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)
HOT TOPICS Browse special stories
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).
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.
"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TEDDINGTON; three months later Charles started up the much larger Pelabon Works in East Twickenham and this eventually superseded the Teddington factory.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.)
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
Click on The Belgian Story tab
for more about The Belgian Village on the Thames
c/o SWLEN (Room 16)
13 Rosslyn Road