Category Archives: 1568-1648

Fortifications built during the 80year’s war

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.;

Citadel of Antwerp

Description – The citadel of Antwerp was built in the wake of religious wars in the Neterlands. It was commissioned by the Duke of Alva sent by Philip II of Spain to quell any resistance in Antwerp. It served both as a defensive structure as well as a base of operations for Spanish, Austrian, French, Dutch and Belgian forces. It became notorious for the Spanish Fury in 1576 where the city was plundered and many citizens lost their lives. The city hall of Antwerp still commemorates this war crime. In 1832 it became the theater of Dutch resistance during the Belgian war of independence  as a French army besieged this fortress under the command of Marshal Gérard. The people of Antwerp had always resented the presence of the citadel and in 1870 King Leopold II of Belgium agreed that it would be sold and leveled. A new district, Antwerp-South (‘t Zuid) was established and it served as the hallmark of the belle epoque era. It became home to the wealthy and influential elite of Antwerp until the Second World War.

Construction & Armament – The fort(ress) was built in 1567 featuring a five pointed star with bastions. It was constructed close to the Scheldt river. In 1572 the citadel was completed and a garrison moved in. In a response to the atrocities committed during the Spanish Fury notables of Antwerp ordered the wall facing the city to be demolished in 1577. But when hostilities continued it one again became a citadel and a distinctive feature of the city. The five bastions were named Toledo, Pacietto, Alva, Duc and Hernando. The citadel featured many buildings (powder magazines, a chapel,…) and was updated several times. The French refitted the citadel since Antwerp became the Arsenal Maritime in order to host an invasion force for England. The lunet of Kiel and Saint Laureis were added. During the Belgian occupation of the fort an extra battery on the terreplein was added.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The citadel of Antwerp retained its five pointed star design throughout history. Because of rapid advancements in artillery technology it was rendered obsolete. It could no longer fight off an enemy force attacking the city. People living in Antwerp did not like the presence of the citadel since it became a premier symbol of oppression by central authorities. Next to the 1576 Spanish Fury the city was again attacked by this fort this time on 27th of October 1830 by order of the Dutch general Chassé. Whatever lead to this course of action, Dutch sources claim Belgian rebels did not respect an agreed armistice, the disproportional use of force did and does not warrant these grave atrocities against the civilian population. In 1832 the French Armée du Nord rushed trough Flanders in order to force the remaining Dutch garrison to evacuate the citadel. A siege lasted from November 15th to December 23th and a French victory was the result when the citadel could no longer receive supplies by the river Scheldt. The Belgian Army occupied the site when the French left and ordered repairs. In 1870, after several petitions to the Belgian King by the counsel and citizens of Antwerp, the citadel was sold and leveled. A French monument commemorating the victory in 1832 was refused by the city so it was placed in Tournai (Doornik). Today no traces of the citadel are visible. Recent archeological research has shown there are still remains present.

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 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 Hoboken

Description – The lunet of Hoboken was built on a dyke of the river Scheldt. Located southwest of the city of Antwerp it guarded river traffic but was originally built to secure the Borgerweertpolder.

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 northeast. The lunet is not considered a fort since it is not known whether there was a garrison stationed on a permanent basis. It can be considered an older redoubt.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The lunet of Hoboken shows up on several maps dating back to the siege of Antwerp in 1584. It might be possibly still considered a defensive work in 1851 as it secured the Hoboken polder area. It lost its military role when the Brialmont forts of 1859 were erected; Fort Hoboken and Kruibeke secured the southern river Scheldt access to Antwerp. Most of the site is presumed to be destroyed since part of the port of Antwerp expanded in this area since the 1890’s. Today one finds an industrial site (Antwerp Blue Gate).

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R., Cannaerts, J.

Redoubt Saint Francis

Description – The redoubt of Saint Francis (Sint Fransiscus) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the saint or patron. This redoubt fort was constructed in 1584 by the Spanish forces who laid siege to Antwerp.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works. It was built on a location where the dyke of the Borgerweert polder was broken; this offered a strategic location during the siege.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – It is not known if remains of this redoubt still exist. A part of the industries of the port of Antwerp are located here. Today the protected nature and environment site of Blokkersdijk takes up most of the nearby terrain.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Fort Burcht (II)

Description – The fort of Burcht (II) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the village of Burcht. This particular fort was constructed in 1584 by Spanish forces increasing the pressure on Antwerp during the siege. Forces of the city of Antwerp (Dutch Republic) constructed the redoubt of Melkhuis close to the fort one year earlier.

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

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – It is not known if any remains of the fort still exist.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Redoubt Melkhuis

Description – The redoubt of Melkhuis was constructed by forces of the city of Antwerp together with Fort Vlaams Hoofd (II). It was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt.  Built in 1583 it guarded the southeastern access to Antwerp. Its location is not known but it seems that Fort Burcht (I) was a likely site. Later the Fort of Burcht (II) was built by Spanish forces to counter the redoubt in 1584.

Construction & Armament – The redoubt was built using timber and earth works.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – It is not know if any traces of this redoubt still exist.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.

Fort Vlaams Hoofd (II)

Description – The fort of Vlaams Hoofd (II) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the county of Flanders to which it belonged. Other names are Fort Saint Anne for the chapel that was built near a small village. Later ferry services between Saint Anne (Sint Anne/Sint Anneke) lead to the third name: Fort ‘t Veer. This particular fort was constructed in 1583 by forces of the city of Antwerp.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works, this location had been fortified since the Middle Ages. It is a so called hornwork with several bastions.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – Remains were destoryed when a third fort with the same name was built. Fort Vlaams Hoofd (III) was larger and occupied most of the site. To the southwest the redoubt of Melkhuis was established, to the north the redoubt of Toulouse and redoubt of Loop (Loopschans) were built.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.