The River Test and History of the Huguenots

The River Test and History of the Huguenots

Inspiration behind the Brewin Dolphin ‘Forever Freefolk’ Show Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Inspirations for the garden design have been many and varied, but the chalk streams on the river Test in Hampshire, the Huguenots, who fled persecution from France to England, and the impact that they had on the way in which money is produced in the modern day are all key elements.

The Huguenots were French Protestants with origins in the 16th centuries. The Foreign Protestants Naturalisation Act, of 1708, allowed foreign protestants to migrate and settle in Eng-land. An estimated 50,000 fled to England.

Huguenots quickly rose to prominence in banking, stock-broking and insurance, together with the trades of printing and paper-making. One Huguenot that was particularly inspirational for Rosy Hardy when designing the Brewin Dolphin garden 2016 was Henri de Portal. Portal was twenty when he settled in Hampshire, where he began working at a paper mill in South Stoneham and quickly became friends with Sir William Heathcote, who gave Portal the lease to Laverstoke Mill. This mill was on the river Test, and would soon become one of the most successful paper mills in the whole of England.  This mill happens to be in the same village as Hardy’s nursery.

The River Test runs 63km long, and is one of the longest and most prominent chalk streams in England. The purity of the water in the Test makes it perfect for paper making, specifically the manufacturing of bank notes.

Portal won the contract to make paper for Bank of England notes in 1724. The paper that Portal created was 80 to 90 grams per square metre, manufactured from cotton fibre (sometimes mixed with linen) and impregnated with polyvinyl alcohol or gelatine to give it extra strength. Portal also invented the metallic thread incorporated into the paper (the dotted line called ‘windowed thread’), which continues to be used to this day.

There are around 200 chalk streams in the world under threat from pollution and climate change; 160 of these are in England, one of them being the river Test. Visitors to the garden are invited to consider the fragility of chalk streams, a rare and vital natural resource and the importance of protecting them for future generations. Brewin Dolphin has a similar responsibility to strengthen, grow and protect their client’s investments.