About

The Huguenot Museum is the first and only museum of Huguenot history in Britain. It tells an important story of Britain’s first refugees, the crafts, trades and skills they brought with them and the impact their contribution has had on the development of our country.

Use this section of the website to discover more about the latest news from the museum and how to get in touch or even hire our space! Here you can also find out about the French Hospital, our sister charity and read a brief history of the Huguenots.

Press Release: 27 September 2021

Huguenot Museum in Rochester to close, temporarily,

from October 2021

The Huguenot Museum will, sadly, close its doors to the public in October due to a funding shortfall exacerbated by the ongoing Covid pandemic. The Museum’s trustees are putting together a plan to enable the Museum to reopen in Spring 2022.

The Museum was opened by Princess Alexandra in Summer 2015 thanks to a £1.3 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and is the only Museum in the country dedicated to the story of Huguenot refugees, Protestants who were escaping persecution in France, from the 1500s into the early 1700s. More than 50,000 settled in England, where they made a great impact with their extraordinary skills in crafts such as silk weaving, silversmithing, clockmaking, bookbinding and other occupations such as banking, medicine and the military.  The Museum also celebrates the legacy of the Huguenots through exhibitions of contemporary craft alongside an exciting programme of talks and workshops. It has explored the links between the Huguenot refugees of the past and refugees today, working with organisational partners and groups of refugees on various creative projects.

Over the last 6 years the Museum has helped many hundreds of visitors uncover their Huguenot ancestors, and demand for their volunteer-run family history service is as strong as ever as many people turned to family history research over lockdown.

The Huguenot Museum also has a well-used venue hire space which was home to Rochester Film Society, the local volunteer-run organisation showing great cinema every fortnight and partnering with the Museum to show French films four times a year.

The Museum was set up by The French Hospital, an almshouse charity in Rochester founded in London in 1718, by Royal Charter, to support Huguenot refugees. The French Hospital moved to Rochester in the 1950s and continues to operate today. The bulk of the Huguenot Museum’s collection is on loan from The French Hospital.

The Museum was working to develop a sustainable business model, but was hit hard by the onset of the Covid pandemic in March 2020, before this could be achieved.

Despite successful opening periods in summer 2020 and summer 2021, a Heritage Emergency Fund grant of £59,400 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, local restrictions support grants and private donors’ support, the Museum has not been able to raise enough funding to continue in its present form, and will therefore close in October while the Museum’s trustees work to put together a rescue plan. They hope that a review of operations and new income streams will enable the Museum to open again in 2022.

The Huguenot Museum will be open for the last time this year on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 October.

The Museum is very grateful to the many grant funders, private donors, partners and visitors who have supported the Museum over the last six years, and particularly those who have visited the Museum so enthusiastically since reopening after the relaxation of covid restrictions in summer 2020 and more recently in 2021.

‘I visited the Huguenot Museum…and was delighted and informed in equal measure. It is a gem of a museum.’

Another family described the Huguenot Museum as ‘a national treasure’. They went on to say ‘We loved this family friendly museum…..The exhibition also beautifully interweaves short contemporary refugee narratives in a touching and inspiring way. This tiny museum must surely be one of the most relevant museums in the UK today. It tells the forgotten narrative of the blessing and value of refugees in our British society down through time.’

‘Absolutely brilliant. Just the right size. Quality exhibits, wonderfully displayed. Fascinating!’

In a statement from Kent Refugee Action Network, Bridget Chapman said

‘The Huguenot Museum has been a tremendous supporter of KRAN and the young people that we work with. They have partnered with us on various initiatives that have developed the confidence and the skills of young refugees, and have always sought to amplify the voices of lived experience. Their presence in Kent strengthens and enriches our community, and the work that they do in encouraging positive conversations about migration is absolutely vital. I can’t stress enough what a loss this is and I hope that a way is found to reopen this gem of an institution at the earliest opportunity.’

For further information please contact the Director, Dr Dinah Winch and keep updated via the website and social media director@huguenotmuseum.org<mailto:director@huguenotmuseum.org

Huguenot Museum, 95 High Street, Rochester, ME1 1LX www.huguenotmuseum.org

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ENDS