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Huguenot Sugar Castors

The History of the Huguenots

Jack Cogger
29th May 2023

There are many groups who have travelled to the United Kingdom over the centuries which have woven into the fabric of our nation, one of those groups was the Huguenots. This was a group of French Protestants who were persecuted across France in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a group of which I knew practically nothing and to have such a significant presence in the Medway area I thought it would be an excellent chance to learn more about this historic group of people. Above the Visitor Information Centre in Rochester is the Huguenot Museum, a dedicated museum to telling the story of the Huguenot's persecution and journey to our country and the vast impact they have had on our society, without many of us even realising.


The Huguenots have a long and complex history in France, with periods of great prosperity and eventually their exodus over to Britain. French Protestants were often unfairly treated and persecuted for their beliefs because of being in a Catholic country, which led them to seek refuge in England, and notably, Rochester would help take in some of those who fled. The museum details the journey that many individuals had to undertake to travel in secret under the constant worry of capture. Without spoiling too much of what the museum can show and tell you about this group of remarkable individuals this blog will give a glimpse at what you can see.

Walking round the museum I learnt about the evolution of the Huguenots and the hardships they faced. Reading about events like the Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day in 1572 where thousands of Huguenots lost their lives. It was an equal reminder of our shared history in Medway as I recalled St Bartholomew’s Hospital when walking from Rochester to Chatham. Being able to see up close personal recounts and artefacts that belonged to this brave group of people was definitely both sobering and moving and seeing the impact they have had on our society.

Many Huguenots were brilliant and talented craftsmen specialising in medicine, jewellery, banking and even master clockmakers. To think that almost one-third of the founders of the Bank of England were Huguenots shows the wide impact they had on developing our own culture and history. While walking around the museum you can see some of the historic pieces that Huguenots have made from intricate glassware to a magnificent grandfather clock. My personal favourite piece to see was the old apothecary set which I learnt would be used for cures and remedies for the sick.


Although the museum is quite small in size it has plenty of interesting information and to actually visualise the journey that this group had to undertake was quite something. Interestingly, you can even look at if you have Huguenot ancestry and which surnames derive from the Huguenots. I always knew of The French Hospital in Rochester but being able to visit and learn more about this group was definitely worth it for any interested in history. So the next time you’re in Rochester why not visit the Huguenot Museum and learn more about this incredible group of people which have done so much for Britain without us even knowing it.

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