Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 29th January 2014

The Massacre at Paris is the story of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve when the Huguenots were slaughtered in huge numbers – the survivors stayed on to continue the wars. Immediately following the massacre, Henri of Navarre became a Roman Catholic – for obvious reasons - & then changed back to Huguenot & led the army into war - this time he won – eventually.
At that time there was established already a community of Protestant Walloons from the Low Countries who had fled to England to escape the persecution inflicted by King Philip, whose domains included the Low Countries as well as Spain (& the Spanish Empire in America)

The refugees were welcomed; in their thousands they worshipped in the western Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral which Queen Elizabeth 1 had commanded should be made available.

The Huguenots flooded into Canterbury in increasing numbers towards the end of the 17th century escaping persecution in France. The persecution culminated in the revocation by King Louis XIV of his grandfather's Edict of Nantes, which had granted to the Huguenots a limited freedom to worship according to the Protestant rite – if their local squire or lord of the manor was of the Protestant persuasion.

In the 1890s, the congregation in Canterbury having dwindled, the Dean and Chapter persuaded the Walloon and Huguenot descendants to withdraw to the Black Prince’s Chantry which was reserved expressly for their regular worship; previously it had been used by the French congregation as a vestry.

To this day a service is conducted in French on a Sunday afternoon at 3.00 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend. For further information, please look at this writing by Michael Peters, a staunch supporter of the Huguenot Chapel and himself of Walloon origin

On the 18th and 19th March the Fourth Monkey Theatre Company will be presenting ‘Massacre at Paris’ in the Crypt at Canterbury Cathedral.

On the 18th in St. Peter’s Methodist Church Hall I have been asked to talk to Luis de Bernières (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) about the influence and afterlife the Huguenots exodus has had on his personal and our national heritage.

Luis is a Huguenot and his family name appears on a list of prominent Huguenots drawn up in 1885 which is displayed in the Huguenot Chapel. One copy used to hang on the outside of the door facing the Crypt but it is an incomplete list and many Huguenots were upset not to find their names there. It was compiled by a small group of people as a preamble to the foundation of the Huguenot Society in 1885 and serves no significant purpose, so the decision was taken to remove the copy from the outside of the door, keeping on display only the other (slightly different) copy inside the Chapel – this was placed there in 1935 – the 250th anniversary of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
The door to the crypt now carries a framed copy of some words about the church written in the 19th century by Samuel Smiles

As an Assistant at the Cathedral I so often find people at the interior door to the Chapel and wish I could open it for them to show them the magnificent Chantry of the Black Prince.

The Prince had to obtain Papal dispensation to marry his half-cousin-once-removed, the Fair Maid of Kent. In thanksgiving he paid for the modernisation of the stone decoration to the chapel or to be more correct the two small chapels which now form the Walloon and Huguenot place of worship. What you have is the Transept in the Crypt. In the equivalent chapel on the North there are two very simple small chapels whereas on the South, cut off by a wooden screen and door, you’ll find the Chantry Chapel of the Black Prince with its beautiful lierne vaulting (purely decorative) and some superb ceiling bosses most of which look as though they were carved yesterday. Of course, being on the interior they’ve not suffered the ravages of time as so much else has done on the exterior of the Cathedral and in the Cloisters.

So, if you are of Walloon or Huguenot descent or simply interested in Marlowe’s play and the uniqueness of it being performed in the Crypt, then you can book for both the play and the talk through the Marlowe Theatre.

Just to let you know – I am involved because of my French ancestry and my desire to promote recognition of The Huguenots and perhaps get a few more folk across the door of the little Huguenot Chapel. The Chapel has had continual services for over 400 years – the congregation is very small and it would be a tragedy if it dwindled to such an extent that the door would have to be closed forever.
Best wishes, Jan
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Date: 29th January 2014
The history of the Huguenots is a fascinating one and is woven into the fabric of our history, particularly in Kent, during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Throughout history there have always been breakaway religious groups invariably attempting to bring religious worship back to a simplicity which was often lost in the panoply, politicking, and corruption of the Catholic Church.
The large majority of the Walloons (from the Low Countries) and the Huguenots from France sought refuge in England from where they either spread around the country, returned to France when the religious climate was more tolerant, or went to further shores. Many Huguenots went, with their vines, to South Africa and bypassing Cape Town travelled over the Hottentots Hollands Mountains and settled in Franschoek where they planted their vines and established a community. There’s a museum to the Huguenots and a superb Memorial – the street names are French and French is still spoken in this French Enclave so far from home.
There’s a huge amount of information on the Internet concerning the Huguenots - all explaining their oppression and arrival far better than I can so I copied one of the articles I found.

Stigmatized by oppressive laws and facing severe persecution, many Huguenots (Protestants) fled France. In 1681, Charles II of England offered sanctuary to the Huguenots, and from 1670 to 1710, between 40,000 and 50,000 Huguenots from all walks of life sought refuge in England. Historians estimate around half of these moved to London - many settling in Spitalfields, where food and housing were cheaper, and there was more freedom from the economic controls of the guilds. By 1700 there were nine Huguenot churches in Spitalfields, where in 1685 there had been none.
'Weaver town'
The Huguenots had a huge impact on Spitalfields, particularly its economy. There had always been a silk industry of sorts in the area, but with the diligence and skills of the Huguenots this industry thrived, and Spitalfields became 'weaver town'.
The increase in the availability of silk affected British upper class fashions, as new styles became popular incorporating more of the readily available material. The wealthier Huguenots built large houses in Spitalfields, both for their families and for the weavers they employed. These houses, which still remain, are extremely distinctive, with enlarged windows in the attic to let in the maximum light for the weavers.
Industrious and unassuming, the Huguenots were generally well received - especially considering their numbers. Sympathy was extended to them as sufferers for the Protestant cause, although there was hostility on occasion, often motivated by fears that the French were depriving Londoners of work. One priest, Dr Welton, called them the 'offal of the earth'!
(The mosque on Brick Lane was formerly both a Huguenot chapel and a Jewish synagogue)
At first the Huguenots kept their own distinct identity, speaking in French and defending their religious congregations. As with many immigrant groups, the Huguenot churches were a connecting thread within the new community, providing welfare to the poor and support to new arrivals. Over time, however, the Huguenots assimilated into English society. There was a drift towards the Anglican Church, and names were anglicized - Ferret became Ferry, and Fouache became Fash - often due to mistakes made by English clerks!
With time the silk industry began to decline, and the Huguenots started to move out of the city, settling in the suburbs - a route which later immigrant groups were also to follow.
But traces of the Huguenots's stay are still visible in Spitalfields, despite succeeding waves of immigration. There are French-sounding street names, and the elegant Huguenot houses are well preserved. And it has been estimated that even today a quarter of London's population still has some Huguenot blood!
During the 16th and 17th Centuries, most of Europe was catholic and also in these days religion was a huge part of everyday life. These protestants were seen to be against both religion and the king and an edict was issued in 1536 for their extermination. A period followed of bitter religious wars. There are records of terrible tortures inflicted upon them.
Despite this, their numbers increased and at one point they were recognised and given a certain level of religious freedom. Within a hundred years, it began to rankle once again and persecutions began again in earnest. Thousands of Huguenots fled from France to countries all over the world. Many of them found their way to Canterbury. They were predominantly craftsmen and professional people so they brought very welcome skills to their new homes and must have been a loss to French society.
After the religious persecutions carried out under Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) her half sister Elizabeth 1 came to the throne and allowed religious freedom. Indeed, Elizabeth granted the Walloons from the Low Countries who preceded the Huguenots the use of the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral and in the late 19th century the Black Prince’s Chantry became their place of worship where there is still today a service in French every Sunday at 3.00 pm.

And here I would like to make a little plea/invitation. If you are Huguenot, enjoy listening to French, are curious about the Chantry Chapel, do think of coming to join us on a Sunday. I think many are put off because their French is not perfect. Mine is far from perfect but I now follow quite easily with the aid of the printed sheet accompanying the individual services.

There has been no pastor at the Chapel for more than 2 years now. Though this is rather sad, we do have the advantage of many and varied preachers, most of whom give their sermons in English – we have a Catholic priest, a Franciscan friar, several of the clergy from the Cathedral and just before he left we even had Archbishop Rowan Williams in attendance.

We are a small but friendly group and after the service repair to Chom Chom for tea and cakes – all very sociable. So please do come and meet us – the congregation is small but there has been unbroken worship here in French for over 400 years and it would be tragic if, for lack of a congregation, the little Chapel fell silent.
There’s an enormous amount of literature on the Web concerning the Huguenots and the Wikipedia write up is very interesting.

Just thought I’d share with you that there’s to be a symposium on the Huguenots entitled ‘A LASTING LEGACY’ – it will take place at the Huguenot Heritage Centre in Rochester on Saturday 26th April. To find out more or apply to attend the event this is the email address :
I'm afraid that I can't upload the flyer but you will find the information on the Internet.
The Huguenot Chapel has been swathed in scaffolding for the last few years. At last it has been uncovered and here it is with the frontage in all its pristine beauty.
All good wishes, Jan

P.S. With greatful thanks to Michael Peters who has corrected and improved this Blog. 


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