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Corporation granted them the use of St. Faith's Chapel and burial-ground. The "Guilds," which had been formed long ere this, were very active in this town, especially that of the "Drapers." So early as 1474 one Stephen Norton of Chart Sutton belonged to the Maidstone Guild of Artificers. "Each Guild had its own rules and customs; its wares were exhibited at markets and fairs, and fees for stalls paid over by its officers to the Corporation" (James's Maidstone).
Other trades were pursued here by the refugees. In the Naturalization Acts, edited for the Huguenot Society, we read of one "Peter de Lillo," a "capper" at Maidstone in 1544. Mention of hammer-makers, cannon-founders, coppersmiths, leads to the conclusion that some of these may have settled in the Weald, where the resources of the iron and other industries, especially on the Sussex border, would have tempted them to reside. Fuller's-earth was found at Leeds, and that would assist the industries. After the decline of the cloth trade here, thread-making flourished, as shewn by the returns of the Mayor and Town Clerk of Maidstone in the "State Papers" (James I., 1622), transcribed into the volumes of the Camden Society, and entitled Foreigners Resident in England (1618—88). The names are mostly Flemish, but an interesting note at the end states, that "the thread-making trade was much decayed by the importa tion of thread from Flanders, as the strangers of Maidstone affirm."
From a glance at the Marriage Licences in Canterbury Diocese (circ. 1568-1660), "edited" by Mr. J. M. Cowper, I give a brief synopsis to shew what trades were most prevalent in those periods, and find them to be:
Broadweavers (Smarden), 1606,
the localities, Cranbrook and Hawkhurst; and among names apparently of foreign origin are those of
It is well known that Queen Elizabeth's policy, though one of expediency, gave, on the whole, distinct encouragement for foreign craftsmen, and I now hasten on to see how far this policy was carried out by her successors— James I. and Charles I.
The first-named King certainly followed his predecessor's action; but of Charles I. we notice several statutes and edicts passed, at first of a favourable, then of a prohibitive nature, without doubt instigated by that King's great adviser and friend, Archbishop Laud.
The Weald equally with the Kentish districts now lost many of its refugee inhabitants, who, rather than conform to a religious system they could not tolerate, left for Holland, America, and other countries. Even before that time, in 1616, some of the restrictive measures of the Stuarts affected trade, and it is stated that 2000 Kentish cloth workers went to the Palatinate. In 1622 the State Papers (James I.) mention the Kentish clothiers' petition, "praying that notwithstanding proclamations against export of wool and fuller'searth, they are still sent out of the country;" and in 1634 the Merchant Adventurers prevailed on Charles I. to restrict the export of cloths, baizes, and English woollen commodities.
At this period (1634) occurred a smaller but important exodus from France, which again revived the fluctuating industries, further protected by a measure of some importance, recorded among the Rye Corporation MSS., "that the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports should charge his officers respectively not to permit the said strangers to reside in any of the said ports, but to repair to the inland towns more remote from the sea." The consequences of this order would be at once palpable.
Although enactments like this last had a favourable influence, yet followed by the harsh ecclesiastical policy of Laud they brought about much more serious results, by the withdrawal of hundreds of craftsmen, and a complete stagnation of the Kentish trade. Of this movement, Canon Jenkins, whose critical learning is a by-word to this Society, thus writes: "It would be ill to forget at how dear a price the forced uniformity of Laud was obtained, and the immense
injury it inflicted upon the Diocese, and the Archbishop's treatment of the foreign Churches was a direct contravention of the Orders in Council by which the foreign Churches were protected, and which in every case permitted their members, though born in the kingdom, to belong to their congregations.'
This proceeding is also set forth in the famous "Kentish Petition," printed in the Camden Society's volumes, entitled Proceedings in Kent, 1640, which alleges the results to have been "discouragement and distraction of all good subjects, of whom multitudes, both clothiers, merchants, and others, being deprived of their ministers, and overwhelmed with their pressures, have departed the kingdom to Holland and other parts, and have drawn with them a great part of the manufacture of cloth and trading out of the land.”
Canon Jenkins further remarks that "the principal complaints against the Laudian charges came from the Weald and the places adjacent, where these industries were specially established."
The greater liberty of opinion under the Commonwealth caused a transient revival in Kent and other places, but the years preceding the Revocation of the "Edict of Nantes" clearly foreshadowed that event which occasioned the exodus of thousands from France, and even before that time, the unjust measures forced on the Protestants by Louis XIV. and his Jesuit emissaries, produced a total disruption.
Beneficial Acts were passed in England about 1678; one called the "Protestant Strangers' Bill" empowered foreigners to exercise their trades, provided they shewed certificates of conformity either to the Church of England or the several Reformed Churches.
Admission of freedom to the city of Canterbury was now much increased by foreign applicants, and it is possible that though this privilege was restricted to citizens of that metropolis, it may have included some Wealden inhabitants.
Another circumstance which caused the influx of "strangers" was the destruction of the Protestant Church at Guines, near Calais, by order of Louis XIV., and the flight of its numerous adherents, many to England, and some
certainly to Kent. At this time collections were made for those who came over in poverty and distress, and at Smarden in 1699 occurs an entry, "Collection for relief of Vaudois," £1 11s. 8d.; and in 1794, for the Protestants of the Principality of Orange, £1 12s. 4d. The History of Smarden, by Rev. F. Haslewood, F.S.A., contains elaborate extracts from the Churchwardens' Books as to the price of wool, flax, wages for weaving, etc., from 1554-1816, proving the extent of the cloth trade there. Of the cultivation of flax, which was doubtless increased by the refugees, mention is made both at Smarden and Headcorn, at which latter place was the "Flax Garden Field." In 1697 an Act was passed to encourage the linen trade, and William III. specially invited over a Huguenot gentleman to superintend that industry.
It was not unusual at this time for foreign ministers to officiate in the Church of England, and in the "Tanner MSS. at the Bodleian Library" we find a petition of the inhabitants of Hollingbourne to Archbishop Sancroft to allow Monsieur Rondeau to preach in the church there; and the same MS. states that the Primate gave him leave to hold a service at Leeds and Broomfield.
Archbishop Sancroft stands out with true liberality of thought to others out of the Church of England, and by his efforts contributions for the fugitives were made through the Province of Canterbury; an example afterwards followed by Archbishops Tillotson, Tenison, Secker, and Wake.
It now appears from the " Act Books" at Lambeth that Boughton Malherbe, almost the centre of the Weald, became the headquarters of refugee interest, chiefly owing to the settlement of the Marquis de Venours and his friends, as told in the following extract:
Act Book, No. 4, p. 180.
Whereas the bearer hereof, Monsieur the Marquiss of Venours, a Noble and Honourable Gentleman of Poictou in France, hath been by the extreme Rigours of the Persecution mov'd lately in that Province, against those of the Reformed Religion (and against him in particular), forc'd to leave that His native Country: from whence being escapéd he hath chosen to put himself under the
protection of Our Gracious Soveraigne, and to seeke his repose here, and in order thereunto, hath hired and taken of the Rt. Honorable the Earl of Chesterfield a House and Land within your Parish, intending to settle himself there, together with a little Colonie of his Countrey men, who are not only professors of the Protestant Religion, but Confessors and sufferers for the same, and all desirous to serve God and to performe the publick Offices of our most Holy Religion according to the use of the Church of England (to the Government and Discipline whereof they do also entirely submitt themselves), I do therefore require you and the rest of the Inhabitants of your Parish, and your Neighbours, both Ministers and others, to receive and assist them as occasion shall be offered, with all the expressions and instances of Christian Charitie, and Brotherly kindness due to afflicted strangers of the same Faith and Communion with ourselves. And because they understand not the English Language, and are therefore permitted to performe divine Offices in the French-tongue (as they are and have been for severall years performed in the French Church att the Savoye), I have therefore appointed and doe hereby appoint Mr. Jaques Rondeau a Presbyter of the Church of England, to officiate and preach to them in your Parish Church of Bocton Malherb, and do hereby require you to give them to that purpose, free access into, and use of the same, at such Houres and times of the day as may not hinder your Ordinary publick Assemblyes in the same. And so commending you, and all under your care to the Grace and blessing of God,
Feb. 21, 1681.
For Mr. Stanhope, Rector,
Bocton Malherb in Kent.
Your very loving Friend,
W. S. (WILLIAM SANCROFT.)
William the Third's exertions in behalf of the refugees are well known, and his encouragement of them brought down Defoe's celebrated lines in the True-born Englishman:
"We blame the King that he relies too much
On strangers, Germans, Huguenots, and Dutch,
The first fifty years of the eighteenth century witnessed