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The Silk Road to Leytonstone  By David Boote

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In Charles II’s reign Forest House had been remodelled (or rebuilt as the diarist John Evelyn implied in his entry for 16th March 1683) by James Houblon.  That Houblon was an earlier Huguenot trader with the Levant seems to have been just coincidence, because it was the Heathcote family who sold the mansion to Samuel Bosanquet.  Another apparent coincidence is that there was once at Leyton parish church a wooden tablet in memory of Mr Charles Goodfellow, merchant, of Halab, 1686 3 .  In 1738 the successful Levant merchant Edward Radcliffe married a woman much younger than he was and set up home in Leytonstone.  He died childless and his family owned an estate at Hitchin.

Samuel’s father David Bosanquet fled to London when Louis XIV’s persecution of Protestants crystallised in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in1685.  He immediately went into business as a merchant importing silk from the Middle East, and that must have been his occupation when he was in Lyons.  England through its Levant Company had been conducting a successful trade exporting cloth woven in England to the Middle East and importing raw silk from there using the same ships, but France was becoming an increasingly formidable competitor.  Bosanquet’s expertise seems to have been welcomed in London.  He could provide silk weavers who had fled France for London with raw material.  He obtained naturalisation as a British citizen in 1697, and married a young Huguenot (French Protestant) woman the following year.  His life cannot have been easy even though he achieved near-instant success.  English weavers hated the Huguenots who entered their craft (and any merchants who imported woven silk cloth).  David Bosanquet provided bail surety in 1698 for two Huguenots accused of smuggling in silk, and one of those was to become eminent in commerce and in the London Huguenot community.  

In 1696 David Bosanquet wrote for the benefit of his successors : “The Cloth Trade is a noble Trade, many people live by it, and the merchant who sends thereof to Turkey cannot want gain thereby if he imploys care and diligence in the buying, ordering and dressing of it.” 4

4  Aleppo and Devonshire Square : English traders in the Levant in the eighteenth century by Ralph Davis

3  The Environs of London by Daniel Lysons : volume 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent (1796), pp. 158-82

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