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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Norfolk

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Immigration and Emigration
The Elizabethan Strangers

Victims of success

The Stranger community grew rapidly from the original 30 households. By 1620 there were around 4,000 Dutch and Walloons living in Norwich, comprising a quarter of the city's population.

Norwich textiles
Reproduction of the type of textiles produced by the Norwich Strangers.
© Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, sample woven by Thelma Morris.
They had an impact on all aspects of Norwich life. They rejuvenated the local economy, and by the end of the 16th Century the city was prospering again. English textile apprentices learnt new techniques, and the "New Draperies" produced proved lucrative exports to Europe and the East. By 1600 Norwich weavers were even facing a shortage of yarn and labour.

On the whole, the Strangers integrated well with the local community. With no restrictions on their residency, they were not deliberately "ghettoised". They rebuilt the whole area north of the River Wensum that had been devastated by a great fire in 1507, leaving their mark on the city's landscape.

Over the years, strong personal links were forged between the two communities: wealthy Strangers married into the Norwich elite, they sent their children to the local grammar school, and they formed business partnerships with local merchants.

St Andrew's and Blackfriars' Halls
One congregation of Strangers worshipped in Blackfriars' Hall, Norwich.
© Norwich City Council
But the Dutch and Walloons did not lose their own identity and culture. The Stranger churches were important as centres of communication and social care, and the immigrants continued to donate money to them, despite also having to support English parishes.

Dutch and French schools were established in the area, and strong links were maintained with their native countries, especially through trade. In the second generation, ties were strengthened as Stranger children returned to Holland to attend university.

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