the 23rd of May, 1937, four thousand Basque children
arrived in Southampton. They had fled from Spain to escape the
Spanish Civil War. The children, together with the 95 women teachers,
120 female helpers and 15 priests who accompanied them, spent
their first two months under canvas near Southampton. From here
they were dispersed to a variety of accommodations throughout
the country. Two homes in South Wales took in the refugees: Sketty
Hall, in Swansea, and Cambria House in Caerleon.
There was no financial aid from the government, so the National
Joint Committee for Spanish Relief undertook to raise ten shillings
(50p) a week per child for maintenance.
Shortly after World War II began, the military moved into Cambria
House and the Basque children were moved to Vale View, Mill Street.
This was a far smaller house; the move was only possible as some
of the children returned to Spain and others were placed in private
homes. No sooner had they made Vale View their home than the military
took this over! The children now squeezed into 18 Cross Street
- nowadays Pendragon Guest House.
Mrs Fernandez was one of those in charge of the children. She
did not return to Spain after the war, but stayed in Caerleon.
In fact she made 18 Cross Street her permanent home! Caerleon
obviously suited her, as she lived to the age of 97. The children
she had cared for did not forget her, she continued to receive
correspondence from them right up to her death in January 2001.
In order to raise funds for the children's maintenance, a
monthly newsletter was published and sold for tuppence (1p) a
copy. The "Cambria
House Journal" contained articles written by the children
and staff. Luckily for us, copies still survive in Newport Reference
Library. You can explore extracts here, these powerfully tell
the children's story, now part of Caerleon's history.