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Close up of Tijou Screen at Hampton Court Palace

Tijou family   


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Part 1: Jean Tijou (c1650 - c1712)


Early life and emigration to England

Jean Tijou was born c1650, possibly in St Germain, Paris, France. He was a Huguenot: a French Protestant. Following the Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants were persecuted in largely Roman Catholic Europe. However, there was a brief respite in France when Henri de Bourbon, King of Navarre, issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598 allowing religious and political freedoms for Protestants. (Henri had been a Protestant himself but had converted to Catholicism before his coronation in 1589.)

However over the next century, these privileges were eroded and the persecution resumed. The Edict was revoked in 1685 and Huguenots were forbidden to leave France and severe penalties imposed. Nevertheless, it is estimated 200,000 Huguenots left France for the non-Catholic Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia and beyond. About a quarter settled in England and Ireland.

Little factual personal information is known about Jean Tijou. It is thought he may have trained in the art of ironwork at Versailles and first fled to the Netherlands. There, his works might have been noticed by William III of Orange and his wife Mary who ascended the English throne in 1688. It is very likely that Jean Tijou came to London, England the following year and the patronage of the joint ruling monarchs allowed his work to flourish. 


Ironworking career

William and Mary's residence was Hampton Court Palace and in 1689, Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to redesign the facade of Hampton Court Palace. Jean Tijou's ironwork was brought to Wren's attention (possible by the monarchs themselves) and Tijou created his most famous work, the twelve panels of the Tijou Screen, which were installed in the gardens by 1701. He also contributed to staircases, balustrades and gates in the palace itself.

His style of ironwork was regarded as new and flamboyant and he was commissioned to produce work in other palaces and stately homes, such as Kensington Palace, Chatsworth, Burghley and Marlborough. From 1675 to 1710, Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt St Paul's Cathedral, its predecessor having been destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. Wren often used the same craftsmen and Tijou was responsible for much of the ironwork in St Paul's, including the Tijou Gates, to be found either side of the High Altar.

Jean Tijou's work, and that of his apprentices, greatly influenced English ironwork, especially after he printed 'A new Booke of Drawings, Invented and Desined by John Tijou' in London in 1693. This was the first English book on ironwork and contained engraved illustrations of his work.


Marriages and later life

It is most likely Jean married three times. There is nothing known of his first wife, not even her name. He had a daughter, Eleanor, born perhaps c1672, but it is not known whether she came to England with him c1689 or arrived later.

In 1695, or thereabouts, Jean married Anne (surname unknown).  They had three sons: Lewis, Thomas and Michael (names all anglicised by their father determined to make England his new home). Anne died 10 February 1708 and Jean was left with three young children and a career which took him away from home frequently.

Before his marriage to Anne, Jean had met Henry Winstanley and his wife Elizabeth (néeTaylor). Henry was an engraver, architect and clerk of works at Audley House, which belonged to William III. Winstanley was given permission by the king to build the first lighthouse on the notorious Eddystone Reef, in the south-west of England. He completed it 14 November 1698 and Jean created a weather vane for it. However, it was too heavy and a lighter one had to be supplied. In 1703, Elizabeth was left widowed when a storm swept the lighthouse away, with all the occupants, including Winstanley who was overseeing repairs.

Although no documents have been found to prove the marriage, it is believed Jean Tijou and Elizabeth Winstanley married. (In her will she is referred to as 'Elizabeth Tijou otherwise Winstanley'.) They had no children and Elizabeth died c1721. There is no record of Jean Tijou after 1712, and it is most probable that he died before November 1712. There is speculation that he could have returned to France but this was unlikely given his Huguenot connections. 


This figure in the frontispiece of his book is said to be Jean Tijou.


Children of Jean and unknown

Eleanor (c1672 - ?) married Louis Laguerre c1695. Laguerre was born in Versailles, France in 1663, and was a godson of Louis XIV of France (the 'Sun King'). He began training for the priesthood initially but a speech impediment prevented his further training. Instead, he switched his attentions to the arts and trained in Paris as an artist, then came to England in 1683. He met Jean through his work as he was commissioned to paint murals in many of the same places, such as Hampton Court.

It is not known when Eleanor died but it was before 1721 as Louis had apparently remarried by then (name unknown). Eleanor and Louis had a son John, born c1696/1700, who was trained by his father as an artist. However, John was keen to have a career on the stage, though he did continue to paint portraits and landscapes sporadically. His name appeared variously on different playbills and advertisements as John Lagarde, John Legar, John Legare etc. He was known as a baritone and performed in operas, burlesques, pantomimes etc. Sadly, his father Louis died of an apoplectic fit at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1721 where John was performing his first benefit night. John married dancer and actress Mary Rogeir in 1724. She died in 1739 and he was imprisoned for debt two years later. He was later able to re-establish himself as a painter and died in 1748.


Children of Jean and Anne

Lewis was born in the mid to late 1690s. He married Christian Curtis [sic] in 1716. They had one known child, John Lewis, but he sadly died only ten days old. Nothing else is known of Lewis or his wife.


Thomas, was born c1701. He married Hester Masters in 1737 and their first son John was born 1744. Hester probably died giving birth to their second child, Hester, in April 1746, and Thomas remarried Sarah Webster in October of that year. They had two daughters, Sarah (born 1747) and Esther (1751). Thomas worked with gold until failing eyesight forced him to stop. Thomas was alive until at least 1780 as he wrote a letter to a charity school asking that two of his grand-daughters be admitted. It is this letter which mentions his father Jean's origins and his ironworks - some of which the family were still awaiting payment for, almost a century later! (A copy of the letter can be viewed here.)

More information about Michael (c1703 - ?) appears in Part 2. [1]


Next: Michael Tijou


[1] Tijou family history researched by Charles Tijou; Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland website (; St Paul's Cathedral website (; Hampton Court Palace Website (; Columbia Encyclopedia; Wren biography, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrew's Scotland (; John Laguerre biography (; wikipedia