Journal Article

August 2009

Huguenot Library : UCL Special Collections, Hampstead Road

Peter Jackson

Start at Mornington Crescent (well known to aficionados of a certain radio programme), go south along Hampstead Road, past the former Black Cat cigarette factory, across the railway line and on the left, immediately after the Shell filling station, there is an anonymous looking concrete building. It houses the UCL special collections library, and it contains a wealth of historical documents (for which information can be found at http:/ Note that you need an appointment to visit, for which a small charge is made.

On a previous visit there, organised by the British Association for Local History (BALH), I was lucky enough to be able to see some of their incunabula, for they hold some priceless printed books, dating back to 1480. The idiosyncratic nature of this collection is reflected in the fact that the printed book collection is also strong on twentieth century poets and writers.

The reason for the visit on this occasion was the Huguenot Library collection. Members will be aware that the Huguenots were protestants in France, a predominantly, one might say staunchly, Catholic Country. There was a trickle of emigrants from quite early after the start of Protestantism. There were religious wars in France from 1562, and the famous "Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve (23rd August) in 1572 was directed against Huguenots; many who felt uncomfortable in France left for Protestant communities. Later in the sixteenth century the Huguenots were granted freedom of worship by the Edict of Nantes. It remained in effect for nearly a hundred years until, in 1685, it was revoked by Louis Quatorze (the Sun King). Many Huguenots chose to leave France rather than risk staying in a country where they would feel oppressed, and some came to England, although another large group went to what is today Holland, and others went to the Americas and South Africa. Although migration peaked just after 1685, it continued for over 20 years after. In England a number of Huguenot Churches were established, some in London, one in Colchester, another in Canterbury; there was also a Huguenot Hospital in London. These establishments kept their own records, often in French, and many of these have been transcribed and published by the Huguenot Society. Copies of these transcripts are held in the Library, and some can also be seen in the library of the Society of Genealogists (SoG). the Huguenot Library has a wide range of background material on the Huguenots, as well as the transcripts, and if you are interested in the background and life of the Huguenot community, it is the place to visit, especially if you can read French. If you just want the family history, the collection at the SoG is probably enough. The UCL collection contains an invaluable set of surname index microfiche which I have not seen at the SoG. Foreigners could obviously apply for naturalisation: there was also a "half way" house, where they are described as a denizen. Entries in the registers often make reference to one of these status.

The name that was of interest to us is Tillyer. In my wife's family we have traced back to one Christopher Tillyer, who was a shepherd at Heathrow around 1700 (long before the days of the jumbo jets!) and this is certainly a name that occurs in the Huguenot records. Anyone who has traced their family back that far will know that you need to take a flexible attitude to spelling, so we have been happy to regard any of the spellings Tillyer, Tillier, Tilier, Telier, Tyllier as acceptable variants (but we rejected Tiler, too English). A dictionary of French surnames links all these names to the root forms Teillier or Thillier, the first of which is an occupational name, a maker of linen, whilst the second was linked to the French word for a linden tree, although I could not make out the connection. Sadly we failed to locate any record that fitted what we know of Christopher, so what I write up here is a record of other things we found, rather than a success story. All these entries contain a reference to one of these surnames.

Returns Of Aliens

The earliest returns, from the period around the start of parish registers (which should go back to 1538 although many early registers have been lost), are the "returns of aliens" made at various times during the 1500's. I found Peter Tyllyer in the 1544 return, described as the apprentice of Robert Jordan in the ward of "St Clement's within the Duchy" (this probably means that part of St Clement Danes that belonged to the Duchy of Lancaster). The return of 1567 has one Richard Tyllyer "French, not a denizen, resident 7 years in the ward of Farringdon Without. In 1571 Richard Tyllier was in Flete Lane, St Bride's parish (is this the same man? Farringdon Without is only a little way north) and described as born in Roan, France (is that Rouen?), a silk worker, not a denizen, servant to Johan Henrie widow: he had been living in England for 12 years and in the ward for 6. In 1585, in Blackfriars, we find John Tillyer, a blacksmith born in Depe (Dieppe?) who had been living in England for 10 years and came "for his conscience" The records of French Church, Threadneedle Street held mentions of the surname in the following century. On 15th April 1622 there is the baptism of Eduart Teiller, son of Jan, a native of London and Jenne du Jardin: she was described as the veue of Poul de Lobel-- the word veue puzzles me, in the context I think one should read "veuve", widow. There are also quite a few witnesses recorded at baptisms, like Mary Telier at the baptism of Mary le Brun, daughter of Jacq' and Marie; as well as confirming that Mary was in England at this date, there is always the possibility that the witness was a relative. Other Huguenot records in which I found the name included, the French Hospital in Spitalfields, the Walloon Church in Canterbury and the records of Denization and Naturalisation. However a really good source was the French Hospital.

Some of the records of the French Hospital contain masses of information. One entry tells us that Judith Tellier was admitted in late 1771: she is described as age 53 (so born 1718) born in London, the daughter of Daniel Calvini "natif de Lunerai, Haute Normandie". She died 9th March 1772 "afflicted with rheumatism". A long entry deals with Jane Vickers nee Tillier, who died, aged 79 on 24th April 1875: she was the daughter of William Tillier and Mary Tillier late Duval (so we get mother's maiden name, how useful) who dies in June 1841. Jane was baptised 10th September 1796 in Cock Lane Smithfield and her family had fled from Normandy after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 100 years earlier. Her great grandfather had died at the French Hospital. Jane had married Thomas Wray Hall on 8th December 1817 (married by one Thomas Hamson, curate, but we are not told where!), and had a son, also Thomas Wray Hall (who the IGI reveals was born a year later); she then remarried on 8th November 1829 when she is said (clearly inaccurately) to be a spinster. There is also an entry for her mother, Marie Tillier. Dated June 12th 1830 it reads (the original in French, my translation)

“the request of Marie Tillier, widow, 65 years of age, living at no.9 Huggin Lane, Lower Thames Street near Queenhithe, daughter of Pierre Duval and granddaughter of Pierre Duval, native of Normandy, in France. Request that your humble supplicant, who has come to a condition which does not permit any work at all on her part, and consequently is not in a fit state to do anything at all, but a combination of adverse circumstances has reduced her to a state of extreme poverty, and that besides she has a very bad cough, greater or lesser according to the season: that her dead father was formerly of the Church of St John and her sister and the majority of her relatives had been members, there that is why your most humble supplicant begs you to admit her into your hospital".

She makes her mark. This is followed by a note that three people have certified this story to be true, a comment "elle ne parle pas francais" and that she was admitted on 2nd October 1830. From her daughter's entry, above, we know that she died 11 years later. A little more digging in the entries reveals quite a few members of this family were admitted. Pierre Duval senior was admitted in January 1783 and died January 1794 "at an advanced age". He was born in Bousse, France, and came to England in the early 1700's "because of his religion". He had three children (1) Pierre junior, Marie's father, (2) Jane, whose married name was Wood, and (3) William who we discover had four children, Louisa, William, Jesse and Catherine, of whom the first two were inmates of the Hospitalin 1870, whilst Jesse was dead. Pierre junior seems to have steered clear of the Hospital, so I found nothing more about him: his daughter and granddaughter, Jane, were both inmates, noted above. Jane had a son Samuel Hall, who also kept out of the Hospital, but his son, William Joshua was an inmate just after W.W.1. Using some other sources, especially the IGI, would enable the family to be extended a bit, but this article is long enough.


Royston and District Family History Society