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The Royal Bounty Archive

uczcmba3 September 2021

French Protestants became one of the largest group of immigrants in England from the 16th to the 18th century. A small number of refugees started arriving from the 1520s onwards, especially during periods when persecution increased in France. Emigration began to decrease at the beginning of the 17th century thanks to more favourable conditions for Huguenots in their own country after the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes, but then increased again during the dragonnades, which started in 1681, and peaked in 1685 with the Edict of Fontainebleau. The latter, which effectively revoked the 1598 Edict, stipulated that all Huguenot ministers were to be expelled and that the laity had to convert to Catholicism and was furthermore forbidden to leave the country. Nevertheless, c. 40-50,000 French Protestants fled to England but for the most part had to leave all their belongings behind and therefore, many arrived entirely destitute. It soon became clear that substantial aid would need to be dispensed.

James II initially ordered collections to be carried out in Anglican churches for the benefit of Huguenots between 1686 and 1688. The first brief was issued on 5 March 1686 and originated from a petition by the Ministers and churchwardens of the Savoy French Church. The King intended the collection to be for the relief of Huguenots conforming to the Church of England only. Indeed, the potential applicants had to show certificates of having received communion according to the Church of England’s practices. A second brief was issued in 1688 but crucially did not mention that Huguenots had to conform in order to be considered.

A more structured way of providing for the refugees directly from funds from the Civil List was then created by joint monarchs William and Mary, in 1689: The Royal Bounty. On 5 May 1689, William III issued a declaration encouraging Huguenots to make their way to England and promised them protection and support. Responsibility for administering the funds was given to a number of eminent Englishmen, called the Commissioners, and to a French Committee. The Commissioners were appointed directly by the King and were responsible for overseeing the entire operation. On the other hand, the French Committee was composed entirely of Huguenots who had to decide who would get financial assistance and then allocate the money accordingly. From 1696, the distribution was split between the laity and the clergy, represented by two distinct committees. In 1705, the English Committee was set up and its members, nominated by the Commissioners, were tasked with auditing the accounts. These were deposited in the Chamber of London, at Guildhall.

Outside of London, distributions to the poor were carried out by the Huguenot churches, who received block grants, whereas other categories of recipients, such as the nobility and the bourgeoisie, had to apply directly to London. In the capital, two companies were set up to achieve the same aim: one in the City and one in Westminster. Below are two petitions from the French Hospital collection mentioning that both individuals were reliant on the Royal Bounty or bénéficence royale, prior to applying to live in the Hospital.

André Morelon’s petition to the French Hospital, 1783-1785

Catherine Lambert’s petition
to the French Hospital, 1783-1785

 

The papers housed in the Huguenot Library are those of the French Committee. The largest group of manuscripts are the certified accounts which were kept meticulously and list all those receiving funds as well as the respective amounts. They were divided into several categories differentiating the various persons receiving aid and/or the reasons why they needed it. Categories would include, amongst others, funds for the nobility, clergy, country churches, bourgeoisie and those of the lower classes. The amounts allocated to each category was decided in advance with the higher classes, incongruously from a modern viewpoint, receiving the most funds.

Schedule of the payments, under various
heads, authorized for the relief of poor
refugees for 6 months, 8 December 1699

 

Funds were not just distributed to individuals but sometimes also earmarked for a specific purpose, such as payments for funerals, emigration to colonies in the West Indies, establishment of apprenticeships and payment for Huguenots who looked after French Protestant orphans. They were also providing aid to Huguenot organisations such as schools for refugee children and the Pest House, the precursor of the French Hospital, located near Bunhill Fields.

Undertakers’ bill for interments,
November 1753-July 1760

Receipt for money and clothing for orphans by order of the Church of St Martin Orgars, 1735

 

In 1802, the Treasury, which had become responsible for issuing payments for the Royal Bounty, began to question the Committee more rigorously, with the intention of eventually winding up the funds. The gradual extinction of the pensions paid concluded in 1876, when the last payment was made to one Sarah Rignon.

The importance of this collection is not limited to the story of the grant itself, its organisation, distribution and the challenges it faced, but also derives from the detailed information it provides on the individual recipients: their family unit, original provenance in France, occupation and possible health conditions. Finally, it documents to some extent the running and activities of the French Churches involved in the distribution, as well as giving us a snapshot of part of the Huguenot community in England during this period. It can be argued that the Royal Bounty was instrumental in helping Huguenots to assimilate and in some cases prosper in England.

The Huguenot Society decided to digitise the microfiches of this entire collection and make them available on the members’ area of the Society’s website, which can also be accessed by UCL staff and students, upon request.

The project was approved in May 2019, and went live a year later. The digitisation of the 646 fiches, consisting of 12 x 5 images each was outsourced; whereas the creation of a searchable catalogue to which the images of the manuscripts would be attached was done in-house. The resulting resource has not only made this collection more accessible, especially during the various lockdowns, but has also substantially improved its cataloguing, as records for each constituent item had to be created. In turn, this benefits those who prefer to still visit and see the original documents.

If you would like to access the Royal Bounty archive online or would like to visit the library, please contact the Huguenot Library at: library@huguenotsociety.org.uk

By Micol Barengo

Further reading:

Escot, Margaret M., ‘Profiles of relief: Royal Bounty grants to Huguenot refugees, 1686-1709’ in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol. 25, issue 3 (1991)

Rey, Claudius, An account of the cruel persecutions rais’d by the French clergy since their taking sanctuary here… (London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1718)

Smith, Raymond, Records of the Royal Bounty and connected funds, the Burn donation, and the Savoy Church in the Huguenot Library. Quarto Series volume 51 (London: Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1974)

Smith, Raymond, ‘Financial aid to French Protestant refugees 1681-1727: Briefs and the Royal Bounty’ in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol. 22, issue 3 (1973)

Sundstrom, Roy A., Aid and assimilation: a study of the economic support given French Protestants in England, 1680-1727 (PhD Thesis: Kent State University Graduate School, 1972)

Bridging the Digital Gap (Part II)

isabelle.reynolds-logue.1318 July 2019

In my last post I explained what I have been up to for the last 9 months as the Bridging the Digital Gap trainee at UCL. Now, I will show you some of my favourite digitisation projects so far…

The UCL College Collection

The UCL College Collection contains, among other things, photographs of the exterior and interior of UCL buildings.

This photograph looking towards Gordon Street (Gordon Square is signified by the trees in the background) features some graffiti from the mid-twentieth century: ‘Merry Xmas. Love peace anarchy.’

Technicians seen posing on the ruins of the Great Hall at UCL in the 1950s.

The issue desk at the Main Library post-1951.

Bomb damage to the Main Library after the Second World War.

The Little Magazines Collection

The Little Magazines Collection was set up in 1964 to gather together little magazines from the UK, North America, Commonwealth and Europe. We have defined Little Magazines as “those which publish creative, often innovative work, with little or no regard for commercial gain.” You can learn more about the collection here.

Cover of ‘Gargoyle’ Number Two, 1921.

A page from ‘The Owl: A Miscellany’ 1919.

Jewish Pamphlets

I worked on a joint project with Dr. Maria Kiladi to digitise the Jewish Pamphlets Collection.

One challenge with these was that some pamphlets were read from right to left, when in Hebrew, as opposed to ones written in English. Another challenge was that I am unable to read Hebrew, so with pages entirely in Hebrew it was not easy to know which way round they were supposed to be. Additionally, the pages containing Hebrew characters were automatically rotated by the OCR software when generating PDFs, so I had to manually go through these and change them individually.

The entire collection can be found in our digital collections repository.

The cover of one of the pamphlets.

Library Exhibition

Again working alongside Maria, we digitised material that was going to be on display for the exhibition, ‘From Small Library Beginnings: a brief history of UCL Library Services.’ The photographs are online but were also printed in the exhibition catalogue. You can see more items from the exhibition online.

1935 Block Plan of University College London.

Dante’s Divine Comedy

This copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy features illustrations that go across a double page spread. This is not straightforward to capture with one camera pointing down towards the item, as the print is not flat, and cannot be made flat. There was also a problem of shadow appearing in the centre along the gutter. In order to capture the print as best I could, I ended up taking two separate images, on of each side of the book so that there is even illumination, and merging them in Photoshop.

You can read more about this item here.

Slade Archive Reader

Finally, the Slade Archive Reader is now available as four fully digitised, searchable PDFs, which you can view here.

My first thought was, why, if this is a printed, word processed document, do we not have a digital copy already? Unfortunately this is often the case with older word processed material. So, we have the task of re-digitising something that was already digital! Once we began looking at the volumes, it was clear that digitising the Slade Archive Reader would not be without its fair share of challenges. Primarily, the four volumes are bound quite tightly, which made it hard for me to keep the pages flat when photographing them. This curvature of the pages leads to a distortion of the text, which in turn makes it difficult for the OCR software to pick up.

You can browse all of our digital collections online here.

UCL Special Collections is committed to making digitised content available online. Although every effort has been made to identify and contact rights holders, we recognise that sometimes material published online may be in breach of copyright laws, contain sensitive personal data, or include content that may be regarded as obscene or defamatory.

If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material on our Digital Collections repository for which you have not given permission, or that is not covered by a limitation or exception in national law, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

Bridging the Digital Gap (Part I)

isabelle.reynolds-logue.1316 July 2019

I joined UCL in October 2018 as the Bridging the Digital Gap trainee from The National Archives. I have been learning about all things digital in relation to archives, working with UCL’s Special Collections and the Institute of Education archives. In order for me to produce meaningful work with the material, I first needed to understand a bit more about archive repositories and what they contain. As part of my training, The National Archives runs a Moodle course where I have learned about archives, records and repositories, as well as about a key problem facing holders of archives today: digital preservation.

My work so far has ranged from cataloguing to digitising material. A key part of my work at UCL has been digitisation. I photograph or scan original items so that they can be put online and be made more accessible to a wider audience. In addition to accessibility, digitisation aids in preservation. The copies of the original items generated through digitisation are archived so that we have a digital version in case anything happens to the original, or if, for example, it becomes too fragile for readers to view in person.

A digitised photograph of the Wilkins portico from the UCL College Collection c1900s.

Most of the time I use a Canon EOS5D camera alongside a Kaiser RS1 copy stand and lights for digitisation. For some material I use an Epson12000XL flatbed scanner. Some items cannot be completely flattened for scanning, for example rare books, as this would cause severe damage to the item. In these cases, I will always use the camera and copy stand. In digitisation, we aim to get the most true to life image of the item whilst handling and moving the item as little as possible, in order to cause the least damage or deterioration to it. As digitisation requires handling and placing items in particular ways, we must liaise with the conservation team prior to digitisation, to make sure the item is in a suitable condition to be used. If an item is badly torn, falling apart, or very dirty, for example, it would have to be conserved before digitisation.

Once all of this is sorted out, I capture the photographs in RAW before editing them in Adobe Photoshop and saving them as high quality TIFF files for archiving, and JP2 files for use online. For some items with text, it is possible to use OCR software such as Nuance to generate searchable PDFs. However, some text proves too tricky for the software to pick up, for example unusual fonts or handwriting, so we don’t use it every time. However, we have begun to work with the OCR for handwriting software, Transkribus, so watch this space!

Now that you have an overview of what I have been up to, stay tuned for the next post where I will show you some of my favourite projects so far…