In the heart of bustling Spitalfields, just a short walk from Liverpool Street Station and Brick Lane, is 13 Princelet Street - the largest of our three Landmarks in central London.
Built from around 1705 to 1720, Princelet Street is a typical example of the housing which sprang up across the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Driven in part by the reconstruction campaigns in the wake of the Great Fire of London in 1666, and in part by the rapidly increasing population, a new breed of speculative builders rapidly developed sites purely for profit.
The Spitalfields area, located outside the City walls, has a long history of attracting enterprising outsiders, whose birth or origin barred them from trading or living in the City. Since the Elizabeth I’s reign French Protestants, known as Huguenots and who were fleeing persecution from the Catholic regime in their home country, had congregated in Spitalfields.
Huguenots were skilled in many things, including clock making, jewellery making and silver smithing, but particularly in silk weaving. The Huguenots injected new ideas into an already flourishing industry, and the area soon became a famous centre for ‘Spitalfields silks.’
Princelet Street, together with Folegate Street and Spital Square, had the most prosperous houses in the area, home to master weavers and wealthy merchants. By the 1740s the residents of 13 Princelet Street had recognisably French names (such as L’Amy, Durade, Allard) and by the 1780s we know that there were silk weavers living in the house.
Meanwhile, in 1688 two hundred Huguenots travelled from France, not to Spitalfields, but to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. They were granted land and the freedom to settle. In the village of Franschhoek they crafted fine wines and cuisine – a legacy which lives on today.
The Franschhoek Cellar today produces a wine called The Huguenot, a Chenin Blanc produced using a special yeast to slow fermentation and then matured on its lees, to honour the contribution Huguenots made to the country’s wine industry.
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