European studies blog

22 January 2014

German Parish Life in London and an East End Church Library

With the Hanoverian Kings came the people…  And with the people came trades, professions, active community life and parishes – and these Germans needed places of worship.

The British Library has housed the St. George’s Church Library since 1995; its acquisition and ongoing investigations into the collection have shed an illuminating light on the history of German life in London during the Hanoverian period.

Bookplate from the St George's Lutheran Church libraryA bookplate from one of the St George's Church Library books: J. H. Daub, Christliche Stimmen von den Bergen, (Essen, 1838) RB.23.a.16559.

The kings of German origin attracted more Germans to come to London in their train – or perhaps Germans had always been coming?  Other contributors to this series might be able to comment further on  this, but certainly many Germans came, and they settled by preference together, within certain areas of London which were themselves as large as small cities, where they could follow their trades, and where parish and social life had already been established.

The history of St. George’s Lutheran Church and its church library provides answers to many questions about the numbers, trades and faith of the Germans in London.  The church was the fifth German church foundation in London.  In the 19th century, the peak period for German settlement in Britain, there were eleven German parishes in London alone – one of them, of course, was the Royal Chapel at St. James’s Palace – and there were 14 German-speaking congregations across Britain.  They were almost all Protestant churches.  Parish life at St. George’s was highly influenced by August Hermann Francke’s Pietist movement and its missionary aims.  Several named pastors and preachers came from the Francke’sche Stiftungen in Halle; their missionary activity is reflected in their fervent publishing output of sermons and religious treatises, highlighting another trade Germans pursued in London: printing and publishing.

As part of this series of blogs, we shall be highlighting some notable items from the St. George’s Church Collection and providing insights into trades including printing and publishing pursued by the German community.

The Lutheran parishes in London were small German worlds within a world.  My own favourite item from the St. George’s Collection reflects this:

Title page of 'Kirchen-Geschichte der deutschen Gemeinden in London' with original ownership stamp of G. MaetzoldKirchen-Geschichte der deutschen Gemeinden in London, nebst historischen Beylagen und Predigten von D. Johann Gottfried Burckhardt, Pastor der deutschen Lutherischen Gemeinden in der Savoy.   (Tübingen: bey Ludwig Fues, 1798) RB.23.a.16354.

This was one of the items found amongst the original church library books in the vestry of St. George’s Lutheran Church, and it harks back to the church’s early days.  The provenance note has always touched me. The item was owned by Pastor Maetzold, and the church organist, who declares himself as a friend of the parish, donates it to the library – thus this little book spans more than two hundred years of German parish history in London.

Dorothea Miehe, Curator German Studies

References:

Dorothea Miehe, ‘Kurze Geschichte einer Rettungsaktion: die Bibliothek der St. Georgs-Gemeinde in Spitalfields, London’, German Studies Library Group Newsletter, no. 22 (July 1997), pp.7-11. ZK.9.b.1089

Dorothea Miehe, ‘The St George’s Lutheran Church Collection’, in Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa, Bd. 10 (Hildesheim, 2000) §2.110-118, pp. 84-85.  RAR 027.04, and online at http://fabian.sub.uni-goettingen.de/?BritLib2

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