THE UK's Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is to award a grant of £1.2 million for the development of the first national Huguenot Heritage Centre, in Rochester.
The centre will bring to life the Huguenot story; a story of persecution, of flight from France, and of settlement and integration in England.
Visitors will learn of the skills that the Huguenots brought with them to England and be able to understand the impact of those skills on the development of modern Britain.
They will also be able to explore their own historical Huguenot links.
Stuart McLeod, head of Heritage Lottery Fund south east England, said: "This project will provide Rochester with a fascinating historical resource and visitor attraction enabling people to learn about a wave of migration that brought many advantages to British society.
"Giving people the chance to discover if they have Huguenot ancestry will, I’m certain, be especially popular."
The Huguenot Heritage Centre is the first museum in Britain dedicated to the history of the Huguenots, a group of some 250,000 French Protestants who fled from religious persecution in France, over a period of some 200 years, but most significantly at the end of the 17th century.
Between 60,000 to 80,000 Huguenots settled in England, largely in the south east, and this represents the biggest proportionate influx of immigrants in England’s history.
There were approximately 580,000 people living in London in 1700; the 40,000 Huguenots living there, represented approximately 14.5% of the population of the capital.
A heritage centre has long been planned by the French Hospital, which can trace its own history back to 1718 when it was set up as a charity offering sanctuary to Huguenots.
The French Hospital's collection currently consists of highly regarded paintings, prints, drawings, etchings, furniture, silverware, clocks, books, archival records, and other items illustrating the material culture of the Huguenots.
Many of these items will be used to help tell the Huguenot story.
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