I have quite a number of Huguenot forebears, among them the Champion de Crespignys and Fonnereaus. Recently, pottering about in a different branch of the family, I came across several more, including a group of gunpowder manufacturers.

One of my 3rd great grandmothers was Charlotte Champion Crespigny née Dana. Her great grandfather was an Irish cleric, the Rev. Dr Grueber. Tracing his family led me to Huguenot refugees from Zurich to merchant bankers of Lyons, and from these to gunpowder manufacturers, with factories near London and in Ireland.

Thus through the Dana line, my eighth great grandfather was a Frenchman called Daniel Grueber, the son of Jean Henry Grueber (1585 – 1683), a merchant banker of Lyons and Anne Grueber née Theze. Jean Henry was the son of Jean Grueber, described as ‘Marchand banquier allemand à Lyon, Bourgeois de Zurich’, who married Jeanne Barrian in Lyons on 22 May 1576.

At Lyons on 3 December 1657 Daniel Grueber married Suzanne de Montginot. Their children, all born in Lyons, were:

  • Francis Grueber 1658–1730
  • Anne Grueber 1660–
  • Suzanne Grueber 1661– 1737
  • Daniel Grueber 1664–1670
  • Jean Henry Grueber 1666–
  • Francoise Grueber 1669–
  • Marguerite Grueber 1669–
  • Nicholas Grueber 1671–1743 (my seventh great grandfather)

On 21 November 1682 Daniel Grueber, Susanne his wife, their sons Francis, John Henry and Nicholas, and their daughters Susanna, Margarita and Frances, received formal letters of ‘denization‘, conferring on them the status of ‘denizen’. This was similar to present-day permanent residency. A denizen was neither a subject (with nationality) nor an alien, but had the important right to own land. On the same date Philip le Chenevix and his sister Magdaelena Chenevix also received letters of denization; Philip Chenevix married Suzanne Grueber in 1693.

From 1684 Daniel Grueber was leasing both gunpowder and leather mills along Faversham Creek in Kent, 48 miles east of London. Explosives had been manufactured at Faversham since at least the 1570s. There is a connection between gunpowder and leather: considerable quantities of leather were needed to protect the gunpowder from accidental detonation during its production, transportation and storage.

Stonebridge Pond Originally part of Faversham Creek, Stonebridge Pond became a mill pond for a flour mill which was later used in the gunpowder industry. Photograph from geograph.org.

Daniel had possibly gained experience in gunpowder manufacture in Lyons though his immediate relatives, including his father, seem to have been merchants and bankers, not manufacturers.

Daniel had a contract to provide gunpowder to the British government’s Board of Ordnance, in partnership with James Tiphaine, another Huguenot refugee. Besides those at Faversham, Daniel had mills at Ospringe and Preston, both places within a mile of Faversham.

Daniel Grueber was naturalised on 2 July 1685 together with his three sons. Daniel was described as born at Lyons in France, son of John Henry Grueber by Anna These, his wife. ‘Naturalisation’, requiring an act of parliament be passed, granted all the legal rights of English citizenship except political rights (for example, the right to hold political office).

Daniel Grueber died in 1692 and his will was probated 15 February 1693 by his sons Francis and Nicholas. Francis continued the gunpowder business in Kent. In 1745 his son went bankrupt and eventually the mills were purchased by the Ordnance Board in 1759.

Nicholas Grueber emigrated to Ireland and had arrived by Michaelmas 1698 when he became a Freeman of Dublin under the terms of the 1661 Act of Parliament to encourage Protestants to settle in Ireland.

Nicholas Grueber’s occupation on his arrival was merchant. However, in 1717 he was awarded a 21-year contract to supply gunpowder to the government. In 1719 he established Dublin’s first large-scale gunpowder manufacturing business at Corkagh in south Dublin.

On 19 May 1703 Nicholas Grueber (the record has ‘Grubert’) married Marguerite Moore at L’Eglise Française de St Patrick (part of St Patrick’s Cathedral set aside for the use of Huguenots).

Nicholas was a merchant, son of Mr. Grubert and Madle Monginot, Marguerite was the daughter of the Reverend Moore, a minister of the English church.

Nicholas Grueber and his wife Marguerite had six children baptised at the Nouvelle Église de Ste Marie:

  • Nicholas Grueber 1704–1705
  • Elizabeth Grueber 1706–
  • Susana Maria Grueber 1707–
  • Nicholas Francis Grueber 1709–
  • Arthur Grueber 1713–1802 (my 6th great grandfather)
  • William Grueber 1720–

Of the four sons of Nicholas, one died in infancy, one followed him into business and the other two attended university and became clergymen in the Protestant Church of Ireland.

My sixth great grandfather Arthur Grueber was a pupil of the Anglican divine Thomas Sheridan, one of Jonathan Swift’s friends. Grueber studied at Trinity College, Dublin, gaining his MA in 1737 and DD in 1757. He was ordained as a deacon in 1736.

In 1754 Dr Arthur Grueber was appointed headmaster of the Royal School Armagh. The school flourished under his administration, becoming one of the finest schools in Ireland. A notable pupil was the Irish cleric and astronomer James Archibald Hamilton (1747 – 1815).

Grueber later abandoned teaching to become a bookseller and publisher, in this meeting with less success: by 1793 he was bankrupt. Arthur Grueber died in 1802.

Portrait of Rev. Arthur Grueber,  my sixth great grandfather. The miniature, owned by my father, has been handed down through the Dana family.