Huguenot Burial Ground, Wandsworth

Well, I knew my history A'level would come in useful one day. Turns out, that's today. The Huguenots were French Protestants, and this is how they ended up in Wandsworth.

Henri IVIn 1598, Henri de Bourbon de Navarre succeeded to the French throne as Henri IV. Though he converted to Catholicism in order to claim the crown, apparently with the line "Paris is well worth a Mass", Henri issued the Edict of Nantes, granting French Protestants equality under the law with Catholics. But his grandson, Louis XIV, acting to enforce centralised government on France, began a policy of persecution of Protestants, ending in 1685 in the declaration that Protestantism was illegal. The Edict of Fontainebleau forbade Protestant worship, mandated the education of children as Catholics, and forbade emigration.

Nevertheless, somewhere around 200,000 Protestants fled France, and some of them ended up in south London, where they brought their weaving and gardening skills to London industry. In 1687 they opened their burial ground. It became known as Mount Nod and was enlarged in 1700 and again in 1735. It currently contains five grade 2 listed historic tombs and more than 100 other monuments.

The ground was closed under the Metropolitan Burials Act in 1854. It's now managed by Wandsworth Council, who have stated their aim to make it (link to management plan pdf) "a place where people feel safe and secure". The plan is to tidy up the site, make the graves safe and install seating and information boards: if Wandsworth can do this, I'll be very impressed indeed.

Je vous souhaite un joyeux quatorze juillet.

[photos coming soon]

More posts about this cemetery

Filed under: 18th Century & earlier London Cemeteries .

5 Responses to Huguenot Burial Ground, Wandsworth

  1. Pingback: Best of Recent Blogs #25 « London Historians' Blog

  2. Hels says:

    Of course I assumed that the Huguenots would have had to have opened their burial ground pretty much as soon as they arrived on foreign shores. That would have been true for Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and South Africa, as well. And it makes sense that the first cemetery would have needed to be expanded in 1700 and 1735, once the community reached its peak size. But I had never heard of Mount Nod, so I owe you a beer, next time I am crawling around Huguenot sites.

    p.s I would have mentioned the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleu as actually being the Revocation of the (long standing) Edict of Nantes, an amazing era in King Louis XIV decision making. What a moron Louis was. The Huguenots were France's finest citizens.

  3. Hels says:

    New information boards at Wandsworth will indeed be essential, yes. Otherwise it will be a burial ground like any other, except for the unusual names on the headstones.

    • Sue says:

      Oddly, most of the visible names on headstones here were English, or English-sounding; very little that really stood out as French. I'm wondering if the Huguenots changed names (like Jews did), or intermarried with English families very early - it seems counter-intuitive. As a one-time Duranie, I'd expected at least a le Bon, but no.

      Of course, it could just be the surviving, visible tombs are later, and therefore post-integration. Any ideas? I don't know what happened to them after they hit English shores.

      You're right about Louis 14 being a moron. A self-centered, self-glorifying, out-of-touch moron, who damaged France more than I can possibly begin to say.

  4. Pingback: A Tour Of French London For Bastille Day | Londonist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>