Researching and celebrating the Twickenham-Richmond First World War Belgian Refugee Community



East  Twickenham  Centenial Group

Richmond & Twickenham First World War Belgian Refugee Project



                FIND    A    BELGIAN          Search for Belgians by name

                FIND  AN  ADDRESS          Check for Belgians at your house (or known address)  

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                For all of these:   click on "Our Files" tab above

Text on this site is written by Dr. Helen Baker, Chair and Lead researcher for the East Twickenham Centennial Group, and is joint copyright of the East Twickenham Centennial Group and Helen Baker (2021).

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                                                                     This website is currently being updated


  Are you proud of Richmond-upon-Thames and its history ?

  Do you have a Belgian refugee relative you want to remember ?

  Are you researching the subject ? Are you seeking information or would you like to compare notes ?

   Would you like to honour the courage and enterprise of 1WW Belgian refugees who lived in

  Richmond and across London ?

  Find information and further contacts on this website

  Support our Belgian Project by joining the East Twickenham Centennial Group  FREE




                   Richmond upon Thames' forgotten story from the First World War.

Richmond upon Thames' unique history.  Our area gave a home to 6000 First World War Belgian Refugees:  they changed the face of our towns and made parts of them Belgian.


 Belgian Workers.Pelabon Factory


"The Belgian Village on the Thames"   -  East Twickenham, Central Richmond and Richmond Hill   -   became the heart of a Belgian settlement which spread out to Central Twickenham, Teddington, Kew and East Sheen. The Hamptons, Mortlake and Barnes had Belgian settlements of their own, loosely connected with Twickenham-Richmond.

Most of the Belgians came here to work in a vast munitions factory  beside the river in East Twickenham near Richmond Bridge.  Its founder, dynamic Franco-Belgian engineer Charles Pelabon, escaped from Antwerp on the very day it fell to the invading German army, and dedicated himself to the war effort. Within only three weeks he was producing shells for the Belgian and Allied armies.

The Pelabon Works started in TEDDINGTON; three months later Charles started up the much larger Pelabon Works in East Twickenham and this eventually superseded the Teddington factory. (The huge Richmond Bridge Estate development now covers the whole of Pelabon's site.)

  Pelabon Works.RMA.Front Exterior


 Richmond-Twickenham's Belgian history is unique. Refugees went all over the country, but only Richmond-Twickenham developed a community so large, so compact and so vibrant.

When the war ended, the Belgians "melted like snow, leaving so little trace", and by 1945 they were completely forgotten. Their story has come to light by sheer chance.


 The Belgian achievement and the distinctiveness of Richmond upon Thames 

                                        need  to  be  remembered  for  ever                                                               




 Our Objectives .....

 Tell everyone about  "The Belgian Village on the Thames"

 Dig out more forgotten stories of Belgians in Twickenham- Richmond

 Find out about Belgian refugees in other parts of Richmond Borough

 Seek out descendants and connect them together

 Connect all interested people across the world

 Connect researchers from other parts of the UK, Belgium and beyond 

 To commemorate the Belgian community within Richmond upon Thames

 Ensure that "The Belgian Village on the Thames" is never forgotten again


Updated 16.08.2020


Click on The Belgian Story tab

for more about The Belgian Village on the Thames

Contact Information

c/o SWLEN (Room 16)
13 Rosslyn Road
East Twickenham