Former home of Belgian refugees, Crickhowell

PWMP logoFormer home of Belgian refugees, Crickhowell

Glan y Dŵr, the house behind the gates here, was nicknamed “Belgian House” in the First World War when its owner allowed refugees from Belgium to live here. It’s a private residence – please don’t enter the grounds.

The house was built in several stages, the last extension being added in 1840. Later that century it was the home of author and artist Harriet Traherne, whose romantic novels included The Mill on the Usk and Romantic Annals of Naval Family. She made many sketches of local scenery. Her father, Rear Admiral Sir Hood Hanway Christian, was a friend of King William IV.

She died in 1913, six months short of her 100th birthday. She had instructed her doctor to administer prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) to her dog Dodo so that it wouldn’t live to be “ill treated by strangers”.

Her cousin sold the house to local grocer James Isaac, who sought tenants in March 1914. In October that year, the first of Crickhowell’s refugees from German-occupied Belgium arrived in Crickhowell. All 12 were put up in Glan y Dŵr, after Mr Isaac offered the property to the local refugee committee. The head of one of the refugee families, M. de Blauw, claimed to have lost antiques worth £25,000 (more than £2.3m in today’s money) when German soldiers invaded Malines, his home town.

The refugee committee was largely run by local women. The secretary was Mrs Pirie-Gordon of Gwernvale Manor. Other women, including the Duchess of Beaufort, provided furniture, linen and other essentials for the refugees here. Later refugees from Belgium were housed in nearby villages and farms.

With thanks to Ryland Wallace, of the Crickhowell District Archive Centre, and Alison Stedman

Postcode: NP8 1BT    View Location Map