Commemorating Caerleon's Welcome To Child Refugees

Commemorating Caerleon's Welcome To Child Refugees

Thursday 21st Mar 2019

Newport's deputy mayor, Councillor Phil Hourahine, has officially unveiled a new plaque marking the time the people of Caerleon welcomed a group of child refugees fleeing the horrors of war.

In 1937, 56 Basque youngsters and their carers found a haven in Caerleon far away from the Spanish Civil War tearing apart their country.

Some of the children were eventually housed in Cross Street, in the property now known as Pendragon House, where the plaque commemorating their stay, was unveiled.

Councillor Debbie Wilcox, Leader of Newport City Council, opened the event which was attended by representatives of BCA'37 UK, the Association for the UK Basque Children, and Caerleon Civic Society who both contributed to the plaque.

Ward Councillors Gail Giles and Jason Hughes, relatives and local organisations were also present while pupils from all Caerleon schools performed songs.

Councillor Wilcox said: "I'm delighted to be here today to help commemorate a very special chapter in Caerleon's history. The children must have been traumatised by having to leave their families at a time of war but they were taken to people's hearts and settled into their new home, even going to schools in Newport.

"There are parallels with today when children from other war-torn countries are arriving here and, I hope, they will also find the safe and caring refuge that those children did when they came to Caerleon more than 80 years ago."

Councillor Gail Giles, the council's cabinet member for education and skills,, organised the event.

She said: "I would like to thank everyone who was involved in this very special occasion and those who contributed towards the new plaque commemorating this remarkable episode in Caerleon's history.

"We can be proud of the welcome these children were given by the people of Caerleon, and further afield. I would especially like to pay tribute to Maria Fernandez, the warden who made sure they received a high standard of care and education during their time here."

When the young refugees first arrived in Caerleon, they lived in Cambria House after an army of volunteers helped clean and prepare the building.

In 1939, after the outbreak of World War Two, 25 of the young people were repatriated. Cambria House was taken over by the military so some of the remaining children were taken in by local families while the others moved to another property but that was also taken over by the army shortly afterwards.

So the 29 children were found a new home in Cross Street, in the property now known as Pendragon House where the plaque can be viewed above the front door.