The River & Cloth programme was completed and this website last updated in October 2010.  The information below is for research and reference purposes:



Painting of Huguenot Lovers, John Millais

Between 1685 and 1700 2 million Huguenots (a popular term for French Protestants) fled France following religious persecution and wars over two centuries. Many of these settled in the UK - some in the Wandsworth and Merton area. The Huguenots were extremely creative and they brought with them a wealth of talent including silk weaving, printing, bleaching, dyeing and colouring.  This influx of creativity had a profound effect upon Merton's textile industry and the industrial revolution.

The Huguenots also had very good business sense.  One family alone possessed the secret recipe to create the colour 'cardinal red.' Ironically, this enabled them to maintain the monopoly on supplying cloth to the vatican - even during the height of the conflict between protestants and catholics in France.  Cardinal red was eventually brought to the UK by one Pierre Jacques Papillon - an eminent dyer from Rouen.

From the late 17th century onwards, many Huguenots settled in the Wandle Valley area and a number of these set themselves up on the calico printing trade.  One of the most successful of these was called Peter Mauvillain.  Mauvillain ran two printing works - one in Mitcham and one in Wandsworth.  It is thought that by the early part of the 18th century, he employed around 250 local people at both these works.  For further information about Peter Mauvillain, please see attached fact sheet, The Huguenots in Wandle Valley.


Fact Sheet_Huguenots in the Wandle Valley_compressed_final.pdf312.42 KB