The Huguenots



Around the start of the eighteenth century, as Irish conditions became more settled, two groups of continental Protestant refugees were settled in the country with official, or semi-official help. The first of these, the Huguenots, were French Calvinists persecuted intermittently by the Catholic rulers of France throughout the seventeenth century.

Small numbers of refugees from this persecution had come to Ireland, mainly via England, from 1620 to 1641, and again with Cromwell in 1649, but it was in 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed them toleration, that the main body of Huguenots began to arrive, mostly from the countryside around the city of La Rochelle in the modern region of Poitou-Charente.

After the end of the Williamite wars, large Huguenot settlements were established in Portarlington, Youghal, Cork, Dublin, Waterford and Lisburn, where they became celebrated for their expertise in textiles, specialising in weaving, lace-making, and glove-making. In the course of time, they became thoroughly absorbed into Irish society through intermarriage, and names such as Boucicault, Maturin, Le Fanu and Trench are still familiar in Ireland today.