Dan Cruickshank, From Spitalfields to Sudbury, Quay, Sudbury, 17th June
|Author: Quay Theatre||Published: 12th June 2017 12:53|
Dan Cruickshank, From Spitalfields to Sudbury, Quay, Sudbury, 17th June, 7:30pm
French Calvinists, when they were exiled from their own land during the 1680s by the Roman Catholic authorities, took refuge in several European Protestant countries.
By 1710 an estimated 40,000 Huguenots – as the French refugees became known - had settled in Britain, mostly in London and Norwich. Many soon established a silk industry in Spitalfields that quickly grew into one of London’s most valuable trades.
The silk masters and their journeymen weavers prospered during the first half of the 18th century but then the trade faltered.
The causes were many, increased foreign competition, the price of raw materials and complexity of production in what was essentially a cottage industry.
From the late 1760s there was great discontent ,brutal riots and savage suppression. For these reasons many master-weavers started to move east from Spitalfields to country towns in Essex and Suffolk where they could establish larger weaving factories than had been possible in Spitalfields’ cramped streets and in which new technology – such as the jacquard loom – could be deployed to advantage.
The silk trade remains active in Braintree, and in Sudbury where Stephen Walters and Sons - once of Wilkes Street, Spitalfields - has been family-owned for eleven generations.