East  Twickenham  Centennial Group

Richmond & Twickenham First World War

Belgian Refugee Project

Researching & Celebrating the First World War Belgian Refugee Community of Twickenham and Richmond


                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. Joint copyright of East Twickenham Centennial Group and Helen Baker (2023).

HLF new logo.2019                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Belgian Shops.Richmond Bridge Parade


                                                                     This website is currently being updated


  Was your grandmother a Belgian refugee ?

  Are you doing a school or college project about our local history ?

  Do you have a Belgian refugee ancestor you'd like to know more about ?

  Are you researching the history of your own house within the London Borough of     Richmond upon Thames ? 

  Are you researching the subject generally or professionally ? Are you seeking information     or might 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 


                    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 at The Pelabon Works, 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 14.12.2023


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