The Belgian Refugees

The Belgian Refugee

Local residents have the opportunity to see the restoration of this major Folkestone artwork at close quarters while it is in progress during early 2011.

In August 1914, 64,000 Belgians fleeing the German invasion at the start of the Great War (now known as World War I) sought refuge and shelter in Folkestone.

They were terror stricken and few arrived with any posessions, save what they were wearing. Nationwide appeals were made for food and clothing, the response being immediate and generous.

The refugee committee was headed by Folkestone’s Mayor, Alderman Stephen Penfold, who was later knighted for his sterling service to the town and the war effort.

Fredo Franzoni, a renowed artist from Belgium and himself one of the refugees, mortalised this poignant moment in Folkestone’s history for succeeding generations.

The canvas is 10ft by 7ft (approx 3m by 2m) within a massive frame, and was hung first in the Town Hall and then in the Leas Cliff Hall before being installed in the staircase hall at the main Folkestone Borough Library.

Over the years the painting has deteriorated as conditions in the library were not ideal. Presently quartered in The Grand, the painting has undergone some much needed restoration and was unveiled on the 26 March 2011.

Specialist conservator Julie Crick was leading the project.

 

Belgium Refugees

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Who´s who?

Refugees

  1. Nurse Wilson
  2. The Very Reverend Monsignor C Coote
  3. A F Kidson Esq Town Clerk
  4. Sir Stephen Penfold Mayor of Folkestone
  5. Mr Alderman Spurgen Deputy Mayor of Folkestone
  6. Monsieur A Peterson Belgian Vice-Consul
  7. Mr Alderman E J Bishop
  8. W H Routley Esq Borough Treasurer
  9. Dr Tyson JP
  10. Canon Tindall Vicar of Folkestone
  11. Dr J C Carlile DD
  12. Mr Councillor T S Franks
  13. Chevalier d’ Ydewalle

Although the historic key above describes the slim elegant central figure (No 6) as the Belgian Vice-Consul, it is in fact the King of the Belgians, Albert I - The Grand has another picture of him painted by Fredo Franzoni in the same year - and it is not only the same face but also the same uniform!

But apparently it was politically inexpedient to show the King smartly attired, supposedly having arrived first, hence the deception!

As it happens, the King stayed in The Grand during the war, directly above where the painting normally hangs, and used the ferries from Folkestone Harbour to commute to the battlefront.

The painting was given to the Borough by Fredo Franzoni in recognition of the assistance given to the Belgian refugees and is now owned by Folkestone Town Council.