St Mary the Less Church stands in Queen Street, Norwich, tucked almost out of sight.
From the 16th century until the beginning of the 19th century it was used by the ‘Strangers’ of the City – Protestant refugees from France and Flanders fleeing from religious persecution. They came with great skills in spinning and weaving cloth, and the clothing industry brought much prosperity to Norwich until the discovery of steam power shifted the industry northwards to the Pennine valleys and their fast flowing rivers.
By 1832, the Church’s congregation had dwindled to almost nothing and the Master of the Rolls ordered that the Church’s property be given to the French Hospital for the poor French Protestants – less a sum to be used for apprenticing boys in Norwich who were descended from the original refugees.
In 1902 the Norwich French Church Charity was established by the Charity Commissioners, to be responsible for the income arising from the Church. The Church has recently been sold by the Trustees and the proceeds invested to provide an annual income.
Approximately half the NFCC’s fixed income is given to the French Hospital in Rochester, Kent.
The balance is used to help the education and training of young people under the age of 25, living in Norwich. Priority is given to:
- Those who are embarking on apprenticeships, college or undergraduate courses, or equivalent, where tools or equipment is needed. Whilst tertiary education programmes are not disregarded completely, they are considered very carefully to see whether they fit with the theme of an apprenticeship.
- Those whose education or training is threatened by financial difficulty.
- Those who can trace descent from Huguenot families.
If you think that you, or a member of your family, might qualify for help, please apply for funding.
Other Huguenot charities which offer educational grants, include: