French Church Street and the Huguenots

The area around French Church Street and Carey's Lane is known as the Huguenot Quarter of Cork city. The Huguenots were French Protestants who fled from religious persecution during the seventeenth century. When the Edict of Nantes (1598), which had granted religious freedom to French Protestants, was revoked in 1685, many Huguenots chose to leave France, with about 5,000 of them settling in Ireland. The community of Huguenots in Cork city never numbered much more than three hundred. Another smaller wave of Huguenot émigrés followed in the latter half of the eighteenth century, until the French Revolution finally ended the denial of civil and religious liberties to Huguenots.

French Church Street

On coming to Ireland, some of the Huguenots conformed to the principles of the Church of Ireland while others chose to worship in independent or non-conformist churches of their own. The non-conformist Huguenots in Cork brought some property in Cork in 1712 and established a church between the modern-day French Church Street and Carey's Lane. A graveyard was later established adjacent to the church. The Huguenots worshipped at the church in French Church Street until 1813, when declining numbers caused the closure of the church. The original building was demolished in 1845 and a new church was errected by the Primitive Wesleyan Methodists. The Primitive Wesleyan Methodists had been using the old church since 1819 and continued to use the new church until 1897. Many of the Huguenots remaining attended worship in churches of the Church of Ireland.

The Huguenots became prominent in the commercial and civic life of the city soon after their arrival in Cork. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries many Huguenots served as Sheriffs and Mayors of Cork. In the commerical field the Huguenots were prominent in trading and textile manufacture, while as craftsmen they were noted as goldsmiths and silversmiths. Some of the best known Huguenot surnames in Cork included: Besnard, Pick, Lavit/Lafitte, Perrier, Godsell, Quarry, Hardy, Malet, Perdrian and Delacour.  

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