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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Norfolk

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Immigration and Emigration
The Elizabethan Strangers

Local friction

Norwich textiles
Yellow camlet of the type introduced by the Strangers into Norwich.
© Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, sample woven by Thelma Morris.
Despite general harmony, there were some teething problems. When the refugees first moved into the area, they were subject to detailed restrictions - from controls over what they were allowed to buy and sell to an 8pm curfew, intended to stop drunkenness and disorder.

Frictions and disputes between the Strangers and indigenous locals sometimes erupted. Many Strangers refused to impart their skills to English apprentices, arguing that they had enough of their own children to set to work. Locals were often upset when immigrants set up business in other trades, such as tailoring and shoe-making, as this created unwanted competition.

From this fragile start, relations gradually improved. A number of "politic men", or arbiters, were appointed who negotiated agreements between the authorities and Strangers. Immigrants in Norwich were offered citizenship rights before those of any other town, and the corporation made full use of Stranger skills and expertise. The Dutch printer, Anthony de Solen, was employed to publish official orders and decrees. While in 1596, during a period of poor harvest, the authorities turned to a Stranger, Jacques de Hem, to help them secure provisions from Europe.

Official reaction

The Laudian Church William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645. He strove to impose conformity on the Church of England, and attacked many beliefs of the Puritan and Calvinist Strangers. Under his leadership, more importance was given to the ritual aspects of religion, which many feared signalled a return to Catholicism.
During the Elizabethan era, foreigners became more numerous on the nation?s streets. The government's response to this wavered between control and welcome. Restrictive policies were needed to minimise tensions between Stranger and local communities, but very different policies were necessary if the English economy was to benefit from the skills and technologies of immigrants.

Influenced by both religion and international politics, the Crown's attitude towards foreigners was constantly shifting, and this can be seen filtering down in the treatment of the Norwich Strangers. Initially, under Elizabeth I, the Strangers were allowed to hold their services at Blackfriars' Hall and St Mary the Less in relative freedom, but in the 1630s they suffered under Archbishop Laud, who ordered them to attend only English services.

Matthew Wren
Matthew Wren, Bishop of Norwich, clashed with the Strangers on several occasions.
© Mary Evans Picture Library
Matthew Wren, Bishop of Norwich, was one of Laud's most committed followers, and frequently quarrelled with the Stranger community. He accused one congregation of Strangers of damaging the Bishop's Chapel, where they held their meetings. But, above all, Wren worried that locals might start attending Stranger services, and weaken the English church.

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