Did you know that East Twickenham was called 'Belgian village on the Thames' during the First World War?


During the First World War, thousands of Belgian refugees ended up in the village of East Twickenham (south west of London), and worked in a munitions factory in the neighbouring town of Richmond. The village was transformed to such an extent that it was referred to as 'the Belgian village on the Thames'.

At the start of October 1914, Charles Pelabon, who ran a mining equipment business in the Brussels region, and then in Antwerp, withdrew to England with some of his workers, just a few days before the arrival of the Germans in the port city. Very quickly, he planned to build the famous "Pelabon Works" from scratch in Richmond, in the London suburbs, for the production of bombs. A modern factory with control laboratories was quickly established and started supplying from spring 1915 onwards.

It is estimated that 2,000 refugees worked at the site, coming mainly from Wallonia initially, followed by Flemish from 1915 onwards, who had managed to cross the "wire of the death", an electrified fence that the Germans had established between Belgium and the Netherlands. Naturally, these Belgians ended up rapidly transforming the heart of East Twickenham and Richmond into a "Little Belgium", with their shops, schools, and "mussels and fries" restaurants.