Blue plaque to remember Basque refugees housed in Lancing

Alan Bradley (left) and councillor Lee CowenAlan Bradley (left) and councillor Lee Cowen
Alan Bradley (left) and councillor Lee Cowen
The unveiling of a blue plaque at Lancing Library will mark 80 years since Basque refugees were offered sanctuary in the village.

Almost 4,000 people from Spain’s Basque region fled the civil war in 1937, following the bombing of Guernica.

More than 30 children, mostly girls, were housed in a building in Penstone Park, which is now the site of the library.

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A public event on Saturday, May 20, will celebrate the unveiling of a blue plaque in their honour, with speakers – including the son of a Basque refugee and a member of the International Brigade Memorial Trust – music and Basque-themed food.

Lee Cowen, Churchill Ward’s Labour councillor for Lancing Parish Council, has arranged the event and said: “The Labour party have a history of fighting fascism and were involved in the International Brigade.

“That history of helping people who are less able interests me.”

The story of Lancing’s Basque refugees is not well known in the village, he said, and he hopes the event will help ‘pass this information on’.

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The history came to light after Spanish school teacher Alan Bradley, of Larkfield Close, organised an exhibition from newspaper cuttings and photos in September last year – which will be available for the public to view again in May.

The 65-year-old, who recently returned from volunteering in Peru, said he was ‘absolutely delighted’ that the parish council took his idea for a blue plaque on board with ‘such enthusiasm’ and agreed to fund it.

“In these times of increased animosity about refugees it reminds people of our tradition of hospitality and welcome,” he said, adding that Lancing had an interesting history and it could be the ‘first of many’ blue plaques in the village.

The event at Lancing Library will start at 12pm.

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