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Vignette (Fr., little vine) Term used in the decorative arts in several senses. In the 16th century the word, often spelt Vinet, meant a trailing border of grapes, leaves, branches, and tendrils of the vine.

- A little essential background -
Family tradition within different branches of our Winnett family, is that our ancestors were French Huguenots. Consistent with these different branches, is that the French name was originally Vinet (de Vinet, Vinett or similar variation).

The origin of the term “Huguenot” is unknown. Historically it has been applied to French Protestant refugees fleeing from religious persecution. French Protestantism owned its beginnings to the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1564) and his followers. Amongst other things, its use of the vernacular rather than Latin in religious services gave it popular appeal, and as the century progressed it began to attract noblemen. The loss of the nobility’s allegiance produced a violent reaction in the Catholic Church. Civil strife followed, culminating in the “Massacre of St Bartholomew” in 1572. During this period waves of refugees fled France and established colonies in the Low Countries and England. There were major areas of settlement in England in London, Norwich, Colchester, Canterbury, Southampton and Exeter. The Edict of Nantes in 1598 restored religious freedom in France, but after the fall of La Rochelle in 1628 Protestantism once more became unpopular. Systematic interference with Protestant worship began in 1669 and from 1679 there was unrestrained persecution by both church and state. Between 1679 and 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked. This accelerated the exodus of Protestants from France, which continued for many years. For the Huguenots, escape to a Protestant country was their only hope. Many families resorted to smuggling their children out of France in baskets and barrels. In the end, as is well known, France’s loss was Britain’s gain, for these Huguenots were the possessors of highly developed skills in finance, industry and the arts, particularly metal working and textile manufacture. They were to make a major contribution to the rise of Britain’s industry and trade. The Silk Industry was established in Spitalfields in 1685 by French Huguenots. The Huguenots, who settled in the Spitalfields District of East London, came predominately from Saintonge and the Bordeaux region and most had connections with the French silk industry. The number of Huguenots who settled in England is uncertain. Estimates range from 40,000 to 80,000. The majority were penniless artisans.

- Our current research -

Our current research is concentrated on the Spitalfields/Bethnal Green area of East London, for this is where we have the earliest record of our Winnett ancestor - Elisha Winnett (see following chart). We have the record of Elisha’s marriage to Esther Dunn on February 10, 1772 at St.Leonard’s Church. Where was Elisha Winnett born, and who were his parents? Many years research .. to no avail. Was this about the time there was a change of name from the French “Vinet” (or variation) to the English “Winnett”?

An Elisha Vinet was christened at St.Matthews Bethnal Green, in 1752. His parents were Isaac Vinet, a weaver, and Elizabeth (Breton). Interestingly, we can find no record of a marriage of Elisha Vinet. Had he, by around 1772 changed the written name from Vinet to Winnett?

What evidence is there to support this -

  • Variations in the 1700’s of the name Vinet, include Vinett, Vinnett, Vinette (yes, there were other families by the name Vinet in the Bethnal Green area .. further research may show they are connected).

  • Elisha is not a common name; in fact we can find no other Elisha (of any surname) in the Bethnal Green area, at this time. Elisha Vinet’s mother was Elizabeth Breton, whose parents were Eli Breton and Ann (Bertou) .. was Elisha named after his grandfather?

  • In 1752 Elisha Vinet was christened. No marriage record has been found
    In 1772 Elisha Winnett was married. No birth record has been found.

  • In 1752 Isaac Vinet was a weaver. In 1787 Elisha Winnett was a silk dresser.

  • In 1752 Elisha Vinet was christened at St.Matthews Bethnal Green.
    From 1780 Elisha Winnett christened 3 daughters at St.Matthews Bethnal Green.

  • In 1785 Elizabeth Vinet lived in Hare St. Bethnal Green In 1786 Elisha Vinnett lived in Hare Street, Bethnal Green. In 1787 Elisha Winnett lived in Hare Street Bethnal Green.. (Note - there were approx.. 60 houses in Hare Street Bethnal Green around 1785. Hare Street was also known as Hiore St. Yarre St, Aurre St., Aire St., Air St.)

  • Land Tax records from 1780 to 1791 also confirm consistent residence in Bethnal Green of Elizabeth Winnet (1780 to 1785) and Elisha Vinnett (1786 to1791).

    Whilst none of the above is proof of change of name, or that Elisha Winnett and Elisha Vinet are one and the same, we believe that family tradition should be given credence. Discussion with members of other branches has lead us to almost accept that Elisha Winnett who married in 1772 was indeed Elisha Vinet who was christened in 1752. Whilst the following charts reflect this, we nevertheless will continue to search for more conclusive proof of change of name.

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© Feb.2000 W.H. & L.D. Winnett, Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia
Research by Bill and Lyn Winnett, and Jean Chatland