If you live in London, you’ve probably driven through Wandsworth, cursing its one-way systems, staring at its dull architecture and nasty shop-fronts as you wait for the traffic to move, without ever seeing the signs of the Huguenots.
Even on a walk through its streets, you’d still need a guide to point them out.
I did Tim Kidd’s guided Huguenot walk through Wandsworth a couple of years ago, and it was riveting: a surprising insight into London’s industrial development.
Expert cloth workers and dyers who had fled France were drawn to the banks of the River Wandle, which flowed at a good pace for water mills. Having found a place to work, they settled in.
The beautiful old town crest of Wandsworth, still displayed on the grey municipal buildings, shows blue teardrops on a chequerboard. Those are the tears of the Huguenots, torn from their homes in France by religious persecution.
Tim Kidd’s virtual tour will show you the crest; and Mount Nod, the cemetery where Huguenots were buried. Many Huguenots imagined that the move to England was temporary, and that they would be able to return to France if the regime became more tolerant. They waited in vain, making Mount Nod even more poignant.
The charity Huguenots of Spitalfields is now offering this marvellous tour virtually, so that anyone can join it worldwide. Don’t miss the opportunity. It’s just £5 in aid of the charity, and you won’t regret or forget it.