Peoples of Essex – Project Launch


Signals is proud to announce the launch Peoples of Essex, a three-year project identifying and representing the contribution made to Essex by migrant communities throughout history, and documenting contemporary stories.

Known locally as the ‘Dutch Weavers’ the 16th century Flemish refugees are at the centre of the project, some settled in Colchester, skilled in weaving they brought prosperity to the town. From this core the project will look at the history of local migration and the historical context for the ongoing movement of peoples, including England’s first settlement of Huguenots in Colchester in 1565, and the arrival of the Kindertransport in Harwich in 1938.

In addition to this historical analysis, we will also document the stories of contemporary migrant communities, creating links to the past and documenting the contribution migrant communities make to Essex.

This project was made possible with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

What will the project involve?

Over the next three years Signals will be interviewing local historians and experts to create resources which share knowledge of historic migration and the lasting effect on north Essex. We will also seek to record and share the experiences of contemporary refugee communities, creating a series of animations with community members that reference the culture and textiles of the community, such as using silk for the Chinese community.

Beginning in September 2023 we’ll be launching an exciting new after school Digital Club, where we’ll be exploring a number of topics such as e-textiles (sewing circuits with conductive thread) and creating an animated timeline of migration in Essex that illustrates the earliest migration of mankind to present day – providing a useful education tool and long view perspective.

We’ll also have an exciting program of public workshops that explore and celebrate the legacy of migration, including weaving, fabric manufacture and wearable technology, providing opportunities to exchange and celebrate cultures, past and present. Other activities including historic walks and foraging walks that focus on the heritage of textiles across cultures. Some workshops will explore the techniques used in recording heritage and oral history. Workshops will be attended by children and young people, migrant communities, and the general public.

How to get involved?

Signals has already established connections with a number of brilliant local community groups and organisations, however we are still keen to hear from Schools, Craft Groups/Organisations and migrant communities who we haven’t met yet. If you would like to get involved in the project please email

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Who are the Dutch Weavers?

From the 1560s onwards Flemish and Dutch Protestants, fearing religious persecution, came to England. Flemish weavers had first settled in Colchester in the 14th century, and many of the new refugees chose to settle in the town. They brought with them the techniques of bay and say weaving which revitalised the town’s cloth industry and brought prosperity to Colchester for the next 150 years – with most inhabitants employed spinning, weaving, washing, drying and dressing. The picturesque houses of Colchester’s ‘Dutch Quarter’ pre-date the Dutch arrival and were formerly inhabited by the Jewish community and other immigrants.

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