14th & 15th Century Continental Ancestors

Information about the probable continental ancestors of the first English ‘Hunnisetts’ has been found in a book by Alphonse Gillard, published in French in 1971. L'industrie du fer dans les localités du comté de Namur et de l'entre Sambre-et-Meuse de 1345 à 1600 contains detailed research into the iron industry in the Namur region and has a number of references which are of interest.

He shows that in 1370, Ermeton Forge I, on the River Molinée, south-west of Namur, was leased by the Count of Namur to Boidé the ironworker. The following year Ermeton Forge II was leased to Jean Hanosse. Six years later the two brothers of Boidé, Hanosse and Henri took over the lease of Ermeton Forge I. About this time two furnaces and a forge to the north-west, on the river Sart-Eustache were leased to Hanosse the ironworker and a hammer at Fainges, east of Ermeton, was leased to Hanosse of Gougnies, (a town in the Sart-Eustache basin) for 12 years. Notice that family names were not in use at this time. Boidé, Hanosse and Henri are described as brothers, with the addition of a trade or dwelling place, not a surname.

Hanosse appears to have died in 1416 as the forge and large hammer on the River Sart-Eustache were taken over by the executors of Hanosse. In 1430 the Sart-Eustache forge was among those burnt and destroyed during the invasion by the Liegeois. After this event, the Count decided not to re-build the works but to lease only the water rights, the tenants having to build their own forges.

By 1455 a probable descendant of Hanosse, Michault Hanozet ('Little Hanosse') took over the water rights of Ermeton Forge I. The water rights of Ermeton Forge II were taken over by Michardin, son of Hanozet - possibly the same person. Four years later Michardin and Gillechon Hanozet jointly owned the water rights of Ermeton Forge II. Simon Hanozet, perhaps a relative of Michardin and Gillechon, was described in 1463 as receiving 2 cwt of iron as rent from Henri Boon and Jean du Marteau, ('Jean of the Hammer') but no forge was mentioned. Notice the beginning of the use of Hanozet as a family name.

In 1516 the water rights of Ermeton Forge I were leased to Colard of Ermeton and no subsequent leases mention the name Hanozet. Is it coincidence that the first ‘Hunnisett’ immigrants are known to have been in England by 1517?

During this latter period workers from the Liege/Namur area migrated South West to the Pay de Bray (an area stretching inland from Dieppe towards Beauvais) taking with them recently developed skills of using the blast furnace and finery forge. However at the beginning of the 16th century the French iron industry was in decline whereas that of the Sussex Weald was seeing a revival. The shortage of a skilled English labour force, still recovering from the devastating effects of the Black Death in 1349 and 1360/1, made it attractive for French workers to migrate across the channel. Migration peaked in the 1520’s when the situation in France was exacerbated by poor harvests and high food prices. Up to 600 workers and their families are thought to have migrated during the 16th century to work in iron smelting and associated forestry trades in the Weald.