Leiden, city of refugees

(apr 2015) Naar MIJN STAMBOMEN






Leiden is famous for its many refugees.

In 1574 Leiden was occupied by the Catholic Spaniards. When they gave up and left, the town was in a very bad condition. There was no industry left; the famous drapery industry was totally on its back.

Also, the population of residents had dropped from 14.000 to 10.000.


Jan van  Hout, town clerk of Leiden, went to England to recruit labourers. He came back with several French speaking refugees from France, who had also suffered under the Catholics.

There were so many new people that monasteries were pulled down so that there was space for an entirely new district: de Marewijk. And because most people were French, a Wallon church was established in 1584!

Industry flourished.


After 1680, a whole new flood of refugees came to Leiden-- de Huguenots who fled from the north of France. They settled in Delft, Amsterdam and Leiden.


After a while, most people assimilated. They left the Wallon church and started baptising in the Dutch ones.

A lot of them even changed their names and translated them in Dutch.

For instance Graincourt became Korenhof (Corn-court) and Chevalier became De Ridder (the Knight)


Of course there were also the Pilgrim fathers.

They came to tolerant Leiden in 1609 (from Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire). They bought a piece of land near the Pieterskerk (Pieter Church) and built 21 houses. One can still be visited!

Although they were poor, they saved up money to buy a boat, because they wanted to go to America.

But after ten years that they stayed in Leiden, some did not want to leave anymore.

They stayed and had children.

A lot of (famous) Americans are descended from these Pilgrims, e.g. Bush and Obama (from Thomas Blossom) 


In Leiden the liberation of the town (from the Spaniard) was (and still is) a big celebration every year on 3 October.

When the Pilgrim fathers went to America, they kept this celebration. The first one was in the autumn of 1621 in in Massachusetts. During the years it was held later and later, eventually on the fourth of November.

In 1863 it became a National celebration in America.


The Dutch invented the ‘marriage for citizens’ in the town hall to give the Catholics an opportunity to marry. Before that it was only possible to marry in the State church.

The Pilgrim fathers took that also with them over the ocean.


Family reconstructions:

People originating from:

Leidenaars from St Amand

Leidenaars from Amiens 

Leidenaars from Artois (area near Rijsel en Arras)

Leidenaars from Bondues pdf

Leidenaars from Hontschoten pdf

Leidenaars from Mouvaux pdf

Leidenaars from the area of Picardie

Leidenaars from Tourcoing pdf

Leidenaars from Valenciennes

Leidenaars from Lille, Rijsel

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