The *tympanum of the French Protestant Church, Soho

*recessed, usually triangular, face of a pediment within the frame made by the upper and lower cornices

From the Historic England entry:

EXTERIOR: built over four storeys with basement, the principal frontage is five main bays wide, subdivided into nine window bays on the upper floors. The ground floor, which is faced in terracotta with brick bands to the jambs of the openings, contains five round-headed arches; the largest, to the central entrance, is enriched with shafts, and with cusping to the outer arch. The tympanum contains J Prangnelli’s 1950 commemorative carving; this depicts the arrival of the first Huguenots by sea, and the signing of the 1550 charter, with a Huguenot cross above.

HISTORY: In the late 1540s, scholars and theologians welcomed in Reformation England included John à Lasco, a reformer of Polish origin, who held services at Lambeth Palace for refugees. His project for the establishment of a reformed church for foreign worshippers met with encouragement from Archbishop Cranmer and Edward, Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector of the young Edward VI. On 24 July 1550, Edward VI signed letters patent for the foundation of the Strangers’ Church in London for those ‘banished and cast out from their own country for the sake of the Gospel of Christ’; the charter required that the appointment of ministers should be approved by the sovereign. The use of St Augustine’s Chapel in Austin Friars in the City of London was authorised. The church grew rapidly, with French, Flemish and German-speaking members. Within three months the French Huguenot congregation transferred to the chapel of St Anthony’s Hospital in Threadneedle Street, nearby. During the reign of the Catholic Mary I, services were suspended, to be resumed in 1560 following the accession of Elizabeth I; Elizabeth appointed Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London, as superintendent, allaying doubts about the wisdom of allowing a freedom of worship to a foreign church. In 1572, the Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day and the persecution of Protestants which followed brought a new wave of refugees, who were received by the French churches established at London, Canterbury, Norwich, Southampton, Rye and Winchelsea. During the C17 pressure was exerted on the French churches to conform with the Church of England, particularly by Archibishop Laud; though some churches did adopt a translation of the English Book of Common Prayer, the Threadneedle Street church retained its constitution and service. In 1685, the revocation of the 1598 Edict of Nantes, which had allowed some freedom of worship to Protestants, led to the flight of about half a million Huguenots, with between 40,000 and 50,000 arriving in Britain. In London, numerous French churches were established, mainly in those areas with large Huguenot populations. The principal church serving Spitalfields, home to a community of weavers, was Threadneedle Street, whilst Westminster, where Huguenots included tailors, goldsmiths, silversmiths, gunmakers and watchmakers, was principally served by the conformist Savoy Church. The Great Fire of London of 1666 destroyed the Threadneedle Street church, which was one of the first churches to be rebuilt, opening for worship in 1669. By the early C18 there were more than 30 Huguenot churches in London and more than 20 outside London; in 1687 the Threadneedle Street church received permission to build a chapel of ease to accommodate its burgeoning congregation. The Huguenots were generally well-received in England, enjoying royal protection, though occasionally the competition created by the skill and industry of the French craftsmen, and their reluctance to conform to the rules of the livery companies, led to difficulties. Integration gradually led to the closing of French churches; by 1841 there were only three left in London, two being conformist…”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s