GERVASE de Hampton was a wealthy 12th century Sotonian who had substantial land holdings in England and France and property in Southampton. Much of his wealth came from money lending. In 1193 he visited Richard I when he was captive in Speyer and a substantial ransom was being demanded. It is probable that Gervase contributed to the ransom.

Money lending or usury as it was known was a disreputable occupation for a Christian but went unpunished until death at which time the usurer’s property was claimed by the King. Gervase died around 1196 and Richard I seized as much of his property as possible.

In 1190 Gervase founded an Augustinian religious house known as God’s House in Winkle Street in Southampton to which he and other merchants gifted land and property.

The purpose of God’s House was never defined but there was some relief of the poor but only very small numbers. The principal activity seems to have been the management of substantial land holdings and properties. Some have questioned Gervase’s motive for founding God’s House suggesting that it was done to protect his lands from seizure by the King. There is no evidence that it was ever used as place of rest for pilgrims.

In the French raid of 1338 many properties belonging to God’s House were destroyed and rents went unpaid for many years. At this time Edward III transferred God’s House to Queen’s College in Oxford.

Part of God’s House included the Chapel of St. Julien and this was used by Walloon refugees from Flanders. These protestant refugees arrived in Southampton to escape religious persecution and the Inquisition. William Cecil was the chief advisor to Elizabeth I at the time and he was concerned that England should produce high value products to improve the balance of payments. He welcomed the Walloons as they had much needed weaving skills and it was agreed for them to settle in Southampton provided there were no more than 40 families and that they taught English apprentices weaving skills.

The Walloons petitioned Cecil to have somewhere to worship in French and Elizabeth I granted them the use of St Julien’s Chapel provided they followed the English Book of Common Prayer. Their first meeting was on 21st December, 1567 attended by 50 men and women including sixteen people from the Channel Islands. They included weavers, cutlers, brewers, bankers and doctors.

In 1685 the congregation was joined by French Protestants known as Huguenots who settled in Southampton to escape religious persecution in France.

Today the little Chapel of St Julien is known as the French Church and services are still held there in French. The site of God’s House is now occupied by Alms Houses.