Houses in Spital Square

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The family of Frances de Brissac (1760-1854) lived in Spital Square, Spitalfields, London.
In April 2013, I go in search to see what there is now.

spitsq2 Spitalfields lies outside of the old walls of the City of London on the east side of the Roman Ermine Street (now Bishopsgate Street.) This road ran from the Port of London on the Thames, to Lincoln and York. Spital Square is very close to Bishopsgate Street, thus useful for travel and really close to the City of London where the Banking quarter is. We know that the de Brissac family had banking connections from their time in Utrecht. Threadneedle Street (now London’s banking quarter) is within easy walking distance and was also a family home address.


Spital Square is where the Master Silkweavers lived. They were the masters of the trade who oversaw the ordering of raw silk cocoons from Italy to the finished product – glorious coloured floral silks for the gowns and waistcoats of London’s high fashion seekers.

The whole area of Spitalfields would have had an air of prosperity. Even as you walk further east towards Brick Lane, where it is possible to see how the houses become less opulent, there is still a feeling of the 1700’s being a time of success. Fifty years ago this was a slum area; houses now sell for four to six million pounds each!

Number 20 (left) would have been next door but one to number 18.


Sometime during the 1700’s Sebastien Loy (Loi) lived at 18 Spital Square.  This information was independently referred to from a presentation at the Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival 2013 and would have been researched.

Joan Evans in Time and Chance writes – “The grandfather, whose, father had escaped from France, had become one of the Spitalfields weavers, and a comparatively wealthy man. His wife, born Jeanne Loy, was a daughter of a silk weaver of 18 Spital Square………    (Chapter 2, Page 20.)
The grandfather referred to here is Amos James (Jacques) de Brissac 1701-1758


During the Huguenots of Spitalfields Festival 2013, I visited Spital Square several times, knowing this was where the Loy and Brissac ancestors lived and worked. Today the Square is a hotchpotch of old and new. Alas number 18 no longer exists.

However a good number of eighteenth century houses do – miraculously surviving the WW2 bombing of London and the ravages of developers.


spitsq6 Although houses of this time look like terrace houses, they were all built separately, so their individual preservation was enhanced. The way the Huguenots built houses was to build each individually by bricklayers. Then the carpenters came along and put in floors and wooden partitions by way of interior walls. With such thin divisions, family life must have been exposed. To finish the houses, each family chose front door fittings, so all are a bit different.

Around the corner from Spital Square is Folgate Street where today we can still see many Huguenot houses. Not as grand as those remaining in Spital Square but perhaps better preserved, one can visit Denis Severs’ House. This is a most worthwhile thing to do as you feel you slip into the 1700’s atmospheric house and almost feel you’re back in those times. Denis Severs’ House would have been similar to 18 Spital Square.

In the basement the cook and servants prepared meals and boiled water; fuel was stored and washing done. On the ground floor was the hallway, main reception rooms and dining room. Upstairs on the first floor, a further family drawing room or morning room and a gentleman’s smoking room which might also be a study. On the next floor the family slept. The floor above might have the nursery but also the rooms for the live-in servants. In other (lesser) houses, weaving rooms were built at roof top level. Here workers worked on their looms with plenty of daylight.


spitsq7 18 Spital Square is third house from bottom right.



These houses to the right show the remains of lofts for weaving with big windows, right at the top of the house. Hot in summer and probably very cold in winter.

English houses used to have shutters behind the glass window. Here we see the French influence of shutters outside the windows.



Judith F Hubbard

April 2013