FNQ: Wanty / Vantier
Latest edit 12 Mar 2010.
version and photographs ©2008 R.J.PENHEY
The Bourne Archive
Fenland Notes and Queries. Edited by Rev. W.D. Sweeting, Rector of Maxey.
Part 56. January 1903.
This quarterly periodical took the form of a forum in
which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with
some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so
qualifying as ‘notes’.
The Wanty Family
967 – Wanty Family of Thorney (925). – In our last number we gave a short notice of Mr. Peet’s1
privately printed Memorials of the
Huguenot Family of de Vantier. By the kindness of
the author we are now enabled to give a page of the armorial bearings of some
branches of the family. The different coats are so completely unlike, that in England
we should feel inclined to question the fact that the families could have
descended from one stock: but very probably the rules of foreign heraldry are
not the same as ours.
In tracing the
careers of the members of one of the Huguenot families, Mr. Peet is
naturally obliged to give some account of the reasons for leaving their native
land; and, accordingly, much of what he relates applies equally to members of
others who for the same reasons felt compelled to emigrate to England in the 16th
and 17th centuries. To those who live near the centres where these
foreigners settled, and who are acquainted with some of the descendants of the
original settlers, these details are of the greatest interest.
The French Church
at Thorney was established in 1652. This was 33 years
before the revocation
of the Edict of Nantes, which caused a far greater number of the Huguenots
to seek the hospitality of our shores, so that the first settlers at Thorney
were driven to England
in consequence of the persecution at the latter end of the 16th
We quote some
passages describing the causes of the original coming.
There were two great immigrations of Huguenots from
Flanders and France.
The First commenced a few years immediately anterior to the Massacre on
St. Bartholomew’s Day (1572), and continued for many years, partly of
French and partly of Flemish Protestants – these latter were French-speaking
Flemings or Walloons. The second, and numerically the greater immigration,
occurred at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and consisted almost
entirely of French Huguenots. They found an asylum in this country, and settled
in various places.
The French congregation at Thorney does not appear
to have received any accession of members at this period. In the five years
next after the Revocation not a single baptism appears in any family which was
not settled at Thorney before that event.
The history of the Refugees in their settlements in
is intensely interesting, but the literature on the subject is at present
confined to very narrow limits. The splendid work now being accomplished by the
Huguenot Society of London in printing the Registers of the French Churches
and other important documents long pigeon-holed at the Record Office, or buried
amongst State Papers, will add materially to the sources of knowledge available
for the student and genealogist. Holland3 and England constituted the principal
asylum of the exiled Huguenots, especially those resident
in the Northern Provinces of France.4 Holland in the first instance, and England in the next – many of the
Refugees passing through one country on their way to the other. In Holland they naturally became adepts in the art of
Embanking and Drainage, 5 and as is well known, a certain section,
when they came to England,
rallied to the call of Vermuyden
– the Dutch Engineer – in the great Drainage works he undertook in the Fens of Lincolnshire and the adjacent counties. The
successful reclamation of the drowned lands was to a great extent due to the
skilled labour and patient industry of the French6
and Walloon Colony, which
for the greater part of the century made Thorney its home. In the course of
time, not a few of the refugee community, cut off from their native land,
married with their English neighbours, although at first the practice was
discouraged. The names of these foreign strangers – anglicised and corrupted
often past recognition – abound in every village and hamlet throughout the
district, but the tongue of La Belle France has long since ceased to be heard
in the Fens.
The old home of
the de Vantiers is Le Pays de l’Alleud.7 This is situated in France
quite close to Belgium.
It was on the line of towns and villages between Armentières and Valenciennes, situated
within a few miles of the present frontier of France
and Belgium, and mostly
within the province
of French Flanders, then
forming part of the Spanish Netherlands, that the storm of the persecution
It had the
reputation of being one of the richest districts in Europe,
renowned for its industry and thriving manufacture of linen and wool.8 The earliest members of the family who left the
fatherland were Jaques Wantier,
who in 1567 was sentenced to banishment in consequence of his religious zeal
and active opposition to the cruelties of the Spaniards, and Jean Wantier and another Jaques, his brother,
who were also sentenced to banishment in 1568. “The same sentence was passed
upon Anna Wantier, the wife of Renault le Roy. for breaking images in various churches.” 9
Maidstone and Canterbury were among the
first places in England
colonised by the Refugees. Numerous instances occur in the Registers of the French Church
of baptisms and marriages of Wantiers between 1586
and 1628. As is well known, the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral was made over to
the French settlers as a weaving factory; and the south aisle of the crypt was
appropriated to their use as a place of worship: and to this day, Divine Service
is still conducted there in the French language, although there is now no French-speaking
community in the city.* Offices in the French Church
were held by different members of the family. But after 1644 all such entries
in the Registers and other books cease; so there was “evidently a dispersal of
the family about this period.”
By degrees some Wantiers seemed to have returned to Flanders.
Descendants of the first exiles are found living at the old home at La Gorgue, 10 but, as we might expect from the
confiscation of their property, in much reduced circumstances. And once more,
in the middle of the 17th century, persecution raged again, and the
family, who now were always named de Vantier, were
obliged to escape. “A few joined their relatives in England”;
but most, in 1661, went to the Palatinate, where
they stayed till driven away by the French in 1698, when they made their way to
which Mr. Peet has collected of this later emigration confirm the fact that the
ancestral home of the family was at La Gorgue.
Members can be clearly traced through the Palatinate to many places in Denmark and Germany, “where many of their
descendants are now living.”
It is to be noted
that the colony of Huguenots at Thorney did not come to that place direct from abroad.
They had first tried to establish themselves at the work at Hatfield Chase, in Yorkshire: but their presence there was resented, and
they were “molested by the peasantry.” They accordingly made overtures to the Earl of
Bedford to rent land on his Thorney estate, which they would drain and
cultivate. With them there came some new arrivals from Flanders, as well as
others who had already been living in Canterbury,
London, and elsewhere in England. Mr.
Peet divides the Thorney settlers into three classes: (I) the trained drainers,
who received wages for their work; (II) the agriculturalists, eager to avail
themselves of the low rental at Thorney; (III) the capitalists, who in some
instances purchased land, and sometimes joined the body of the Adventurers. The
Wantys, and the Bailleuls11 (Bayleys) belonged to this last class. Among the purchasers
of land were members of the families Ris, La Pla, Le Cont, Prevost, Egar, and
We hope to return
to the subject on a future occasion.
Cathedral in Bell’s
Series, p. 100.
The Browne monument sheds a
little light on the tensions arising from the variety of view as to the best
approach to religious thought and observance, present in England in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. The FNQ article on the Gaches Family draws attention
to the fact that at broadly the same time, the same kind of tension was felt in
southern France, though here, the mention of the town of Albi reminds us that
the same problem had arisen there in the early thirteenth century when the
people of Albi, the Albigenses, met a similar response. On that occasion,
the father of Simon de
Montfort, after whom the University at
Leicester is named, was a prominent leader of the suppressing forces. In
the present document, we see that such events were not confined to Languedoc but were also
experienced in what became northern France.
To begin with,
the Wantys’ home was in the Spanish Netherlands,
the territory for which the Spanish Armada was
heading when it sailed through the English Channel
in the summer of 1588. The Netherlands
was the scene of a prolonged struggle between the Roman Catholic,
Spanish-controlled south and the independent, largely Protestant, United Provinces
in the north. Similar struggles were going on among the states which became Germany. By the
end of the story, the Wantys’ homeland had been taken over by France as a result of the War of Devolution
(1667) and the Treaty of
Aix La Chapelle (1668). The territory added to France
at this time is now represented by the modern Département du
The name of Wanty appears also, from the nineteenth century, in Pamela Southworth’s History of Swineshead
(pp. 60 & 108).
1.^ H. Peet, F.S.A., of Mount
Pleasant, Liverpool. One might
hazard that he was an elder contemporary relative of Eric Peet (1882-1934),
Egyptologist, also of Liverpool. Eric was the
eldest son of Thomas Peet, corn merchant, so H. Peet was neither Eric’s father
nor his brother. (DNB) Eric Peet.
2. It has to be emphasized that at this
stage, until 1667, the homeland of this group of Huguenots was under Spanish
3. From 1581 this was the United Provinces. See History
of the Netherlands for an outline of the political arrangements from time
to time and Eighty Year’s War
for more details of the relevant period.
4. Remember, when the Wantys left their home,
it was not in France.
5.^ This is a little facile. By analogy: London is a great financial centre but you don’t become a
financier by living in London,
though some people do combine the two.
6. Unless they arrived after 1668, the French
settlers would have come from outside what became the Département du Nord.
7. At first sight, the Pays de L’Alleud appears
to be around Waterloo, now well inside Belgium, though the Kingdom of Belgium
has existed only since 1831, following the Belgian revolt of 1830. The place
is there. It is known as Brinne-l’Alou in the Walloon language, Walon and by an
attempted reading of its Wikipedia article and that on Alou, it is
possible to track down the French word Alleu.
This comes from the Old German Allod
and is a term from feudalism.
It was a hereditary property, exempt from all dues, as opposed to a fief which was charged with certain
services (NPLI). (See Allodial title.) In other words, it is not the name of a region
such as Picardy for example, but of a large or
small patch of land held on such terms. This is appropriate to the artisan or
merchant economy from which much of Protestant thought arose. After the
set-back in population in the fourteenth century, much more land was put to
pasture for raising wool. But someone had to process the wool and these tended
to be the people from whom the Huguenots were drawn. Some of them had the
economic means of bargaining away a lord’s feudal rights.
8. It was to Flanders that Boston had exported wool. By the sixteenth century,
this had fallen off but this is a reminder of the extent of trade and its
cosmopolitan nature. The Huguenot dispersal was an unwelcome adventure but not
one entirely into the unknown.
9. It is
possible to see how a Spanish ruler, looking for a quiet life, might see such
people as troublesome fanatics.
Gorgue lies on the right bank of the River Lys, at
coordinates 50° 38’ 18’’ N 2° 42’ 58” E.
11. This personal
name is also that of a
town of the district.
12.^ The development of the borders of Metropolitan
France is covered in a Wikipedia article.
See Rootsweb for more on Cambridgeshire’s Walloon people.