By E. Joyce Best




Louis CrommelinAfter the Irish Campaign, King William promised to encourage the Irish Linen industry by removing the tax on plain linens, since it did not clash with British interests. This was a political decision in that the English Government suppressed anything in Ireland which threatened an English industry such as the export of tattle, sheep, butter, cheese or very importantly wool. Therefore to be permitted to export even plain linen was a decided advantage although there remained a thriving smuggling trade in forbidden goods from the west coast of Ireland.

Dr W. H. Crawford in his book, "The Handloom Weavers and the Ulster Linen Industry", states,

"In the late seventeenth century, however, among the many thousands of families who emigrated from Britain to Ulster hoping to rent land cheaply, there were skilled weavers. They knew that for very many years considerable quantities of yarn made by the Irish in Ulster had been sold in Manchester The best of these weavers were able to make cloth fit for sale in the London market and when the British government in 1696 removed the tax on plain linens from Ireland many English dealers began a, buy Ulster cloth because it was cheaper than the Dutch and German linens.--------------

The weavers and those who were engaged in the finishing of the linens for the market may also have learned something about their trades from a colony of Huguenots whom Louis Crommelin brought to Lisburn in 1698. They were heavily financed by the Irish government."

In 1697 Louis Crommelin, a native of Picardy, described as "an able and experienced Huguenot refugee capitalist" travelled to London with his son Louis and was asked by the British Government to investigate the possibility of taking a group of Huguenot weavers to Ireland. At this time Louis Crommelin, junior, was fifteen years old, "and showed an inherited business ability and an affinity with his father", that was to prove a great advantage. In 1698 Louis Crommelin arrived in Lisburn, bringing a company of about seventy people. These settlers probably spoke no English and had to rely on French refugees already living in the district for instruction and conversation. Before the eighteenth century the English language was regarded in France as insular and barbarous and ambassadors and other visitors seldom bothered to learn it. The English-French dictionaries first published in the seventeenth century by Faber, also Huguenots, were chiefly used by Huguenots and business men.

Bleach Greens In 1701 Louis Crommelin started what was said to be the first mass bleaching establishment in Ireland, at Hilden,14 on the outskirts of Lisburn, probably coming there because it was near a port, on a river, had space for bleach greens and a source of labour with the weavers already living in 
Lisburn, Lambeg and Derriaghy. But, although it was advanced, it did not use any mechanical power, which Sir Robert Adair had introduced in 1705 in Ballymena.15 The Irish linen industry was becoming more widely recognised and a Bristol merchant, John Carey, wrote in 1704 

The people in the north of Ireland make good cloth and sell it at reasonable rates and would every year make much more had they the market for it

In fact Louis Crommelin was well acquainted with the European markets and methods of trading. In an essay written in 1705 he wrote:

The people here are extremely ignorant of the mysteries relating to the manufacture of linen... the looms in this kingdom for the making of all sorts of linen cloth are looms intended for the making of woollen cloth. The reeds are uneven and too thick

To remedy this fault, Crommelin invited Mark Dupre, a Huguenot refugee who had recently escaped to Dublin from La Rochelle, to introduce improved reed making into Lisburn, making finer reeds. There are several christenings in the Rev Charles De La Valade's records, e.g. john son to Jacob Dupre, Lewis son to Jacob Dupre, Peter son to Mark Dupre, Mark Alexander son to Mark Dupre, Lewis son to Jacob Dupre, all before 1733. The family came from Cambrai. In 1706 Mark Dupre married Jane Russell of Lisburn. They had a third son in 1720 called Samuel, who later went to America.

The Lisburn weavers were building an improved industry and in 1707 settlers were coming to the Lisburn area when disaster struck and an uncontrollable fire destroyed the town. Almost a year later, when Thomas Molyneaux visited the town he wrote in journey to the North:

When I stood in the churchyard I thought I had never seen so dreadful a sight before, all around us. The church burned to the ground, the tombstone cracked with fire, vast trees that stood around the churchyard burned to trunks. Lord Conway, to whom this town belongs, had his house, though at a distance from the rest of the town, burned to ashes and all his gardens in the same ,condition as the trees in the churchyard. `Tis scarcely conceivable that such dismal effects should arise, from so small a cause and in so short a time as they relate. Only some turf ashes thrown on a dunghill with a fresh wind blowing towards the town, raise and threw on the shingles of the nest house, which, being like spunk (cinder) by a long drought of weather which then happened, took fire, and the wind continuing what it had begun, the whole town in half an hour was irrevocably in flames.

The burning of Lisburn resulted in scattering the Huguenots to neighbouring villages, although many later returned. However, a few families stayed, living among the ruins, to help to rebuild the town.

Neighbouring parishes with Huguenot names in their registers are Aghalee, Ballinderry, Dromara, Drumbo, Glenavy, Magheragall, Derriaghy and Lambeg. In February 1763, a meeting, chaired by Mr. John Stewart, was held in Lisburn, and subsequently a series of papers was written by a number of linen drapers living in or near Lisburn, and presented to the trustees of the Linen Manufacturers as material for a Linen Bill. The committee was composed of Francis Burden, Henry Betty, John Williamson, John Stewart, Alexander Legg, and John Hill. With the possible exception of Henry Betty (Bedte) there was not a Huguenot name in this important gathering only 36 years after the death of Louis Crommelin.

There are some interesting names connected with the French linen workers also:


Along with Louis Crommelin and his son, two of his brothers and his three sisters arrived in Lisburn. He had married his first cousin, Anne Crommelin; her sister Jeanne had married Louis Mangin and her brother Alexander married Madeleine, the younger sister of Charles De La Valade, the pastor before they left Holland.

Louis Crommelin It is not known exactly where the French colony was placed. Rent lists take them to several areas, frequently in Hilden, but the merchants and better known families such as the Crommelins, the De La Cherois, Mangin, Du Bourdieu, Renette and Cordiuner seem to have lived in Castle Street.

Much has been written about Louis Crommelin, about his business acumen (he had been a banker), his knowledge of the linen markets and sources of flax, his constant encouragement to his workers and his meticulous attention to detail. Certainly his colony flourished, when the colony established by the De Joncourt brothers in Dundalk lasted barely 30 years and the one established by his brother William in Waterford lasted only as long as there was a demand for sailcloth during the Napoleonic wars. William Crommelin went to Kilkenny, in time marrying a member of the Butler family and leaving the linen industry.

Louis Crommelin's only son Louis died aged 28 years on 1 July 1711, which was a great blow to him. Louis Crommelin died in 1727 and in the Belfast News-Letter of 1 1 November 1755, there appeared this notice:

Last Sunday died at Lisburn, Mrs Anne Crommelin, relict of Mr. Louis Crommelin, conductor of the Royal Linen Manufactory of this kingdom and sister to General Crommelin Late Commander of Gertruydenberg, Holland. She died in the ninety-seventh year of her age, lamented by all who knew her. She was a tender parent and faithful  friend; she retained her senses to the last and could read and write without spectacles a few weeks before her death.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the Crommelin family male line had come to an end, but continued through the distaff side. There is still a Crommelin family to be found in Holland, who take a great interest in the old graves in Lisburn Cathedral graveyard and in the town of Lisburn.


The Goyer family originally spelt the name Goyer, Crohier, and came from Caen in Normandy, although there is a record in the Huguenot Society of a Jacques Guyer of St Lo attending the church of the Savoy in London in 1686. The first Goyer to come to Lisburn was Pierre Goyer, born in Caen in 1679 and thought to have arrived in Lisburn in 1701. There he joined the Huguenot colony and continued his career as a manufacturer of silk and cambric. The silk industry did not flourish, possibly because the soil and climate were unsuitable for the mulberry trees which he planted or because the wrong type of trees were planted. However, the cambric manufacture did flourish, eventually transferring to Lurgan after vandalism to the factory at the time of unrest in 1798. He lived in Bow Street and married Mlle. Ferrier, the daughter of another Huguenot and cambric manufacturer. He died in 1741 having been Clerk of the French church. His son Peter married his first cousin, Mlle. du Faur of Dublin. Three of their children were baptised by Rev. Charles De La Valade, Peter in 1725, Abraham in 1727 and Mary Magdalen in 1729.

The third Peter died in 1796 and in the family records it states that Peter Goyer taught for a time in a school in Bow Street. His brother Abraham moved to Dublin where he died and was buried in St Ann's Church in 1763.

The fourth generation continued through William Goyer, born in 1783. He later went to Belfast and was a French master at Belfast Royal Academy; he died in 1812. His sister Elizabeth stayed in Lisburn and married James Sweeney (the name apparently was a corruption of Sevigny, but unsubstantiated). Her sister Mary Anne Goyer married John Templeton of London and their daughter Mary married a Wolfenden.

About this time a Peter Goyer appears at Upperlands, a foreman in the linen business which is still in existence there The Lisburn branch of the family continued through Elizabeth Sweeney, born in 1790, who became the second wife of Robert McCall, a well-known lawyer, and who was the great granddaughter of the first Peter Goyer. There is also a branch of the family in Belfast.


In 1697 Louis Rochet, a merchant, came to Lisburn, He had two daughters, Alice and Mary. He died in 1726 and is buried in the Cathedral graveyard. There is also a Stephen Rochet buried there, who died in 1764. Alice Rochet married Edward Maslin in 1725 and had a family, and Mary married Valentine Jones, a Belfast business man. She was described as "Mrs. Mary Jones, a lively French lady." 16 Although busy with five children, she was a philanthropist, and in 1779 a special vote of thanks was given for her generous present of a silver chalice to be used in the Infirmary. This was situated in Bow Street (then called Bow Lane) and was a well run institution. It had a committee chaired by the Bishop, a housekeeper, nurses and a porter. Mr. Wolfenden gave the blankets and Mrs. Jones the sheets and curtains. There was an inventory printed in the Cathedral magazine which included 4 bed pans, 8 pewter chamber pots, 4 lamps and 6 brass candlesticks, 4 iron snuffers, 6 extinguishers and 6 pewter basins, 4 pieces of floor meeting, 8 spitting boxes, trenchers, alchemy spoons, knives and forks, washing tubs and woolen night-caps.

Two of Mrs. Jones' daughters married into the Goyer family of Derriaghy, and a third daughter, Jane, married John Gault of Coleraine. Her fifth daughter, Henrietta, had a son Edward, who became a Major in the 67th Regiment, and her daughter married a Wolfenden.