An Enquiry Into The
History and Connections
Of the Family Of

The descendants of John Pilon of Canterbury (1714-1783)


E. Ronald Pillow

The mention of the Duke of Alva in connection with our ancestors is probably an error. It was the Walloons, the French-speaking Protestants of the Spanish Netherlands, who were persecuted by this Duke, under King Philip of Spain. About the same time the Huguenots, the Protestants of France were suffering persecution in their own country, and refugees of both communities sought shelter in England. A large community of Walloons came to Canterbury about 1575; about the same time a company of Huguenots arrived from France, and it is believed that the Pilons were among the latter group. The two communities joined to form the French Protestant (Walloon and Huguenot) Church in Canterbury; a note about this Church will be found below.

It may be mentioned that a famous sculptor named Germain Pilon (1535-90) lived and worked in Paris about the time of the emigration (presumably not a Protestant, since he escaped persecution). A street in Paris is named after him and his statue appears among the figures of famous artists on the plinth of the Albert Memorial in London. The name Pilon (and Pillon) continues in France to this day.

The first mention of a Pilon in the registers of the French Church at Canterbury is in 1594, and thereafter they appear frequently until well into the eighteenth century. A letter of 1767, still extant, refers to Daniel Pilon and his son Nicholas as trustees of the Church.

This enquiry is concerned however not with the Pilons but with the Pillows who originated with John Pillow, who decided to adopt the new name perhaps about 1750. The name had for some time been spelt either Pilon or Pillon, and a number of French families were anglicising their names during the eighteenth century; the change from Pilon to Pillow is listed among many such changes in the History of the Walloon-Huguenot Church.

Since the writing of Edward Pillow’s letter reproduced above (on the previous page), the record of the family has been continued by a number of its members and passed down to succeeding generations, which have now reached the ninth generation. The Family Tree below has been compiled from old records and from information obtained from as many existing members of the family as possible. I am grateful both to those in the past who compiled and preserved the record and to those who have recently provided information from their own knowledge and enquiries, and especially to Norman Pillow of Luton who has listed all the births and deaths under the name of Pillow indexed at the General Register Office in London from 1837, when registration of births and deaths was introduced, to the present day.

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