By The Rev. Thomas Gimlette, Waterford
From the earliest record of our local history, Waterford has ever afforded a home and a shelter for the foreigner. The name of the barony in which the city and its liberties are comprised (Gualtier) signifies "the land of the stranger;" the Danes made it one of their first settlements; the Norman knights who followed Strongbow and Raymond le Gros soon stormed its battlements and made it their head-quarters; the Templars and Knights of St. John established themselves here, after their return from the Crusades; Dominicans and Franciscans from France and Spain were succeeded by burgesses from Bristol, who "drove a thriving trade," and by troopers from Gloucester, who gladly gave up "their warring and their fighting" for a secure settlement in a rich and loyal city. The sons of the strangers are now some of its most respected citizens.
The easy access to the harbour of Waterford, and its peculiar advantages for commercial enterprise, point out at once a sufficient reason why so many settlers should from time to time take up their abode on the banks of that beautiful river, which Spenser, in his Faerie Queene, describes as
"The first, the gentle Shure that making way
By sweet Clonmel adorns rich Waterford."
War brought some; religion others; but more came for trade to a large and thriving sea-port, and succeeded in raising its importance in the several countries to which their ships resorted. But, besides its natural facilities, Waterford was a city which had long enjoyed the favour of the British Crown. The franchises and immunities granted to its inhabitants by King John, which were confirmed and increased by his successors, rendered its merchants and traders free of "coquett and custome" in every part of England and Ireland, and enabled them as well to import as to export a considerable share of merchandise with peculiar means of profit and little risk of loss.
At one time, in the days of Henry the 7th, the Irish traffic with the south of France for Rhenish and Gascoigne wine was almost monopolised by Waterford; the intercourse consequent thereupon was, of course, considerable. In other branches of commercial pursuit the same brisk interchange was carried on, the same advantages fullowed, and in the succeeding reigns the Urbs Intacta became the great port of transit, not alone to England and Wales, but also to Flanders,a Spain, and many parts of France, as soon as the proclamations of peace enabled the voyagers to do so with impunity. In the middle of the 16th century even, the continental traders had discovered the peculiar advantages of a residence here; an interesting record of which for many years was to be seen on one of the beautiful columns of the old Waterford Cathedral, in the form of an ancient monument to the memory of a merchant born in French Flanders, who died here A.D. MDXLV. Although this was much defaced by Cromwell's soldiery, from the circumstance of the principal figure being an effigy in a kneeling position, and although it was completely destroyed when the ancient edifice was taken down, yet the inscription has been preserved in the valuable histories of Smith and Ryland. It was as follows:--
"Nobilis hic situs est Guilhelmus Clusius, ille
Mercator Fidus cui Patria alma Brugae
Cecropius, Cimonq; Cudonq; Corinthus alter
Pectore Munifico tum Pictate pari
Nec Minor is Craeso, Mida Crassove beatus
Divitiis, Placidus Indole Plebicola.
Obiit Waterfordae Hiberniae Anno MDXLV.
Beneath this were the following verses in the Walloon French, placed in two columns:--
La Noble Renomèe
Le Noble de La seluse
On the pillars were figures representing truth and piety, and above, the following sentence:--
"Domine secundum actum meum noli me judicare, Nihil dignum in conspectu tuo egi."
From these circumstances, it will not appear strange that at a later period of its history a goodly number of the FRENCH HUGURENOT REFUGEES should seek for a home in a city where their habits of industry would meet with a fitting reward; where a constant intercourse might be expected, not only with the land of their fathers, but also with their brethren in Holland, Germany, and England; and from which a voyage of a few short days would bring them tidings of the very spot which they had loft for conscience sake. But besides these reasons, there were others equally strong, which prompted the men of Picardy and Languedoc to establish themselves in the spot where the Norman knight, the Franciscan friar, and the vintner from Bourdeaux, had already been planted generation after generation, to fight with all, pray with all, or fill a bumper for all, according to the times in which they made their settlement.
James the First, in consequence of a riot at the time of his proclamation, had possessed himself of the Great Charter of the city, and at his death it still remained unrestored. In 1626, Charles the First, on the petition of the citizens, granted them a new Charter, restoring all the ancient privileges, and bestowing many new ones. This new charter, for which the citizens were compelled to pay the large sum of three thousand pounds, was followed by a second one, which was dated February the 19th, 1631, and granted to them important rights of Admiralty and jurisdictions over the fisheries. The trade and manufacture again improved; and although the rebellion of 1641, and the engagements of Cromwell and Ormonde before its very walls in 1650, tended to check commercial enterprise, it was only for a time, and again the maritime powers of the continent endeavoured to trade with the freemen "on the banks of the SHURE."
The Corporation and principal inhabitants of the city were at this period Protestant. The Puritan followers of Cromwell had settled here in considerable numbers; and the intercourse with the Calvinistic Protestants of Holland, France, and Geneva, was kept up by the unity which existed in their religious feelings and opinions. In the year 1662, the Duke of Ormonde being viceroy, a Bill was brought into the Irish Parliament, then sitting at Dublin, entitled "an Act for encouraging Protestant Strangers and others to inhabit Ireland." It received the Royal assent on the 10th of September -- William Halsey and John Eyre, the members for Waterford, assisting in its becoming law. The Roman Catholic merchants of the city immediately memorialed the Lord Lieutenant, alleging that they were obliged "to pay strangers duties for goods." The Mayor (Bolton's) reply to his Excellency was, "that they were not freemen, had taken no oath of supremacy, and they may and do harbour not only goods of stranger's in his Majesty's dominions, but of the subjects of other princes."b
In 1692, the first Parliament after the revolution was convened in Dublin by Henry, Lord Viscount Sidney. Its first act was "the recognition of their Majesties' undoubted right to the crown of Ireland." its next, "An act for the encouragement of Protestant strangers to settle in the Kingdom of Ireland." Charles the Second's act had continuance only for seven years from the date of its passing in 1662. The number of French Huguenots who had fought under King William in Ireland, who were now about being disbanded, and whose abiding in the country was earnestly desired by all who favoured the Prince of Orange, rendered the renewal of the Bill most desirable; and it was hurried through both Houses without discussion. Anthony Luxberry and Henry Nicholls were the citizens representing Waterford who aided in its passing; and, according to the Journal of the House, "nemine contradicente." Its first provision was as follows:-- "That all and every part of King Charles the Second's Act for encouraging Protestant strangers and others to inhabit and plant in the Kingdom of Ireland, which is now expired, shall be in full force and virtue, to all intents and purposes whatsoever, for and during the term of seaven years from the end of this present session of Parliament, and no longer." The next demanded that the Protestant settler should take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy in open court at the Assizes or Sessions, before three Justices of the Peace, the fee for which should be one shilling, and without which they were not to be naturalised. The last had reference to their faith and worship; and thus it ran:-- "And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all Protestant strangers and foreigners who, at any time hereafter, shall come into this kingdom, and shall take the Oaths and subscribe the declaration herein above mentioned, shall have and enjoy the free exercise of their religion, and have liberty of meeting together publickly for the worship of God, and of hearing divine service and performing other religious duties in their own several languages; and also according to the several rites used in their own countries, any law or statute to the contrary notwithstanding."
This "Act of encouragement" would induce many of the Huguenot officers and soldiers to remain as settlers; but it was also desirable that men skilled in manufacture should be prevailed on to come over and increase the Protestant population. The linen trade was one which seemed to afford the best inducement; and, accordingly, we find the Corporation of Waterford, at a council meeting held on the 27th of March, 1693, passing the following resolution on the subject of the Protestant refugees:--
Ordered March 27th, 1693. -- "That this city and liberties do provide habitations for fifty families of the French Protestants, to drive a trade of linen manufacture, they bringing with them a stock of money and materials for their subsistence till flax can be sown and produced on the lands adjacent; and that the freedom of the city be given them gratis; and the Mayor and Recorder are desired to acquaint the Lord Bishop of this diocese therewith." This Bishop was Dr. Nathaniel Foy;c the Mayor, Daniel Lloyde; the Recorder, Minard Christain; all three remarkable for their Protestant zeal.
By the exertions of Bishop Foy a suitable place of worship was soon provided for the refugees; for although many of the Huguenots had been more inclined to the Genevan form of worship, yet in Waterford they conformed to the discipline of the bishop who was so kind a patron. A pious pastor arrived to officiate for them, his name was David Gervais. The Corporation voted a grant of £40 per annum as a salary for the French minister, and the choir of the old Franciscan Abbey was fitted up with neatness and simplicity as the French Church. The civic authorities, however, although recording this grant, seem to have made little provision for the payment of it; but in consequence of a remonstrance addressed to them by the minister, we find that, during the Mayoralty of Theodore Jones, in June, 1702, the following resolution was agreed to:-- "Upon reading the petition of David Gervais, French minister, it was ordered -- That his salary of £40 per annum be continued, and the arrear paid." This was continued to him till his death. Bishop Foy had died on the 31st of Dec. 1707, but his successor, Dr. Mills, continued his kindness. The Rev. David Gervais was promoted in 1713 by him to be one of the prebendaries of Lismore Cathedral, and was installed for Modelligo. He did not, however, resign his charge over the church which he had planted, for in the next year the following record is found in the Cathedral Piegistry at Waterford:--
"1714, April 12th. -- Lieutenant Peter Besard Delamaindre, and Mrs. Jane Dubay, were married by Mr. David Gervais, in the French Church."
Nor did he long enjoy his increase of stipend, for in the same Registry, a few pages farther on, we find the notice of his interment by the Dean of Waterford:--
"1716, July 6th. The Rev. Mr. David Gervais, prebendary of Modelligo and minister of the French Church, was buried this day by the Rev. Mr. Dean Ecles, in Christ Church."
Lieutenant Delamaindre also left his wife for the second time a widow; but both good ladies seem to have been cared for by the country of their adoption. In a return made to the Irish House of Commons, Dec. 19, 1756, of half-pay officers' widows enjoying pensions, we have -- "Mrs. Jane Delamaindre, a pension of £20 per annum;" and on the civil establishment at the same time -- "Mrs. Mary Gervais, a pensioner of the crown, for £54 15s."
Another branch of the Gervais family appears to have settled in Lismore, but what the particular connection was cannot be traced fiom the record. That they were of the same stock may, however, be gathered from the following entry in the Waterford Register:--
"1714. Sept, 15th. William, son of the Rev. Isaac Gervais and Catherine his wife, of Lismore, buried in the French Church."
In 1708 the Rev. Isaac Gervais was appoiiited one of the Vicars Choral of Lismore. In 1724 he was made prebendary of Kilrosantie; and in 1743 Dean of Tuam. He died in 1756, and was buried in Lismore. On his appointment to the Deanery he resigned the Vicar Choralship of Lismore in favour of his sun, the Rev. Henry Gervais, who was succeeded in 1761 by another descendant of the refugees, the Rev. Antoine Fleury. In 1754 the Rev. Henry Gervais was collated to the prebendary of Tullaghorton. On the 27th May, 1768, he was appointed Treasurer of Cashel, which office he resigned in 1772. He was then appointed Archdeacon of Cashel, and prebend of Doon in the same archdiocese. His collation for both was dated September 18th, 1772. He died in 1790, and was buried in Lismore. His descendants are still to be found in that district, intermarried with the highest families in the county of Waterford.
The second minister of the French Church of Waterford was the Rev. James Denis. The members of the Corporation at this period were not inclined to the same liberality as before, being engaged at deadly feud with Bishop Thomas Mills, who succeeded the good Bishop Foy. Their allowance to the minister of the French Church was a scant one indeed, as appears from the following entry in the Corporation books:--
"Jany. 22, 1717. -- Upon reading the petition of the Rev. Mr. Jacobus Denis, Minister of the French Church of Waterford, setting forth that he has a great family of a wife and eight children, and that this board did give a yearly pension to the late Minister of the French Church, and humbly prayed to have a pension allowed him. It is ordered that the said Mr. James Denis be allowed £5 from out of the city revenue during the pleasure of this board, and that to commence from Michlemas last."
This pittance was, however, continued for only five years. On the 28th of July, 1722, it was ordered by the Council "That the Rev. Mr. Denis's salary, minister of the French Church, be suspended." He was, however, remembered by his bishop; and on the 28th of November, 1729, we find him collated to the prebend of Donoghmore, in the diocese of Lismore, on the promotion of the Rev. Hugh Barbon. About the same period also he appears to have received assistance in the ministry of the French Church. In the Visitation Book for the diocese of Waterford, in 1731, we find the following entry made respecting it, and the appearance of the clergy who served its congregation:--
"Jacobus Denis, Cler. Minister Eccliae Galliae compt
Anthony Frank, Literatus, Eccliae Galleiae Excusatur."
Of Anthony Frank no other notice is recorded; but as Mr. Denis was not succeeded in the prebendary until 1735, when it was occupied by the Rev. Edward Thomas, afterwards Archdeacon of Lismore, it is to be presumed that his ministry lasted for the space of twenty years, and that the little colony had been still fostered and encouraged by those who so gladly welcomed them on their first arrival. Prior to the appointment of Mr. James Denis as pastor, we find from the records that Mr. William Denis officiated in the church. Under date July 11th, 1714, we read as follows:--
"Mr. Benigne Bellet, the wife of Mr. Isaac Bellet, of St. Johns, was buried by Mr. William Denis, in the French Church."
From the fact that the Rev. James Denis and the Rev. Antoine Frank were both cited to the episcopal visitation it is evident that the bishop claimed jurisdiction over the French Church and congregation. No peculiar parochial charge was allocated to the pastor, nor did the settlers confine themselves to any particular quarter of the city. From the parochial registers they appear to have settled in the heart of the city, within the walls, and to have been scattered through the seven parishes. And, although they worshipped in their own tongue, and in their own church, they were time after time elected to the chief offices in the churches of the city.
Amongst the churchwardens and vestrymen, the following names prove how highly the citizens valued the new settlers and their descendants. In St. Patrick's Parish appear the names:-- Henri Blanche, Alexander D'Maison, John D'Maison, Tobias Linnegar, Samuel Odcroft, Anthonie Hagerein, Hector Boisrond, Marquis Guillard, Germain Luné. In St. Peter's, and St. John's, amongst the very last churchwardens appointed before the union with St. Patrick's, appear Charles L'Maistre, Nicholas Sprusson, Peter Duclà, John Shelmadine, Captain Sautelle, and Francois Spurrier. In St. Olave's, James H. Reynette, Thomas Latrobe, and Jean Vinson. In the Cathedral, (Trinity) Messrs. Gayott, and St. Legere.
They were also honoured members of the Corporation. In the records of the City Council, during this period, appear the names of Chaigneau, Gayott, Vashon, and Ayrault, as common council men. In 1707, John Espaignet was appointed sheriff of the city. In 1709 Jeremy Gayott was sheriff. The charge of the water-works of the city was entrusted, in 1719, to Alderman Vashon; and in 1726 he filled the office of mayor. In 1735 Peter Vashon was sheriff; and in the years 1738 and 1739 Simon Vashon, jun., was mayor for these successive periods. In 1755 James Henry Reynette was sheriff; and, at a later period, he also occupied the civic chair for two successive years. Several entries are found of the admission of French Refugees to their franchise, in accordance with the bye-laws, during the early part of the Rev. James Denis's pastoral charge. Many of these were engaged in commercial pursuits, and derived considerable immunities from their being naturalised as citizens of Waterford. All hope was debarred them of returning to the districts of Languedoc, or to the provinces of the Lyonnais and Touraine; and the proclamation of Queen Anne's parliament in 1709, which established their right of citizenship, encouraged them to settle down to the export and import of merchandise. In the immediate neighbourhood of the French Church several of their warehouses were situated. The wholesale wine trade has since that period flourished in close contiguity. The busiest general emporiums were even then, as now, nigh at hand; and their ships, well freighted, went and returned to every well known sea-port either at home or abroad; or were moored close at hand in the secure haven of the Suir.
It would appear that many of those who were thus occupied in trade brought over with them a supply of French specie, which was freely taken and offered in the mutual interchange of business in the city. A proclamation from the crown, issued by the Lords Justices of Ireland, 29th August, 1737, ordering that the value of French gold should be reduced to a certain standard, created no inconsiderable alarm; and on the 24th day of October, 1737, a petition was presented to the Irish House of Commons from "the merchants and traders, inhabitants of Waterford," setting forth -- "That several branches of trade in this kingdom, before the issuing of the late proclamation for reducing the gold coin, were brought very low, and were daily decaying, occasioned, as the petitioners apprehend, by a proclamation which formerly issued in this kingdom for adding to the weight of French and Spanish gold." The petitioners prayed the house "to lay before his Majesty such a method for a regulation not only of the current coin of this kingdom, but also of all foreign coin, as may most tend to the advantage of his Majesty, and the interest of his subjects of this kingdom, and the trade of it." The subject of the petition was postponed for consideration until the 26th day of October, on which day, after several divisions, the Government succeeded in defeating the object of the petitioners. Ambrose Congreve, who was at the head of a bankiiig establishment in this city, and who had several times contested its representation, appeared to be the principal mover in this matter. His partner was Samuel Parker; and, in the following session, a petition being presented against them from several traders of Waterford, complaining that they had fraudulently obtained possession of ships and property lodged in the cellars of the French Church, belonging to the Messrs. Weeks, who had become bankrupts and absconded, the House took the matter into consideration, and appointed a committee, who brought in a report fully vindicating the fair fame and lionourable dealings of Messrs. Congreve and Barker in this matter. In this report, which is published at full length in the Appendix to the Journal of the Irish House of Commons, frequent reference is made to the cellars adjoining to the French Church: and the following is a copy of an account rendered of some of the property contained in one of them, which is interesting as showing the relative value of the several articles contained therein at that time as compared with the present:--
|GOODS IN THE CELLAR OF THE FRENCH CHURCH|
One Hogshead of Mountain, wanting five Gallons, ... ... ... ... ...
Two Puncheons and One-leaf Spirits, 255 Gallons, @ 2s 6d. ...
Twenty-four Empty Casks, ... .. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
One Puncheon, three Jars, and nine Bottles of Rum, ... ... ... ...
A Parcel of Oats, ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
A Parcel of Cheese, .. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Four Boxes of Lemons, almost rotten, ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
A small Parcel of Benecarlo and some old Hock, . ... ... ... ... ...
A small Parcel of Straw Mats, ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Three Firkins of Neat Tongues, 2½ dozen each, @ 6d, . ... ... ...
A small Parcel of Train Oil, ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
167 Barrels of Salt, @ 7s, ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
The forgoing extracts prove that a spirit of commercial enterprise had enabled some of the refugees to acquire wealth and station: but in the manufactureing field they were also ever strivin to win an honest independence. The original resolution of the Corporation embraced the idea that establishing a linen manufacture, for which the settlers had already become famous. Of the several branches which had been introduced already into the North of Ireland, the manufacture of sail-cloth seemed the most suited for a commercial sea-port like Waterford, as well for consumption as for exportation; and after some little time a vigorous endeavour was made to establish this here.
To be continued...
[a] In 1484 a shipment by some merchants of Waterford to Sluys, in Flanders, in preference to Clais, raised the question of Ireland being bound by statutes made in England, which was finally determined in the affirmative.
[b] In the new rules given at the Council Chamber of Dublin, Sept. 23, 1672, Waterford is especially named as one of the cities chosen for the encouragement of the settlement of Protestant foreigners.
[c] Dr. Foy, who had himself suffered for adherence to the Protestant religion, endeavoured to strengthen the cause in Waterford by plabting a colony of the refugees; and establishing a Protestant school for the sons of the Waterford freeman.
The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 4, 1856.