Following the occupation of Belgium by German Forces, a large number of Belgians sought refuge in Britain during World War 1. Estimates of the number vary between 225,000 and 265,000. This does not include the roughly 150,000 Belgian soldiers that took leave in Britain at one point in the war and an additional 25,000 wounded Belgian soldiers who convalesced in Britain. Adlington and district responded generously.
Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 24 October 1914
BELGIAN REFUGEES AT ANDERTON AND HEATH CHARNOCK
Splendid efforts have been put forth in the Anderton and Heath Charnock districts in connection with the housing of Belgian Refugees. Anderton Manor House, which is admirably adapted for the purpose, has been placed at their disposal by Mrs R. Bond, and willing helpers made most efficient arrangements at very short notice for the accommodation of the distressed Belgians, under the direction of Mrs H. Jackson, of Glenthorne. No fewer than 22 persons are being cared for.
The Rev. Father Moylan, in a recent appeal, expressed his thanks to the ladies whose labours had been so successful in the following terms: – “Nothing could surpass the spirit of fraternal charity displayed in this connection during the past few days. The public heart has undoubtedly been moved, the best instincts of humanity have asserted themselves, and these poor wanderers from the land of their fathers already feel that they have fallen amongst friends.
On the occasion of our visit to the Manor House on Wednesday afternoon Mrs Jackson was assiduous in her kindly oversight of the Refugees, who are gradually becoming accustomed to their new quarters. They spoke highly of the provision made for their comfort. One of the male members of the party, a veteran of 66 years, mentioned with a degree of pride that he had two sons at the war. Having succeeded in saving his tool kit he was already applying himself in grim earnest to his special work as a sabotier, and maker of mannequins (shoe dummies) etc. “I have made similar things” he said, “for Brussels, Paris and elsewhere, and surely there will be use for such articles in this country.” He is a skilled artisan and capable of making anything in his line, even to the fine work involved in the manufacture of artificial limbs.
Among the occupants of the house, there are Refugees from Brussels, Malines, Louvain, Charleroi, Liege, Antwerp etc., and each has a saddening story to recount. The publication of their experience is, however, being reserved to the special magazine connected with the St Mary’s Church, Horwich.
The following letter has been received by the Rev. Father Moylan:-
“We already feel secure from the horrors of war which we have experienced in our own bleeding country, and we shall never forget the hospitality extended to us by the good people of this locality in our deep sorrow. In the name of the refugees, be pleased to accept my most respectful salutations. – Jean Gomkele.”
AT HEATH CHARNOCK
Our representative passed a most agreeable hour with two families who are housed in a neat little cottage adjacent to Messrs Middleton’s factory at Heath Charnock. Pending the completion of the arrangements for their accommodation, these Refugees spent a few days as the guests of Mr and Mrs Austin Bond, at their residence, a gracious hospitality which has touched the visitors and aroused feelings of intense gratitude.
The party include Monsieur and Madame Truyts, the husband having been employed in connection with the hydraulic cranes at the Antwerp docks; Monsieur and Madame Jean B. Impens, the first named having been station master at Grammene les Deynze, near to the town of Gand; also the little girl, Marguerite, aged 14 years. M. Impens related in graphic terms how the bridge spanning the railway overlooking his office was demolished by the German guns, and many tragic occurrences similar to those with which newspaper readers are now all too familiar.. He related how the rearguard of the Belgian army stubbornly covered the retreat of the main fighting force, and how he and his wife left on the last train which conveyed the soldiers out of the reach of the oncoming Germans. The whole of their worldly possessions were necessarily left behind, and they arrived at Ostend on the 9th. After a stay in that town extending over four days, they succeeded in embarking for Folkestone, where they were well received. Afterwards proceeding to London, their stay at Alexandra Palace was ended by their removal to Manchester, from which city they were eventually removed under the care of Mr Bond, to enjoy the hospitality of his family, Miss Bond being able to converse with the party both in French and Flemish.
The reception of the Refugees at Manchester filled them with amazement. It was a great surprise to them to be greeted by the Lord Mayor himself, and their subsequent treatment has filed them with delight.
Two cottages have been provided at Heath Charnock for the use of Refugees (the second on the point of being utilised) by a Committee which includes prominent residents of the district, many willing helpers having rendered valuable aid.
The Refugees, both at Anderton Manor and Heath Charnock, have had terrible experiences, but having now got away from the scenes of devastation, their thoughts turn to the future, and they are going to turn their hands to something useful.
On Tuesday the Heath Charnock party paid a visit to Chorley where they were the centre of attention. At their cottage our representative was most cordially welcomed, and he was desired to voice on their behalf the grateful and heartfelt thanks of the small party for the devoted care bestowed by the generous friends who had so kindly made provision for their welfare, a duty which is gladly fulfilled.
On Wednesday afternoon the ladies were present at a sewing meeting in Adlington, and in the evening the party attended the lecture given under the auspices of the Adlington and District Lecture Society in the Wesleyan School, on “Russia”.
The Refugees had somehow or other acquired the impression that all English people were attached to the Church of England, and they had almost reconciled themselves to the idea that there would be no church of their own sort to which they would be able to go. The discovery to the contrary was quite a welcome one, and all nervousness in that connection was quickly dispelled.
On Thursday afternoon last, Mr Bond journeyed to Manchester especially for the purpose of meeting another party of Refugees who are to occupy the second cottage mentioned above.
REFUGEES AT ADLINGTON
The people of Adlington and Anderton are extending hospitality to the stricken Belgian refugees, and all classes are responding to appeals which are being made for assistance. The scheme was begun by Messrs T. Middleton and Company placing two cottages at the disposal of the refugees – one situated in Springfield Terrace and another in Sutton Fold. A number of ladies immediately formed themselves into a local committee, comprising Mesdames A. Bond, F.P. Middleton, H.J. Sixsmith, Maher, James Slater, and Miss Hood; with Miss Field as hon. secretary and treasurer. Besides gifts of all kinds of furniture and household requisites, promises of weekly sums of money etc. have been received. The families installed at Springfield Terrace went into residence there on Monday evening. They reached Adlington on Friday last week, and were entertained at Mr Bond’s residence from Friday evening until Monday. There are two families at present in residence at Springfield Terrace, a man and wife and daughter, and a man and his wife.
Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 21 November 1914
Another Belgian family, which consists of a man, his wife, a son and daughter, has been comfortably housed at Springfield Terrace, Adlington, the party having arrived during the week.
Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 7 November 1914
REFUGEES IN LANCASHIRE
In order to guard against the possibility of spies being introduced under the guise of Belgian refugees, the Home Office and the Local Government Board have made a rule under the Aliens Restriction Act directing that no new Belgian refugees shall be sent to the prohibited areas in Lancashire without consent first being obtained from the Chief Constable of the County (Mr H.P.P. Lane). Acting in accordance with the powers conferred, Mr Lane has deemed it expedient to exclude all refugees from the coast areas of the county, which include Lonsdale (north and south), a large portion of the Garstang district, practically the whole of the Fylde, and that portion of the county south of the Ribble embraced within the area defined by a line drawn from Bretherton westward to the Ribble estuary and southward from Bretherton through Ormskirk, Skelmersdale and St Helens and almost reaching Widnes.