Category Archives: Anc.Fortification

Fort Liefkenshoek

Fort Liefkenshoek
Fort Liefkenshoek

Description – The fort of Liefkenshoek (1579) was erected by the city of Antwerp to defend the Scheldt river access during the Dutch-Spanish war. It was captured by Spanish forces during the beginning of the siege of Antwerp in 1584. Later Dutch forces to the north were able to close the river for both commercial trade and military vessels. Subsequent Spanish (1584-1786) and Austrian rule (1786-1794) aimed to open the river once again but to no avail. During French reign the fort was refitted since Antwerp became the new maritime arsenal (arsenal maritime) in order to allow an invasion of England. The Scheldt river was opened because the revolutionary and later imperial armies controlled The Netherlands as well. The Belgian uprising of 1830 against Dutch rule did not lead to a capture of the fort. Together with the Antwerp citadel, Fortress Lillo and Fort Vlaams Hoofd it remained under Dutch control effectively closing the river once again. In 1839 the treaty of separation handed over Lillo and Liefkenshoek to Belgian rule but The Netherlands retained control over the river Scheldt to this present day. The fort lost its military role at the end of the 19th century; it continued to serve as a hospital (1849-1952). Its name was most likely derived from a now gone small stream or river near the fort.

Construction & Armament – This fort most likely started off as a redoubt constructed in 1577; its counterpart Lillo is located on the right bank of the river Scheldt. Built on a strategic location it was able to secure the river access and possibly served as a landing station for troops garrisoned at nearby defensive works. It features a four-pointed star shape with bastions. Its transition to a fort was carried out between 1577 and 1583. Two ravelins were constructed, one located facing north and an other one facing a southern direction. Since the area around the fort could be inundated it was difficult to capture. One gate allowed access to the fort: it is located facing the river. A powder magazine was placed in the southwestern bastion of the fort in 1808 together with barracks. Later a second larger magazine was erected in 1810. French engineers also built a “cat” (French: cavalier) on the central square of the fort (terreplein) in 1811. Although the fort had a permanent garrison and some civilians living within its walls its predominant military character allow it to be classified as a fort rather than a fortress.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The fort of Liefkenshoek lost its military role in 1894. It did not see action during the siege of Antwerp thereafter. German forces occupied the site from 1914 onwards and added several small bunkers (pillboxes). The Belgian army installed two guns on the northeast bastion of the fort during the interbellum. The gate of the fort was rebuilt in 1844 but severely damaged by a German flying bomb impact during the last phases of the Second World War. In 1954 a part of the rampart of the fort was dumped in the moat in order to allow expansion within. In 1980 the municipality of Beveren became owner of the fort and restoration started thereafter. More in-depth information about the military and political significance of this fort and the river Scheldt can be found in specialized literature (in Dutch). The fort can be visited and is in good condition: it became a heritage site in 1985. A tourist information office is present on site; a permanent exposition highlights the history of the fort.

Sources – Own elaboration; Cools, H & Van Meirvenne, R; Van Hooydonk, E.;

Het Steen

Het Steen
Het Steen

Description – Het Steen (the Stone) is the oldest fortress of Antwerp. Oldest archeological evidence indicate the stone walls were built around 982 but the castle itself dates from later dates. During the Middle Ages it remained a seat of power for the Dukes of Brabant. From 1303 onwards it was used as a prison. The fortress had several towers and in the middle the Saint Walburgis church was located. To the east ship could moor at the Werf quay zone. It lost this status during Dutch rule in the first half of the 19th century. Het Steen is the only remain part of the larger fortress that was demolished in 1880 to pave the way for port expansion. For some time it served as a museum.

Construction & Armament – It was constructed by order of Emperor Otto II of Germany (Holy Roman Empire) because the river Scheldt became a border zone of after the split of the empire of Charlemange in 843 (Treaty of Verdun). Together with Ename and Dendermonde it received a fortified castle/town. Archeological evidence prove that there were earlier settlements south of Antwerp dating back to the Vikings. During the reign of Charles V the fortress was refitted. On the castle towers the flag of the duchy of Brabant still flies.

Armament – Medieval Castle

  • Medieval

Current condition – Large parts of the former fortress were demolished in 1880 because port expansion demanded straightening of the existing quays. The Walburgis church was torn down and most of the walls were destroyed as well.  The remaining buildings were henceforth referrer to as Het Steen. It can be visited free of charge.

Sources – Own elaboration;

Fort Jean Bart

Description – The fort of Jean Bart was located northwest of Antwerp on western side of the Borgerweertpolder and the main dyke of the river Scheldt. It was named for the French national hero and corsair from Dunkirk Jean Bart (Jan Baert). The fort never came close to completion. More to the south the fort of Stengel was also under construction.

Construction & Armament – Construction of the fort commenced in 1811. The fort was planned to have a five point star shape but when the project was halted only the outer ramparts were finished. The Scheldt dyke was connected to the outer defensive rampart of this fort.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – When Dutch rule was installed the fort of Jean Bart was far from completed and in 1814 works were halted together with Fort Stengel. It was argued that these positions, when taken and occupied by enemy forces, could serve as a base of operations to lay siege to Antwerp and block the river Scheldt access. Fort Ferdinand, located on the right bank closer to Antwerp (near Oosterweel), was deemed more suitable for the task at hand.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.;

Fort Oosterweel

Description – The fort of Oosterweel was located northwest of Antwerp and named for the nearby village of Oosterweel (Austruweel). Built near a strategic bend of the river Scheldt it controlled the main access to Antwerp. This fort was also known as Fort Piémontel (Fort Pimentel) or fort alhier to the nearby village. It should not be confused with the later fort Austruweel located on the left bank of the river Scheldt.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1635 featuring earth works (palisades). It featured a square shape and was protected by a wet moat. The Scheldt dyke was connected to the outer defensive rampart of the fort.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – Remains of the fort are still present on the Ferraris map of 1778. It seems the fort fell into disrepair. Subsequent demolition followed in 1782. During the construction of later forts (Noorderfort and Noordkasteel) debris and traces of occupation were discovered. No known remains of this fort still exist today. Some sources claim this fort is actually located near the former village of Oorderen.

Sources – Own elaboration;

Fort Laar

Description – The fort of Laar (Laer) was built on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was located next to the Borgerweertpolder and the village of Zwijndrecht. It secured the strategic Verbrandendijk road to the west.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1638 by Spanish forces aiming to secure the left bank.The fort features a square shape and features earth works. It was surrounded by a wet moat.

Armament – ?

  • ?x Cannon

Commander – ?

Current condition – The fort of Laer fell in disrepair during Austrian rule. On the Ferraris map of 1778 the fort is marked but seems to be in bad condition. In 1811 French forces constructed Fort Stengel a bit more to the east in order to secure the Borgerweertpolder and the Verbrandendijk road.

Sources – Own elaboration;

Fort Stengel

Description – The fort of Stengel was located west of Antwerp and controlled the entire Borgerweertpolder area. The road from Vlaams Hoofd to Zwijndrecht was secured by this fort but additional information is scarce. Based on its location it is to be considered a coastal defense fort. To the north one finds the construction site of Fort Jean Bart.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1811 featuring earth works (palisades). Based on maps and drawings it featured a half star-like shape. The design is based on a horn work and a small square shaped reduit. It featured a wet moat and the surrounding area could be inundated when needed.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – Some sources indicate that the fort was ordered to be demolished on 9th December 1816 while under Dutch rule. It was argued that an enemy advancing on Antwerp could capture the fort and use it as a base of operations. Other sources indicate that the fort continued to exist until around 1865. It was leveled presumably because the forts of Zwijndrecht, Kruibeke and Saint Mary were constructed or refitted. No known remains of this fort still exist today.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.;

Fort Pereya

Description – The fort of Pereyra, also know as Fort Dambrugge was located on the right bank of the river Scheldt near the village of Dam. This  fort was constructed to secure the northeastern side of the city. Other names for this fort are Fort Dam, Fort Stuyvenberg. This fort should not be confused with the later lunet Stuyvenberg.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works starting in 1592. It had a square shape and featured bastions.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – This fort was supposedly demolished in 1702. During the conversion of the former railway station facilities into the Park Spoor Noord no trances were found. The location of the fort would be close to the bridge crossing the park.

Sources – Own elaboration; Magielse, H.

Lunet Herentals

Description – The lunet of Herentals was part of the Spanish defensive city wall. It was built to secure the city of Antwerp and the Herentals Canal (Herentalse Vaart) water supply.

Construction & Armament – This lunet featured a wet moat and four ramparts. These ramparts add up to a roughly triangular design. It had only one entrance to the northwest. This structure is considered to be a redoubt since defensive ramparts facing the city are not built. It is not known whether there was a garrison stationed on a permanent basis but presumably it had a limited permanent character. Later a powder magazine was added.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The lunet of Herentals was considered an integral part of city defenses and as such it retained this status. Most of the structures are presumed to be destroyed when the city of Antwerp expanded but the shape of the lunet is still visible on aerial photos. The site of the lunet has been transformed into a park (Stadspark).

Sources – Own elaboration;

Fort Montebello

Description – The fort of Montebello /lunet Lier was part of the Antwerp defensive city wall. It was built in support of the citadel and guarded the Begijnenpoort gate. To the lunet of Saint Laureis was located southwest.

Construction & Armament – This fort constructed in 1814 featured a wet moat and four ramparts. These ramparts add up to a roughly spearheaded design. It had only one entrance to the north and a crenelated wall facing the city. Since it is not known whether there was a garrison stationed on a permanent basis one might refer to it as a redoubt.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The fort of Montebello was considered an integral part of the city defenses and as such it retained this status. During the siege of 1832 it was bombarded and captured by French forces. It became a base of operations until the citadel surrendered on the 23th of December.  The Belgian Army occupied the site but the citadel was ordered to be abandoned from 1870 onward. Most of the structures are presumed to be destroyed when the city of Antwerp expanded. A street name refers to the former fort.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.;

Lunet Saint Laureis

Description – The lunet of Saint Laurent / Sint Laureis / Saint Lawrence was built in support of the citadel of Antwerp to the north. It was located south of the citadel and guarded one of the main roads. It was named for the nearby dwelling of Sint Laureis. To the northeast one finds the fort of Montebello.

Construction & Armament – This lunet constructed in 1817 featured a wet moat. The facing ramparts measure 100m while the flanks measure 40m. These ramparts add up to a roughly spearhead design just as its counterpart lunet Kiel. It had only one entrance to the north. The lunet is considered a fort in some sources because it features a crenelated wall facing the citadel. Since it is not known whether there was a garrison stationed on a permanent basis it is currently classified as an older redoubt.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The lunet of Saint Laureis was considered an integral part of the citadel and it retained this status. During the siege of 1832 it was bombarded and captured by French forces until the citadel surrendered on the 23th of December.  The Belgian Army occupied the site but the citadel was ordered to be abandoned from 1870 onward. Most of the structures are presumed to be destroyed when the city of Antwerp expanded.

Sources – Own elaboration;