KEIGHLEY is to host a new exhibition marking the 80th anniversary of Basque child refugees coming to the district.

The display at Keighley Local Studies Library will focus on how Keighley and Bradford welcomed the children from the Basque region of northern Spain in 1937.

The display will be accompanied by a talk by two experts on the period, Simon Martinez and John Birkbeck, on October 28 at 2pm.

The children were brought to the UK at the height of the Spanish Civil War to avoid the bombing and hunger following the destruction of the Basque town of Guernica, forever immortalised in the painting of the same name by Pablo Picasso.

The destruction of the town in 1937 shocked people from around the world.

Almost 4,000 children came to Britain on the SS Habana in May 1937. The boat docked in Southampton where the children stayed before being moved across the country.

On September 13 1937, the Morton Banks Sanatorium in Riddlesden and the Dr Barnardo children’s home on Manningham Lane, Bradford, were turned over to voluntary groups to house the children.

Keighley welcomed 100 of these child refugees and a few adults who accompanied them.

The children were very happy in Keighley, one later recalling “it was a town of twenty to twenty five thousand people, not pretty, not ugly, without a coastline but with swimming pools, a big park, and three cinemas The Picture House, The Regent, and The Cosy Corner, and a lake which in winter froze over”.

Bradford Council said the talk would give a rare opportunity to hear two experts on and often-forgotten period in history speak together.

Simon Martinez is the son of one of the refugee children Ruperta Martinez, who came to Britain on the SS Habana, and he is a leading figure in the Basque Children of 37 Association.

John Birkbeck is the grandson of Rev John Nicholson Balmer, a significant figure in the lives of the Basque children who came to Keighley in 1937, and he has gathered a wealth of knowledge about the experiences of local refugees.

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Sport and Culture, said: “Bradford is a City of Sanctuary and has a history of welcoming people who are in need.

“This will be a fascinating exhibition and a moving talk by two people who are not only experts but whose lives have been affected by this period in history.”

Visit for further information. The event is free and open to all.