At The Unveiling Of The Huguenot Plaque
Mavis Bullwinkle at Hanbury Hall
I hope Mavis Bullwinkle will not be too embarrassed if I reveal to you that, of all those who attended the unveiling of the Huguenot Plaque yesterday, it was she whose involvement with the Hanbury Hall extends the longest. Mavis’ uncle Albert was caretaker there before the war in the thirties and Mavis confessed to me that, as child, she remembers performing plays with her cousins on the stage after-hours, when she returned from being an evacuee at the end of the war. In 1951 at the age of nineteen, Mavis joined the weekly bible class there when her own church, All Saints Spitalfields, was demolished and then she graduated to the role of Sunday School teacher which occupied her each weekend until 1981.
Mavis may not herself be a Huguenot but, as a local resident for more than eighty years, she has come to embody a certain continuity in the neighbourhood and her generosity of spirit is emblematic of the best tradition of Spitalfields. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of Huguenot descendants yesterday to remember the quarter of a million refugees who came to Britain in the seventeenth century and, in particular, the twenty thousand who came to Spitalfields.
The Hanbury Hall was originally built as a Huguenot Chapel in 1719 then extended to the street and converted as a church hall for Christ Church in 1887 and now has been newly restored with flats on the top. Yesterday’s unveiling of the plaque was the culmination of three years of Huguenots of Spitalfields festivals organised by Charlie De Wet which were attended by more than twenty thousand people and the plaque of twenty Delft tiles designed by Paul Bommer is the legacy of this project.
As we all sat in the three hundred year old hall and listened to the story of the Huguenots, how they fled their home country in fear of their lives, of the refugee camps that were created here and of the charities that raised funds, the parallel to the contemporary crisis became inescapable. At the conclusion of the three year Huguenots of Spitafields festival which has brought light to the unexpected contributions of the Huguenots to British society, I think we all recognised that as one story ended another was just beginning.
Paul Bommer’s Huguenot Plaque
Charlie de Wet, Director of the Huguenot Festival for the last three years
Rev Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church, leads the service of thanksgiving
You may also like to read about