Friday, 1 April 2011

Twickenham, Middlesex, The Pelabon Works 1914-1918 - Sepia Saturday

Twickenham, Middlesex, The Pelabon Works 1914-1918. After Germany had invaded Belgium at the start of World War One, thousands of Belgian refugees fled to England. Most stayed with ordinary English families and they must have found it very strange. Eager to help the fight in liberating their country, armaments factories were built and some, like the Pelabon Works in Twickenham, were staffed by refugees and wounded soldiers. Converted from a roller-skating rink in 1914-15 by Collinsons of Teddington, The Pelabon Works was a hand-grenade factory. Charles Pelabon was a Belgian Industrialist. After the war the factory was converted into the famous Richmond Ice Rink. The Ice Rink was eventually demolished in 1992 to make way for the luxury flats overlooking the Thames which you can see in the modern Street View. In this first picture, taken on the 21st of July 1917,  you can see a group of workers from 'Section 16 Departement des Gaines Russes' which loosely translates as 'the glove-puppet' department. Presumably the glove-puppet was one of the components of the early hand-grenades. This is one of my favourite postcards in my collection. I've scanned this one at 300 dpi so that if you click to enlarge it you can gaze upon the faces of these workers in detail. I can't imagine how these young women felt to be so far from home, doing horrible work for long hours in the hope that their struggle would assist in the liberation of their country and their own repatriation. You can see the determination in their faces. By the way they are holding hands or linking arms you can also see they are good friends.
Click the pictures to enlarge them!

















The photograph below shows a group of male workers having a break. On the wheel of the traction engine it says 'London' and 'Vive la Belge'. The presence of rail freight carriages in the background indicate this may have been taken somewhere near Twickenham railway station.
















Finally, a postcard showing Collinsons building the factory. The Street View shows the flats that now stand on the site. For more old pictures please visit Sepia Saturday.



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18 comments:

  1. All three are great cards, but I can see why the first is one of your favorites. I would certainly take an ice rink over condos any day. There just aren't enough ice rinks in my opinion.

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  2. Great post, Howard. I worked at one time for a firm based in Twickenham, but only knew the area from occasional visits to the offices there. I had not heard anything about the grenade factory; interesting story to the cards.

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  3. That's quite a collection of images, Howard, thank you. I particularly like the first, showing the women and their facial expressions so well. It was a rare postcard photographer who could capture such detailed and well composed images. The steam tractor in the second postcard would have been quite a relic by then, I suppose, but then during the War they would have made use of anything still serviceable.

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  4. Those are very interesting and historical photos. It is fortunate they included a sign with the company and department name in the first photo.

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  5. I love looking at the faces in groups of working women.

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  6. This is an interesting post. I love the first card and enjoying enlarging it so i could study their faces, clothes etc. How terrible to have to leave their homes and all they knew.

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  7. This really ties into the worker theme, and great photos as well. The men grouped together are quite interesting and seem to be enjoying what they are doing!

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  8. I agree, the first one is really amazing..especially viewed in larger scale. The two in the front holding hands...how sweet.

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  9. The postcard showing the group of Pelabon workers is magnificent (especially when enlarged). Another of those great SS posts that leaves you knowing much more than you knew when you started and enjoying the learning process enormously.

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  10. Such a lovely photo of the grenade workers. The women are so interesting - they actually look somewhat happy despite their sad circumstances. How horrible to be so far from home and working in such a grim job. No wonder they're holding hands.
    Nancy
    Ladies of the grove

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  11. At least they had each other and seem to have formed good relationships, despite being in a strange country far removed from news of their families. I particularly liked this image when enlarged - very moving. Jo

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  12. I ADORE that first postcard. Absolutely haunting. Thank you very much for sharing it with us.

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  13. Wonderful post. The girls and some of the men also show a kind of apprehension of the camera. Perhaps the foreign (to them) photographer adds to their anxious look. But working with explosives must have heighten their general stress level too.

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  14. I love that man in the first photo with the center part, mustache, and the bow tie! He looks right out of central casting.

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  15. I've just noticed that the man with the flat cap in the first photograph also appears in the second photo. He's second from the right, sitting down.

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  16. I think I can identify the man on the first postcard wearing the suit. My Grandfather Emile Van Sichem was the stores manager at Pelabon during that time. I only have one photo of him but his man looks very similar. Please contact me Howard so we can compare the pictures more closely.

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  17. Hello Judith, your contact details are not accessible, please contact me via my gmail address on this page.

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  18. I know this is a reply to much older posts but my Grandmother and her friend worked at an ammunitions factory in Twickenham.

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