Whispers on a landscape – Palatine migration to England, Ireland and beyond

We are delighted to welcome a guest blog from Claire McCormick, a PhD student at the University of Limerick, working on the Irish Palatines in the eighteenth century and the fortunes of the migrants who quit Europe for Britain and the New World in the early years of the eighteenth century.

In 1709 more than 13,500 people left their homelands in Southwest Germany, Switzerland and Alsace heading for the English Plantations in North America. In many cases, passage from Rotterdam to London was paid for by Queen Anne, and the original plan may have been to acquire naturalization in England’s capital city. The 1709 group was mostly made up of families. Nicol Ledig, aged 25 came with his wife, a daughter of eighteen months and a two-week old baby son, almost certainly born en route. While many, like Ledig, gave their occupation as vinedressers and husbandmen, fellow travellers included butchers, shoemakers, carpenters, miners, masons, locksmiths and at least three surgeons. The baker Johan Hill was 90 years old and travelling alone according to official lists made in London. What encouraged a man his age to make the long journey down the Rhine to Rotterdam and onwards to England?

London in 1709 had a population of approximately 600,000 and, as noted in a previous blog, the immigration of the Palatines was largely identified with the governing Whigs. After all, it was a Whig majority which pushed through the Naturalization Bill of 1708 (7 Anne C5). In settings such as the Whig-run Kit-Cat Club, hot topics of religious dissent and the settlement of the New World were debated alongside toasts to the great beauties of the day.

A View of the Palatine Camp form’d in White Chappel feilds, (c) Trustees of the British Museum

On arrival in London Palatines were housed in barns and tents in Walworth, Camberwell, Blackheath and Greenwich where, on Sundays, Londoners came to look on the poorly dressed strangers speaking strange languages. For their part it was reported migrants wondered why Londoners were not in Church on Sundays! Other migrants found refuge in the grounds of Lambeth Palace and around Aldgate parish Church. Anglican Churchmen, rallied to assist their Lutheran brethren in meeting day to day needs of migrants – food, fresh straw for bedding and of course spiritual sustenance. Colonists such as Tory Henry Somerset, 2nd duke of Beaufort, who had inherited the Carolina estates of John Granville, earl Bath, and Whig James Berkeley, 3rd earl of Berkeley, were desperate for white settlers. As London Pietist Wilhelm Ludolph noted, there was plenty of land and a ‘clement climate’ in Carolina, the problem seemed to be who would pay the estimated 100 ecu per head needed to transport the Palatines there?

Matters were complicated by the decision of Queen Anne, in early May 1709, to keep migrants in England. Perhaps she was influenced by enlightened economic thinkers such as John Locke, Josiah Childs, the Martyn brothers and Daniel Defoe who had for some time propounded concepts of people being the riches of a nation. Plans made to settle a colony at a new town, Anneville, in the New Forest were mooted but not executed. Nor it seems were schemes to settle migrants in Cobham Park or Nasborough House. A request from Tory Sir Humphrey Mackworth to take migrants to the silver and copper mines of Wales seems to have met with more success. Sir Francis Drake and Sir Ambrose Crowley both took migrants to their estates while the mayor of Rochester undertook to raise eight children at his own expense. Plans to settle migrants in Sunridge, Kent led to angry mobs and threats of legal retribution against them from Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland. Other migrants went to Liverpool. The unemployed poor must have wondered at a decision by the Queen to employ migrants building a new walkway at her estate in Windsor; 150 men enlisted in Lord Galway’s regiment, while 300 were sent to fight in Flanders.

In late summer as barns were required to house the harvest, migrants were moved to the warehouse of Sir Charles Cox in Southwark. When it became known many amongst the migrants were Catholic, at least 2,300 were shipped back to Rotterdam. By August, John Taylor at the Treasury was demanding the speedy settlement of Palatines to put an end to the great expense of supporting them. An attempt to send migrants to the Scilly Isles failed when locals declared they had barely enough to live on themselves, and the transport ships were redirected back to London. Plans were hatched to send 1,000 to Jamaica where a 1682 law dictated the number of white residents required for every ten slaves held. Although it is unclear how many Palatines actually made it to Jamaica, a later history recalls how ‘the Palatines who had lands granted to them in Jamaica all died in the attempt of clearing them.’ [An answer to the Reverend James Ramsay’s Essay on the treatment & conversion of slaves, in the British Sugar Colonies By some gentlemen of St. Christopher (London,1784) p.37]The approximately 3,000 migrants sent to New York with Governor Hunter, under an indentured scheme, have been well documented.

It must therefore have come as a relief to everyone when Thomas Wharton, earl of Wharton, lord lieutenant of Ireland, suggested that the Queen send as many Palatines as she saw fit to bolster her protestant community there. It was decided to send the most numerous families and those skilled in the linen industry. By mid-August carts were making their way from London to Chester bringing families of Palatines to Dublin. In Chester the stables of a reformed minister were used to provide shelter for migrants awaiting shipping. On arrival in Dublin many were housed in the newly built Royal Barracks (now Collins Barracks) which quickly became overcrowded and a public health hazard. The ordinary people of Dublin did not cover themselves in much more glory than their London counterparts. But then neither did landlords who initially clamoured to take families to their country estates, some no doubt encouraged by the £24,000 purse allocated by the Queen over a three-year period. Within the first year after the Palatines’ arrival Irish landlords reported back to London many had stolen away in the night. Those attempting to return to London were hampered by a 1711 order that ships leaving Ireland were not to travel until Palatine migrants had been disembarked.

As the battle for hearts and minds played out, the pens of luminaries such as Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele became tools of war. Were the Palatines ‘poor’ and ‘miserable’ or ‘honest and industrious’? For some sent to Ireland a further and greater migratory step to America and Canada would await them in the mid-eighteenth century. These people left whispers on the landscape in the surnames and place-names they left behind in Ireland. Palatine townland, Palatine Square, Palatine Row all speak of their presence as do surnames changed from Müeller to Miller, Jung to Young. Exactly how such a migration was enabled is a story for another day.


Further reading:
Walter Knittle, Early Eighteenth- Century Palatine Emigration; A British Government Redemptioner Project to Manufacture Naval Stores (Philadelphia,1937).
Philip Otterness, Becoming German, the 1709 Palatine Migration to New York (Cornell,2006).

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