On 13 April 1598 the Edict of Nantes was issued by Henry IV of France, allowing freedom of religion to the Huguenots, a French Protestant community.
In England, freedom of worship had been granted to Protestants by Edward VI, by Royal Charter of 1550. Following this, many French Protestants flocked to London to escape the religious wars in France. On arrival in England they needed somewhere to worship.
St George’s Chapel had been given the hospital and advowson of St Anthony’s in the City of London by Edward IV in 1475. By 1563 the religious foundation was largely brought to an end, and the church building in Threadneedle Street was leased to the French Protestant community in London during Elizabeth I’s reign. The first such lease held in the College Archives is dated 4 August 1581 and describes the church as ‘the church called St Anthonies Chappell now commonly called the French Church for the use of people to resorte thither to their divine service’ [SGC XVI.2.2].
The original church was destroyed during the Great Fire of London, but a new one was soon built and the site continued to be leased by the College to the French Congregation until 1841, when the church was demolished to make way for the new Royal Exchange. The Dean and Canons demanded £2100 from the Corporation of the City of London in compensation for their interest in the French Protestant Church, Threadneedle Street [Chapter Acts, 22 January 1840: SGC VI.B.10].
Eleanor (Assistant Archivist)