fingers were nimble, these people had the possibility of a livelihood.

Pay was minimal. Lace sellers made the most money. Middlemen paid a pittance for the lace they bought from home workers. The slightest flaw could cause a worker’s lace to remain unsold. Middlemen also expected undivided loyalty. A lace maker who sold wares to a competitor might find herself or himself unable to sell any further without considerable difficulty.

By the end of the 19th century, mechanised lace making was widespread in cities, especially in Nottingham. ‘A Brief History of Hosiery and Lacemaking in Nottingham’ describes the changes that the Industrial Revolution brought to the industry.

John Heathcoat had patented a mechanical way for bobbins to be ‘thrown’ one over the other. When his patent expired in the first half of the 19th century, these machines were widely reproduced by other manufacturers. Some were small enough to fit in a house, enabling piece work from home for those who were unable to work in a factory.

Nottingham boomed. There were bobbin makers in and around the city. Piece workers had to have their mechanised lace bleached and presentable for sale, so small industries grew to meet this need. Office occupations — bookkeeping, stocktaking — were also a part of keeping all sorts of factories running profitably.

In the West Country, lace making centred around Honiton and nearby towns, especially Branscombe and Beer. An essay from Branscombe Parish on lace making says that the lace from this area was called Honiton Lace because it was shipped from there. The area was already making lace by the time Huguenots arrived in the 16th century. The Honiton pillow technique used fishbones for pins and small sheep’s bones for bobbins. Branscombe and Beer each had their distinctive designs.

As with Nottingham, Honiton’s industry boomed during the 19th century. As the Napoleonic Wars had disrupted European trade, English lace could easily be made and shipped overseas. Queen Victoria ordered the lace flounce for her wedding dress from Tuckers of Branscombe in 1839. In 1863, Tuckers supplied lace for Princess Alexandra’s wedding dress. The Ford and Chick families also had successful lace businesses.

As successful as the Honiton industry was, it was still handmade and, therefore, could not compete long-term with Nottingham’s mechanisation. (Tiverton, Devon, also had a mechanised factory, Heathcotes.) There was local disapproval, too, of working conditions. Lady Trevelyan began commissioning her own work directly to avoid middlemen. She paid lace makers a higher price than the established businesses.

20th century decline

Although small-scale lace making continues in the Honiton area and is still commissioned by the Royal Family, it largely died out by the 20th century.

Buckinghamshire’s lace makers could not compete with ‘cheap Chinese and other foreign lace’ (p. 24, A Sixteenth Century Industry). ‘Mrs H Armstrong’ — in reality, Harry Armstrong — established The Cottage Lace Workers’ Agency at Olney. The Agency supplied thread, took orders and sold lace ‘in a businesslike way’.

Meanwhile, in Nottingham at the turn of the century, 20,000 people — mostly women — were employed in lace making. However, the French and German lace making industries were more competitive and the city endured periods of boom and bust, depending on what was in vogue when.

The Great War hit the city hard. One of the pre-eminent firms, Thomas Adams Ltd, had problems collecting debts from South America and Russia. Even when the war ended, the firm never recovered and had to close parts of the business and sell part of its premises to other unrelated companies.

During the Depression, the city’s Lace Market was gradually broken up. Printers, booksellers, box makers and others moved in. A decade later, Nottingham suffered damage from air raids. The lace manufacturers produced mosquito netting and camouflage nets for the war effort. After the war ended, although new lace markets developed overseas, the new products for export required new machines and new premises. These were built on the outskirts of Nottingham.

Thomas Adams Ltd closed in 1950.

Efforts from Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County councils have been under way since the 1960s to preserve the buildings of the once-great Lace Market.


Debate will continue to go on as to the influence that Huguenots and possibly the Flemish had on English lace making. As the objection to Huguenot involvement is recent, I can only think that they — and the Flemish — helped to perfect our styles and technique, making us more competitive for a while.

If we did have the pillow technique before their arrival, they might have brought us better-quality ones along with superior bobbins. Their weaving techniques were no doubt different, too. One can imagine that thread from Antwerp was probably finer than our original product as well. After all, Huguenots and the Flemish transformed our silk weaving dramatically.

Whatever the answer turns out to be, we had a once-great industry. Sadly, as with silk weaving, it died a slow death in the battle with progress.

As I mentioned last week, London’s small silk weaving industry was based in Spitalfields in the East End. In its infancy, it employed mostly Irish weavers.

When the Huguenots settled there, they were able to expand England’s silk weaving industry. It wasn’t long before Spitalfields was known as ‘Weaver Town’. Exodus (“Movement of the People”) explains that more silk coupled with French styling proved fashionable with the British upper class. It wasn’t long before Weaver Town’s Huguenot owners of silk weaving workshops became wealthy men with hundreds of employees. Their large family homes are still standing today.

From the time of the first arrivals in London, Huguenots quickly established their own churches and charities. One church, La Patente, was in Spitalfields. Another, the French Church, was further west in Soho, in present-day central London. The French Protestant Hospital, La Providence, in Old Street came later, having been established in 1718. It took care not only of the sick but also the destitute. Institutions such as these provided an informal job network, particularly for those who arrived with no contacts, such as would-be apprentices.

A Birkbeck (University of London) PhD thesis by William Farrell, Silk and globalisation in eighteenth-century London: commodities, people and connections c.1720-1800, tells us how many were employed in textiles from the records of the three aforementioned institutions (p. 85 of the document). In the 18th century, La Patente’s register showed three-fifths textile employment, the French church in Soho four-fifths and La Providence hospital 48%.

Farrell writes that earlier Huguenot records with regard to silk industry employment are unclear. However, his research reveals that the more successful weavers and artisans settled in East London between 1610 and 1694 (p. 81). Not surprisingly, Spitalfields became a nexus for Huguenot silk weaving and a century later, was a well-established community where new arrivals could seek employment.

The same was true in Ireland, although their initial settlement in the 17th century was easier than that of the Huguenots in England. William of Orange facilitated this in two ways. He recruited Huguenots who had fled to the Netherlands to his army to fight the Battle of the Boyne. He also appealed to them through the Statute of King William for Encouraging French Protestants to Settle in Ireland (p. 81).

Whilst many silk industry workers were successful, movement was sometimes fluid for those who were less in demand or beset by bad luck in short-term employment. Some moved from Ireland to London. A few dared to travel back to France for work when the British silk seasons were slow. In any event, migrations were undertaken quickly once a worker determined where he wanted to go next (pp 81, 82).

Natalie Rothstein’s Canterbury and London: The Silk Industry in the Late Seventeenth Century tells us that Huguenot silk weavers came from Normandy’s Pays de Caux region which comprises the cities of Dieppe and Le Havre. She notes that those settling in Canterbury would have found a familiarity about the region. Kent’s topography is similar to the Pays de Caux’s with its fertile farmland. In terms of employment, there was a rich market to be plumbed. The seat of the Church of England is there and, at the time anyway, there were many wealthy farmers and members of the landed gentry in the surrounding area.

Huguenot and Walloon weavers in Canterbury established a workshop in the 16th century. Edward VI granted them the whole of the western crypt of Canterbury Cathedral for worship purposes. The workshop was in steady use until 1830.

Rothstein’s paper puts together the pieces of the puzzle with regard to the workshop’s closure and the death of the silk industry in Canterbury. It must have been quite a challenge. What is available says that the original records are difficult to come by and some have even been destroyed.

However, in the mid-18th century, the War of Austrian Succession disrupted the shipment of raw silk from Asia, Italy and Turkey (Farrell, p. 83). Dublin’s silk industry shrank dramatically between 1730 and 1763. Many weavers moved to London.

Another serious challenge came around the same time: mechanisation. Punch card looms put many weavers out of work, not only in Britain but also elsewhere in Europe. By 1801, embroidery had been mechanised, too.

Yet another difficulty, despite Huguenot expertise, was that the climate in the British Isles was never going to be conducive to a large-scale silk industry.

In the end, finished Indian and Chinese silks took over.

The Exodus article says that 30,000 workers in the 18th century were affected by the downturn. Violent clashes took place between owners and employees. The 1801 Spitalfields Acts attempted to calm things down by improving wages and conditions as well as protecting the English silk market.

However, the Huguenots of Spitalfields ended up moving to what were then London’s suburbs (likely to be in the centre of the capital today). Another chapter of artisanal history had come to a close.

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