This table carpet was created in 1761 and is attributed to Jean Ulrich Passavant, a Huguenot from Strasbourg. It depicts the Barnstaple coat of arms and the name of the Mayor, Monier Roch, himself a Huguenot. The Huguenots were noted for their skill in textile manufacture, especially in establishing the silk weaving industry in Spitalfields, London.
The Huguenots were French Protestants who were persecuted for their religion. Barnstaple had long standing trading links with south western France and became a destination for refugees, especially after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
The arrival of 127 refugees in North Devon is recorded in the diary of Jacques Fontaine: “After paying for our passage, I had only twenty gold pistoles left, but God had not conducted us in safety to a haven there to leave us to perish with hunger; the good people of Barnstaple had compassion upon us, took us into their houses, and treated us with the greatest kindness; thus God raised up for us fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, in a strange land”.
Although some of the Huguenots soon moved on to other towns, some remained in Barnstaple. The Borough gave them St Anne’s Chapel (also the town’s Grammar School) as a place of worship; services were held there in French until 1762. Both Matthew Roch and his son Monier served several times as the Town’s Mayor and in 1791 Monier Roch founded the Barnstaple Bank. Today many Huguenot surnames can still be found throughout North Devon.