Calais Street, SW9

Place Name

Calais Gate flats were built on the former estate of merchant banker Hughes Minet sometime around 1895. The name was a nod to the family’s background having escaped from France more than 200 years earlier. Isaac Minet, was the son of a Huguenot store keeper, Ambroise Minet, who sold groceries, drugs, liquors and tobacco from his shop in the French port town of Calais. When he was 17, Isaac was sent to Dover to learn English and “gain some experience in business at the Custom House”. On his return two years later he helped run the family business eventually taking it over when his father died in 1679. But in 1685 the unsteady truce between the Catholics and Protestants came to an end following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Isaac himself along with some 140 others were threatened, persecuted and cast into prison. In his “Receipt Booke”, as he termed it, he described his escape with eight siblings to England (a ninth headed to Holland), writing they “having all fled out of France for ye sake of their Protestant religion…  After having tryed severall times before our imprisonment and since to gitt away, we did at last embarque at night ye 1 August 1686 and gott to Dover at 8 in ye morning, for which I shall ever praise the goodness of God.” In England, Isaac set up as a shipping agent; his brother Stephen as a merchant banker. Although from the start they had connections with London, they appear to have established themselves in Dover. When his brother died in 1690, Isaac took over his brother’s business interests. This in turn would become Fector & Co established sometime around 1743 in Dover, which was later to become part of Natwest Bank. Such was Minet’s standing that when he died he was buried in the centre aisle of St Mary’s Church in Dover, with the Mayor and Councillors acting as pall-bearers. “The tombstone disappeared during the restoration of the church in 1844; but a record of the inscription on it has been preserved. ‘In whatever relation of life we consider him — whether as the centre and support of the family in England, or as a man of business, whether as a citizen or as a mainstay of the French congregation in Dover — we are struck by his thoroughness, his clearheaded business capacity, and his overflowing gentleness and kindness of character.’ So wrote a descendant who had made a deep study of the career and character of his ancestor.” The Gentleman’s Magazine wrote that he “truly deserved the character of an honest and good man. Very few men have gone through the world more usefully.” In 1770 Hughes Minet, Isaac’s grandson, bought over 100 acres in parish of Camberwell from Sir Edward Knatchbull and named various roads after his family associations. Hughes was the son John Minet and his wife Alice Hughes. He became a partner in the firm of Fector & Co. He died in 1813. Minet estate’s borders are Akerman Road, Lothian Road, Camberwell New Road, the railway line, Paulet Road and Lilford Road.

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