A Huguenot Family who made history

The DeLaune family were a prominent Huguenot family in Blackfriars before the Great Fire of London destroyed their home and belongings. Apothecaries’ Hall is now the oldest livery hall in the City of London having been the first hall to be rebuilt after the fire. They came to London as refugees from religious persecution in 1572.

Apothecaries Hall - Private Tour


Who were the DeLaunes?

William DeLaune, the head of this Huguenot family, was born in about 1530 and studied medicine in France. He married the daughter of a French reformed minister and had four sons, one of which died in 1589. William became a physician in London and served at the church at the fridge reform church. In 1583, he published a major theological work on Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.

In 1593, he bought a large building within Blackfriars. James Burbage wanted to start a theatre there but they fought bitterly against it and won. However, in 1608, the theatre opened under the management of James Burbage’s son, Richard Burbage.

William Delaune was highly respected in society and left a lot of property to his children upon his death. One son, Gideon, became an apothecary. The other boys went on to study at universities in England and Europe. Paul became a physician and studied at Cambridge and Padua. He spent several years in Ireland in the service of the law deputy, was a professor of physics at Gresham College, and an Army Doctor.

The girls married: Sarah married Peter Chamberlain (inventors of modern forceps), Esther married a clergyman, Elizabeth married a Goldsmith. They all lived in London, most of them in Blackfriars.

Royal Apothecary to Queen Anne

Gideon stayed in Blackfriars and married Judith Chamberlain; they had 13 children but most didn’t reach adulthood. In 1592, Gideon DeLaune was first mentioned as an apothecary. Gideon made a great deal of money and was very successful.  In 1606, he was appointed a Royal apothecary to queen Anne. He was paid £20 a year for his position. His work, included providing medications and drugs to the court, as well as exploring new plants and medications. He was appointed to the court of common council and became an alderman. In 1635, he applied for denunciation to become a citizen.

The History of the Society of Apothecaries

Portrait of Gideon DeLaune, attributed to Cornelius Johnson
Credit: By kind permission of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London.

Gideon DeLaune is most remembered for his efforts with the worshipful society of Apothecaries. The Apothecaries were a group of men who wanted their own Guild, separate from the Grocers, of which they were members. They petitioned the king and were granted their charter in 1617. Only Freeman of London could be a member of the Grocers, but the Apothecaries didn’t have that strict stipulation. They allowed foreigners. The Apothecaries shared control of the profession with the physicians, but they under the supervision of the physicians and it produced a an improved Pharmacopeia members could make buy, sell drugs, and they could train apprentices and supervise the quality of drugs, prosecuting, punished and fraud.

Gideon DeLaune was instrumental in getting the charter for the society of Apothecaries agreed to. He also assisted greatly in the purchase of the Blackfriars property, which became their headquarters and still is to this day. He was appointed a Royal apothecary by James I and continued to serve under Charles I until his death. Gideon left a great fortune at his death in 1658. William, the last male heir, died before the fire and his widow sold their property to the Apothecaries.

Hear more about this fascinating Huguenot family on our London History podcast



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