A commemorative plaque honouring the memory of over 100 Basque child refugees sheltered in Brampton is set to be unveiled in April.

The plaque will be unveiled on Anchor’s Union Court retirement housing scheme, the exact spot where over 100 children were housed. 

One of the Basque evacuees, Carmen Eckersley, now a 95-year-old, is expected to be present.

Carmen Eckersley, formerly Carmen Santibanez Cid,  was among 4,000 children on a ship sent from the Basque region caught up in the Spanish Civil War, after Guernica was bombed, in the run-up to World War II.

News and Star:  Carmen when she lived with the Alford family Carmen when she lived with the Alford family (Image: Supplied)

Carmen, her brother and her sister were sent to Britain via the ship SS Habana, arriving from Bilbao.

While her siblings were housed in Glasgow, Carmen found refuge in Brampton, one of about 70 colonies established across Britain.

The conversion of the workhouse into a suitable hostel for the children was led by Lady Cecilia Roberts and her husband Charles.

The endeavour began around June 1, 1937, with 66 locals offering to help with the transformation, which was initially intended for 50 kids but was later revised to accommodate 100.

News and Star: SS HabanaSS Habana (Image: Supplied)


Not long after arriving, Carmen left the hostel to be fostered by the Alford family.

She lived with them on Currock Park Avenue until she married Clifford Eckersley in March 1952, at St Herbert's Church, Carlisle.

Whilst the plaque will preserve the memory of the Basque children in Brampton, it is as much of a 'thank you' to the surrounding area. 

Luis Eckersley, Carmen's son, said: "We wanted something from a family perspective and also as a big thank you to the people of Brampton and the local area for their support.

News and Star: The old Brampton workhouse where the children were housed.The old Brampton workhouse where the children were housed. (Image: Supplied)

"As we all know, with all the situation of refugees at the moment, there’s a slightly different understanding as to how and why people have to get out of certain countries at certain times. 

"We have had the support of Brampton Parish Council, who launched the exhibition during the civil wars anniversary, they ran it for a number of weeks in the Moot Hall.

"People have shown a lot of interest in the story in the past," he said.

Laura Forster Richardson, Anchor Location Manager at Union Court, said: “We are enormously proud that the Eckersley family have arranged for a plaque to be installed at Union Court to recognise the key role that the site played in assisting displaced children from the Basque region of Spain during what was a tumultuous conflict for the whole nation. 

“The Eckersley family approached us to arrange for the plaque to be installed as a way of thanking the people of Brampton for their generosity in housing and supporting the children who came here aboard the SS Habana.

"Carmen is now 95 and the 88th anniversary of the children’s arrival here is in May so the timing of the plaque being installed is very appropriate.

"We at Anchor are delighted to have been able to help them mark the occasion.” 

Residents are invited to the unveiling ceremony of the plaque, which will take place at the Union Lane home on April 17, at 10.30 am.