Places to visit | Local area map


Noord-Meulen windmill - may date from 1127 - a witness to
past battles.

Wealthy medieval cloth town
In the Middle Ages, Hondeschoote was part of the Spanish Netherlands. A thriving wealthy cloth-town, it had thousands of small workshops making serge cloth from locally-grown linen flax.

It was one of the largest towns in Flanders, and its wealth showed in public buildings like the fine big church.

A concert in front of one of the area’s famous altar-pieces

Town Hall - built in1558 while the town prospered as part of Spanish Flanders

Harvest festival - a parade of working horses in front of the town's large 16th century church, which has been burned down 3 times.

To mark the year 2000 Millennium, the town installed a new carillon with 60 bells in the church tower, one of the largest in FranceThey regularly play a choice from 140 tunes.

Using the marshes as defence
But in the 16th century, when French armies attacked the Spanish army, battles raged over Hondschoote. The French burned and looted the town. The cloth-makers of Hondeschoote fled as refugees to what is now Belgium and to England, taking their skills to benefit France's rivals [see Huguenots].

Meanwhile the Spanish opened the sluice-gates to flood the whole area, in an attempt to defend their hold on Dunkerque - a tactic repeated in other wars, including the First World War.
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(Above) 1st World War plan of area flooded to defend Dunkerque - the vital stronghold at the North Sea end of the Allies line of defensive trenches.
[See 1st World War]

The Moeres were flooded again in 1917 during the German offensive following collapse of Russia.

The Moeres today. The rings of drainage ditches remain, but they are now drained by motor-driven pumps rather than windmills.

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Defending the French Revolution

Defending the new French republic from invasion in 1793.

The battle of Hondschoote in 1793 was a key event in saving the French Republic after the Revolution.

Most of Europe's kings and emperors feared the idea of the common people siezing power, and rushed to invade France and crush the ideas of "Liberty, brotherhood, equality" before the revolution could spread to their countries.

The English king sent an army via Flanders to capture Dunkerque as key invasion port. They were joined by troops from Hanover and Austrians from neighbouring Austrian Flanders. The foreign invaders were beaten by a French volunteer army in a fierce patriotic battle near Hondeschoote, where the windmill was a look-out post and first-aid station.

Weblinks and more information

Local area map:

Click on places for more information

Link to the Tourist Board website for:
Accommodation: hotels, B&Bs, gites, campsites
Discovery: list of places to visit
Diary of events
Rambles in the area - maps & notes

Click for TOURIST BOARD information
at [in English]

Places to visit
'T Kasteelhof Estaminet - traditional Flemish bar
Cassel Windmill - see it working!
Brasserie Thiriez - small artisinal brewery near Wormhout
Bommelaers Wall Ecomusée - country life museum near Ghyvelde

Background Information:
History of Flanders - the 16th century wars
Medieval cloth industry
Huguenots - French protestants
Flemish dialect and customs
Beer - North France's favourite drink
Horses - heavy working breeds and horse-riding
Retables -the story of the region's altar pieces
French Revolution and the Battle of Hondschoote

Why not try this newfeature?
clipboard helper
QUICK TOUR round Flanders Côte d'Opale, starting with Dunkerque Port Museum...



Cassel Last updated 8th November 2000 © Copyright Invicta Media 1999-2000