One of the first reactions to the outbreak of war was a huge wave of outrage and sympathy for the displaced Belgians as Germany invaded their homeland in August 1914.
An estimated quarter of a million fled to England, many arriving in London. As early as October 1914, numbers 74-78 (then 25-28) Gloucester Place were allowed to be used for refugees, joined in November by 82 Crawford Street and in January 1915 by 36-40 Blandford Street.
The St Marylebone Belgian Refugees fund was headed by the mayor and had raised £200-£300 by the end of 1914. Concerts were held in aid of the refugees, letters appealing for support sent to the newspaper, and furniture and clothes donated to the cause.
OPENING THE GARDEN SQUARES
A letter to The Times from Mrs Marion Repton in May 1916 sparked a campaign to open London’s private garden squares for convalescing soldiers and officers to use for relaxation. The Times took up the cause and many signed up to the scheme. Portman Square, Bryanston Square, Manchester Square and Cavendish Square were among those which opened their gates.