City Hall, Antwerp, Belgium


Intérieur De l’Hôtel de Ville. – Grande Salle Leys, – Vue d’ensemble
[Interior of Town Hall – Leys Hall – Overview]
1900s
Publisher: G. Hermans

In the beginning of the 16th centrury, the city had made plans to build a new town hall in Gothic style, much like the town halls of Leuven, Brussels and Oudenaarde. However, they had to use their construction material and money to defend themselves against attacks from the Army of Maarten van Rossem from Gelre. It was only twenty years later that the financial position of the city had improved to such an extent that the plan for a new building for the mayor was unshelved. But, by this time fashion had changed. The Gothic style was out and replaced by the Renaissance style. The building clearly is a Renaissance building (look at the superposition of Dorian and Ionic colons), but the middle section still clearly resembles the towers of the many Gothic Flemish and Brabantine town halls. This atypical Renaissance middle makes this building more beautiful. Think that it were not there (hold a paper above the middle of the picture), and see what remains: a boring building seeming very flat and low). The 45 doors in the ground floor were built to house little shops. The rent that the shop-keepers had to pay was used to help finance the construction of this building.
Belgiumview (more pictures)

Renovations during the late 19th century by architects Pierre Bruno Bourla, Joseph Schadde and Pieter Jan August Dens drastically modified the interior. Much of the stately decoration dates from this period, as does a roof over what was once an open-air inner courtyard. A number of the leading Antwerp historical painters were invited to assist with the decorations. Henri Leys painted a series of murals depicting key events in Antwerp’s history and portraits of former Belgian rulers for the Leys Hall.
Wikipedia.

Leyszaal
Hendrik Leys and the city’s keeper of the records Pieter Génard conceived a whole scenario for this showpiece room. The portraits of the dukes and emperors that had granted Antwerp privileges are hung above the doors. The large tableaux on the walls illustrate the freedoms of the city before 1794. Leys began work in 1864. He had completed eleven portraits and four large tableaux by the time of his death five years later.
City Mayors


Intérieur De l’Hôtel de Ville. Salle des Mariages.
[Interior of Town Hall. Marraige Hall.]
1900s
Publisher: G. Hermans

Google Street View.

Victor Lagaye (1825–1896) painted the five murals of weddings performed in different historical periods: the era of the Ancient Belgians; the Roman epoch; a Christian ceremony celebrated by Saint Willebrord in 650; the aristocratic wedding of Philip the Beautiful and Johanna of Castilla in 1497; and a civil ceremony of the 17th Prairal of 1796 (in accordance with the law of the 17th Prairal of the year IV in the French revolutionary calendar). There are two allegorical wedding tableaux by Lagaye beside the fireplace. On the left is The Union of Trade and Industry; on the right The Union of Science and Literature. Cornelis Floris designed the fireplace and he sculptured two caryatides in alabaster himself. In 1886 Saldis and Amfitrite, the bas-relief by G. Geefs, was placed above the mantelpiece. It symbolises the river Scheldt and the Sea.
City Mayors

Salles des Mariages, 1890s, (from Wikimedia Commons)

Antwerp City Hall was constructed between 1561 and 1565 under the supervision of the master builder Cornelis II Floris de Vriendt, with the collaboration of the Italian Nicolo Scarini, among others. It is in the Flemish-Italian Renaissance style, also known as the Floris style, a conspicuous innovation in the Netherlands of the sixteenth century that was imitated as far away as Scandinavia. Mutinying Spanish sailors torched the building during the Spanish Fury of 1576, but it was rebuilt in 1579. The city hall originally had an open-air inner courtyard. A roof was added during a thorough renovation in the nineteenth century. Most of the present interior, including a large number of wall panels, dates from that period.

The Aldermen of Antwerp were given a building—het Schepenhuis—for the city’s administration and their meetings around 1406. The Lakenhal was situated next to the Schepenhuis. Antwerp’s economy grew fast in the years following its construction. Around 1450 the city’s population was 20,000 or so, but by the middle of the sixteenth century Antwerp was home to around 100,000 people and the largest city north of the Alps after Paris. The workload of the Mayors and Aldermen increased progressively and the old Schepenhuis became far too small. It was also felt to be too undistinguished for such a large city. . . In 1560 the magistrate decided to build a city hall on the broad western side of Grote Markt, the main market square, which was owned by the city. That meant that no money would have to be spent on purchasing the land and shops could be developed at street level, generating rents that would cover some of the construction costs. This time there was a clear preference for a building in the new Renaissance style. The city managers set up a committee of ten experts, who came to agreement on a design. The Antwerp members included the sculpture, architect and designer Cornelis II Floris (1513–1575), and the artists Jan Metsys and Lambert van Noort. Florentine master builder Nicolo Scarini was one of the committee’s foreign members. The inauguration took place on 27 February 1565, four years after the first stone was laid.
City Mayors

Antwerp City hall with panorama; Elisée Reclus, Ernest George, Ravenstein & A. H. Keane; 1883 (from Wikimedia Commons).

 

The Grote Markt during the Antwerp sack by Spanish 1576. (from Wikimedia Commons).

Milk seller & dog cart, Belgium


Laitière flamande – Vlaamsche melkboerin
[Flemish milkmaid[
Postmarked 1932

The milkman is almost unknown in Belgium, and except for a few boys and lads who accompany their mothers or elder sisters, all the sellers and carriers of milk ara women, who go round with their little carts and the brightly-polished copper or brass milkcans which are so well-known to all tourists. A word may well be said regarding the excellent management of the Belgian dairy farms, and of the milk supply. Inspections of the milkcarts and the milk are frequently held in most of the large towns for the purpose of ascertaining whether the many regulations that exist for the proper conduct of the business are being duly carried out. Not only is the milk itself carefully tested, but the cans are examined to see that they are thoroughly clean, and in every respect in a state of good repair. The condition of the dogs and the harness by which they are attached to the carts also comes in for inspection, lest the former should not have been properly fed, and the latter should in any way chafe or gall the animals.

Whatever one may think of the employment of dogs for the purpose of traction of milk and other small carts (and, of course, many humanitarians are strongly opposed to the custom), there can be no doubt that as a general rule the aninmls are well and kindly treated, and their comfort is wel) looked after by the authorities. Of recent years the owners of each cart have been obliged to provide a small piece of carpet or sacking for the dog to lie upon when resting, and also a drinking bowl.
The Catholic Press, 19 November 1914

Weaver’s Hall/Univeristy Library, Leuven, Belgium


Louvain Les Halles, Salle des Pas-Perdus
c.1910
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Google Street View.

The burning of the Library of Louvain has caused two irreparable losses: the loss of an historic monument, a gem of the most beautiful architecture of two distinct periods—the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries—and the loss of the collection of manuscripts, books and. relics of the University of Louvain. Let me first say a few words about the monument in which was enshrined the Library of the University. This monument, known as the Halles Universitaires, was the old Halle aux draps, or Weavers’ Hall, of the town of Louvain, which in the course of centuries has been adapted and enlarged, as we shall shortly see.

The first stone of the Halle aux draps was laid in 1317, and in 1345 the building was completed. It consisted of a ground floor and an upper story in the roof; outside were fine doorways—the most beautiful specimens of the civil architecture of Brabant at the beginning of the fourteenth century; inside were two large halls, one of which had in the course of centimes undergone many changes; while the other—kept as it originally was, though restored—served as the Salle des Pas-Perdus of the Library of the University. This hail was divided into two parts by a series of vigorously moulded semi-circular arches; these arches rested on pillars with capitals ornamented with two rows of foliage and fruit. Magnificent brackets supported the oak beams of the ceiling; the subjects they represented were very varied: foliage, burlesque scenes, fantastic or hybrid beings; all were carved firmly and boldly, forming specimens rarely met with at that period in other parts of our country. Similar works are to be found with us only in a few rare monuments of the second half of the fourteenth century.

In 1432 the University of Louvain received permission from the town to convert a portion of the Halle aux draps into quarters suitable for schools and lecture rooms. This condition of things lasted until 1676, when the University purchased the Halle from the town; a little later, in 1680, extensive works were undertaken and a spacious story was added to the building. This story was divided into lecture rooms for the different Faculties. In 1723 a large building in the Perpendicular style was added to the Halles Universitaires for the purposes of the Library.
“The Library of the University of Louvain”, The Nineteenth Century, No. 59, May 1915

Few libraries in the world have experienced such a dramatic history as the library of the university in Leuven (KU Leuven). Established only a few years after the founding of the university in 1425, it collected rare books and manuscripts over the centuries, only to lose them to France after the French revolution. But much worse was to come during the two world wars in 1914 and 1940.

The original university library building has been located since 1636 in the old cloth hall (currently the University Hall). During the First World War, German soldiers put fire to the building and its precious collections. After the war, a new library with a bell tower was built with American support, with a greater magnificence, and was almost turned into a war memorial. . . But the building today is not the original one reconstructed after WW1. After acquiring more than 900,000 volumes, the library suffered a new disaster in mid-May 1940, just a few days after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Belgium. Again the library was completely destroyed by fire and only 15,000 volumes survived the disaster.
The Brussels Times


“Ruines de Louvain – The ruins at Louvain. Université. Salle des Pas Perdus. – University. Outer Hall.” University of San Diego

Canal, Bruges


Bruges — Qual du Pont de la Clef
c.1920
Publisher: Enrest Thill

Google Street View.

Sleutelbrug (Key Bridge)
Music lovers, go and visit this ancient bridge dating as far back as the year 1331. The ‘key’ in the name does not refer to the treble clef, but to the 15th-century brewery ‘De Sleutels’ (The Keys). This was located more or less where the hotel ‘Monsieur Ernest’ now is. However, it is the Speelmanskapel (Minstrels Guild’s Chapel) that plays first fiddle here. ‘Speelman’ is another word for minstrel or medieval musician. The Bruges musicians were united in a guild and came together in this chapel, one of the city’s last preserved guild chapels. Only they, and no one else, were allowed to officiate at weddings and celebrations in Bruges. Really nice people. Smart, too. The Sleutelbrug is somewhat hidden, but still close to the lively ‘t Zand Square with the Concertgebouw, Bruges’ contemporary music temple.

Visit Bruges

Shelled building, Namur, Belgium


Namur. Trou produit par un obus (à la Boulangerie du Bon Pain)
(Hole produced by a shell (at the Boulangerie du Bon Pain [bakery])
1910s

ATTACK ON NAMUR
LONDON, Aug. 20
The Official Press Bureau publishes as reliable an account of the attack, on Namur, given by Belgian Lieutenant Deppe. When Lieutenant Deppe left Namur on Sunday the Germans, with their 11in Howitzers, had knocked three north-eastern, forts to pieces. They advanced at intervals, and bombarded the town, which was defended by the fourth Belgian infantry.
Namur was completely evacuated on Sunday, the defenders being unable to withstand the heavy artillery fire.
The Germans attacked in three-rank formation–the front lying down, tho second rank kneeling, and the third rank standing. They afforded a splendid target. Machine guns and 30 batteries of Howitzers in sections were simultaneously concentrated on each of the forts, however, and smothered them.
Sydney Morning Herald, 1 September 1914

WW I trench & ruins, Diksmuide, Belgium

Google Street View (overview)=”https://history-in-your-hands.com/432postcards/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Dixmude-3.jpg”>
Boyau de la mort à Dixmude | Le Cavalier avec ses postes de guetteurs
Doodengang te Dixmude | De Ruiter mel zijne posten en bespieders
(Dodengang/Trech of Death in Dixmude | The Cavalier post with lookout)
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Located in Dixmude the ‘Trenches of Death’ comprise preserved trenches featuring galleries, shelters, firesteps, chicanes, concrete duckboards and concrete sandbags. Together they give a fair impression of the makeup of trenches during the First World War – that is, notably leaving aside the quiet, serene nature of the trenches as they appear today. The Dixmude trenches were in fact held by the Belgians for over four years during the Battles of the Yser against determined German forces (often ranged just 100 yards away), hence their grim name.
firstworldwar.com

The Dodengang (Dutch, also called Trench of Death in English and Le Boyau de la mort in French) is a World War I memorial site located near Diksmuide, Belgium. . . . The Dodengang is a 300 yards (270 m) section of preserved trench where many men were killed in World War I. The trench was begun at the time of the Battle of the Yser which was manned by soldiers of the Belgian Army. As part of the Yser Front, it played a key role in preserving the front line in this area and stopping further German incursions across the Yser Canal. Belgian soldiers fought here under the most perilous conditions until the final offensive of 28 September 1918.
Wikipedia.


DIXMUDE. — Ruines. — Pant sur l’Yser et Entrée de la Ville
Ruins. — Bridge over the Yser and entrance of the town.
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)


Ruines de Dixmude | 1914-18 | Canal d’Handzaeme
The ruins at Dixmude | 1914-18 | Handzaeme canal.
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Belgian Army, WW I


Armée belge | Une section de mitrailleuses Maxim
(Belgian Army: a Maxim machine gun section)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

At the beginning of the First World War the Belgian Army could field only 102 machine guns. However, many of these guns were transported by a very unusual method. They were pulled on small gun carriages by specially trained dog teams. The machine guns seen in the photographs above are Maxim guns, but the Belgian Army also had a number of French Hotchkiss guns. The dogs used to pull the machine guns were Belgian Mastiffs, this strong breed were more than capable of drawing the 60lbs weight of a Maxim gun. . . .The relatively cheap cost of pack dogs compared to horses, along with their relative lack of maintenance – with no need for horse shoes etc, made the dogs an excellent option. They also offered a much lower profile than that of a pack horse, allowing them to stay close to the guns ready to move under cover when in action, and were much easier to handle without the need for specially trained troops. The dog teams were attached to most Belgian line infantry regiments with each battalion with 6 guns, split into 2-gun sections – each battalion had 36 dogs for the 18 gun and ammunition carriages. The machine guns could be brought into action very quickly and it was said that the dogs were so well trained they would remain quiet and patient in their harnesses until it was time to move again.
Historical Firearms


Armée belge | Les Cyclistes
(Belgian Amry: The Cyclists)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

Bicycle infantry are infantry soldiers who maneuver on (or, more often, between) battlefields using military bicycles. The term dates from the late 19th century, when the “safety bicycle” became popular in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Historically, bicycles lessened the need for horses, fuel and vehicle maintenance.
Wikipedia.

With the advent of WWI, the thickly-roaded districts of France and Flanders meant that military cyclists would find the ground better suited for their wheels than combatants found in the South African veldt. The flat landscape of the low countries meant that Belgium in particular was an ideal environment for military cyclists and they were well used in the initial stages before the static stalemate of the trenches set in. Four Carabinier battalions of the Belgian army had attached companies of cyclists. They wore a distinctive uniform with a somewhat old-fashioned peaked hat similar to a kepi. Their cycles were the “Belgica” which was a foldable cycle. This allowed the bicycle to be slung across the shoulder when encountering difficult terrain. A dedicated military cycling school in Belgium provided troops with specific training in reading maps, reconnaissance and communication techniques, as well as the mechanical skills needed to maintain the bicycles.
Suburban Militarism: Belgium’s Carabinier Bicyclists


Armée belge | Escadron de cavalerie
(Belgian Amry: cavalry squadron)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

The use of horses in World War I marked a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict. Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force, but over the course of the war, the vulnerability of horses to modern machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire reduced their utility on the battlefield. This paralleled the development of tanks, which ultimately replaces cavalry in shock tactics. While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.
Wikipedia.

Water tower, Zeebrugge, Belgium


Zeebrugge – Château d’Eau
(Zeebrugge – Water tower)
c.1910

Built 1907, destroyed during World War I.

The harbour was the site of the Zeebrugge Raid on 23 April 1918, when the British Royal Navy temporarily put the German inland naval base at Bruges out of action. Admiral Roger Keyes planned and led the raid that stormed the German batteries and sank three old warships at the entrance to the canal leading to the inland port.
Wikipedia.


Ruines de Zeebrugge | 1914-18 | Château d’Eau et Abri
The ruins of Zeebrugge | 1914-18 | Water works and shelter
c.1919
Publisher: Nels (J. Revyn)

A book of postcards with a view of the replacement water tower (image 38) and a map showing the location (no. 19 on map).

Destroyed Tank, Belgium

Ruines d’Ypres-Hooge  | 1914-18 | Tank détruit
Ruines des Halles et Grand  Place | 1914-18 | A destroyed tank
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

The red text (repeated on the back) is promoting a magarine factory in Belgium (link is in Dutch).

Wikipedia: Tanks in World War I

Wikipedia: British heavy tanks of World War I

Nobody was prepared for the bloody stalemate which prevailed during the First World War. Officers from all countries had in mind brash pictures of daring offensives with waving flags and blaring trumpets, epic cavalry charges and massive infantry squares marching under fire, bright uniforms, tactical genius and glory. This was quite a romantic view which was familiar to the commoners, the very same ones who then embarked with happiness and chants onto the trains. But, quickly, the grim reality of an attrition war became apparent, with death on an industrial scale. The early French offensives sank before the whirling staccato of the German Mauser machine-guns.

After a full retreat, the German offensive was miraculously stopped on the Marne, a few dozen miles north-east of Paris. From Belgium to Switzerland, all the opponents entrenched themselves. Artillery, barbed wire and machine guns took their toll on every offensive. On the German side, some attempts to break the stalemate included assault squads equipped with portable machine guns and grenades, as well as gas and flamethrowers. . . The idea of the “tank”, in the modern meaning of the word, appeared simultaneously in France and in Great Britain. In the latter, it was due to Lt. Col. Ernest Swinton, and in the former due to Col. Jean Baptiste Estienne. Both advocated the use of the Holt Tractor, which was then largely in use with the Allies as a gun tractor. This led to further developments and, despite many setbacks, culminated in 1916 when the first operational tanks were put to the test.
The Online Tank Museum

Fire, Brussels International Exposition


Bruxelles-Exposition
L’Incendie des 14-15 Août 1910
L’Avenue des Nations

c.1910

The Brussels International Exposition of 1910 was a World’s fair held in Brussels, Belgium, from 23 April to 1 November 1910. This was just thirteen years after Brussels’ previous World’s fair. It received 13 million visitors, covered 88 hectares (220 acres) and lost 100,000 Belgian Francs. . . . There was a big fire on 14 and 15 August which gutted several pavilions in the Solbosch part of the exhibition. Part of the Belgian and French sections were destroyed, but the worst hit was the English section. After the fire, some destroyed parts were rebuilt at a rapid pace. This event attracted the attention of the public and the organisers were able to successfully use it for the promotion of the exhibition.
Wikipedia.

The results of the fire were horrifying in the rapidity with which they followed upon a trifling cause. A chance spark from a watchman’s pipe or the hot glow from a fused electric wire. Some such trifle as this originated the trouble. Then, at about a quarter to 9 on Sunday evening, an attendant saw a curtain smouldering in the Needle work hall. He called a gendarme to help him and tried to pull the burning curtain down. But, within a few seconds the roof was ablaze and, five minutes later the Exhibition was itself illuminated by the fiery glow.

The British Commissioner-General, who was in the midst of it all describes the scene thus:-
“Portions of the roof fell quickly, and flames ran along the facade with extraordinary rapidity, as they were sure to do in a building made of lath and plaster and stocked with light inflammable materials. Near the heart of the fire–if not in it–there were wax mannequins of Brussels dressmakers and these aided the furnace, but on breaking into the British section at the other end, where the offices are, it looked for the moment as if the flames were not coming our way, but might pass along the facade, and leave us time to save at least the more valuable contents. Beyond the great arch at the end of the section, however, there was an unbroken sheet of flame and in the absence of firemen a quarter of an hour decided the fate of everything.

“A dozen members the staff either attracted by the fierce light or already in the grounds the grounds worked hard and without confusion to save the moneys and all valuable papers particularly the plans of the Turin Exhibition. Mr Balaam, the treasurer, Mr Harries, representing the Board of Agriculture, who were exhibítors and other members of the staff lent willing hands and nothing of value was left behind. But the work was hardly done when men were crying ‘Sauve qui peut’. Entering the hall one saw a great body of flame leap along above the Bradford and Huddersfield tableaux and the priceless loan collection of furniture, flash through the light velarium, and scattering brands upon the show-cases. A great gust of wind came through the falling roof, and all was over. One had to leave the masterpieces of Bernard Moore and Howson Taylor exposed to a greater fire than that of the potter’s furnace.”

The fire was not sated. Like a torrent it rushed on, catching the velarium, and making the roof appear like “one tongue of fire”. An  onlooker states:- “The flames now reached the bridge which spans the Avenue Solbosch, between the French and British sections. With the sound of broken glass, tho roaring of the flames, the fall of girders, the bridge broke own into the avenue, and for a time it seemed as if the French section might be saved. There was, indeed, a kind of lull. Hero it may be said that the seeming incompetence of the Belgian firemen, the absence of any official with adequate common-sense, the multiplying of little jacks-in-office to bar the way were almost entirely to blame for the subsequent loss of the French Alimentation section, the Ville do Paris, and six houses on the Avenue Solbosch. Mr. Hotchkiss, the representative of the Underfeed Stoker Company, actually offered to lead a gang of men with axes and sledge-hammers to cut down the bridge three-quarters of an hour before the flames became too strong. To his offer the following reply was made: ‘We have no axes, no men, and no hammers.’ It was then proposed to blow up the bridge. ‘Dus aliter visum.’

“The bridge fell at about 10, but the French section had already caught. The fire ran along the Restaurant Duval incredibly fast. The French wines, the French chocolates, and other stalls for edible or potable wares disappeared like magic. The roof fell in, the walls collapsed, and the heat was so great that those who were on guard in the gardens below with articles rescued from the flames were forced to hide their faces behind the rose and apple trees. Taking, as it were, a second wind, the fire seemed to cross over and seize upon the brick houses of the Avenue Solbosch, and six were speedily tending heavenwards columns of smoke. In the French Industrial Hall, too, the flames began to make their way. The cases of jewellery were smashed and the valuable jewels conveyed across to a restaurant on the other side of the gardens. In the hurry and bustle amidst the red glow of the fires, the showers of sparks, and the clouds of smoke there was one found who endeavoured to steal from a showcase His fate was pitiable. Running at full speed, he was bought up by a cowboy with ‘punch’ on the jaw, and was seized by his infuriated pursuers. The police saved him with difficulty.”

Some of the most terrible scenes were witnessed in “Old Brussels,” where Bostock’s well-known wild-beast show was an attraction. The poor beasts were maddened with fear as the flames invaded the section. Someone fearing that they might escape and cause a panic in the now frightened crowd suggested shooting the creatures. Eight gendarmes were hurriedly sent for, and took their places with loaded rifles. Then it was remembered that the bullets would go beyond the open cages. A colony of monkeys were giv6n their liberty, but the rest were left to their fate. The charred remains of lions, bears, panthers, crocodiles, and the rest were found among the ruins next day.

“Old Brussels” itself was one of the most picturesque corners m the Exhibition. There were the narrow streets
twisting and turning with their courtyards and wooden bridges, which one instinctively associates with, old Flanders. The old wooden houses, with painted shutters, carved doorpost, and overhanging gables were fine fare for the fire fiends. Over the doorways of some were little niches with painted statue of the Virgin. These perished too. Within the leaded mullions and green panes one could see the benches set with tankards of Flemish beer. It was a picture such as the Brothers Grimm have made familiar to us all from childhood but all so substantial. When the flames came, they reduced everything to white cinders and black debris within a few minutes. The most dangerous moment from the human standpoint was when the fire reached Old Brussels and the crowds in the narrow streets were panic-stricken. Fortunately, beyond some serious cases of crushing all escaped.
The Mercury, 29 September 1910