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Germans in the UK

In this instalment in our ongoing TransferGo blog series on migrants living in the UK we look at Germans.    

German migrants rank in the top 10 in terms of migrant populations at a bit over 3.5% of total migrants; that makes for about 300,000 German citizens living throughout the UK.


While much of the discussion on migrants in the UK has focused on modern migration, the phenomenon is by no means new. Germans have made their home in the UK for hundreds of years. As a result, the number of Britons with German ancestry is quite large and includes those from all walks of life, including the British Royal Family.

As a result of the Reformation, and the resultant economic and political instability, the first sizeable German community in the UK was established in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.

The next large wave of German migration occurred in 1710 when thousands of Germans came to England at the invitation of Queen Anne’s government. The original plan was to settle the German migrants in the colonies of North America, but a large number decided to remain in London.

It was also at this time that George I, a German prince, ascended to the throne. The Germanic ties of the royal family have remained fairly strong since that time. In fact Edward VII was the first monarch since George I who did not marry a German spouse.  It was not until World War I that the royal family changed its surname to ‘Windsor’.

The oldest German church in the UK is St. Georges, a Lutheran Church, founded in 1762. The church was a religious and social centre for German immigrants who predominately worked in the sugar refineries, meat processing, and baking trades.  During WWII, the church played an important role in aiding German Jewish refugees.

German Population Centres

Of the almost 300,000 Germans living in the UK, most live in England. In this regards little has changed since the early days of German migration as the largest concentration remains in London, specifically West London.

Famous German Immigrants

German immigrants and those with German ancestry have had a major impact on almost every area of life in the UK, from the arts to politics.

  • George Friedrich Händel spent the greater part of his life in England. He wrote four commissioned anthems for King George II’s coronation. Parliament made him a British subject in 1727.
  • William Herschel was a German astronomer who moved to England. Hershel discovered Uranus in 1781 and is the namesake of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath.
  • Reuters is one of the largest media organizations in the world. Reuters was founded in 1851 by German Paul Julius Reuter.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien who is well known for his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series was also a professor and poet. He immigrated to the UK from South Africa where he was born to parents of German ancestory.
  • Actor and writer Peter Ustinov was of German, Russian, and Polish descent.
  • Folk musician Bert Jansch was descended from a Hamburg family that settled in Scotland in the Victorian era.
  • Karl Marx is arguably the most famous and influential political thinker in the world. Marx moved to London in 1849 after being expelled from France. He continued his writings on class struggle and society until shortly before his death in 1883.

Modern Times

It is interesting to note that after the Brexit vote, appointments for passport renewals and new passport applications at the German embassy in London have a waiting list of up to two months. According to news sources, many are from UK citizens married to German nationals and from expats from both the UK and Germany.

Two recognisable faces in British politics, and major players in the ‘Leave’ Brexit campaign, both Nigel Farage, the UKIP politician, and former London Mayor Boris Johnson are descendants of German emigrant families.


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