Category Archives: 1851

Constructed by the Belgian Law of 1851

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 7 Hoboken

Description – Fort 7 of Hoboken was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 7 Hoboken had a four pointed star shape with bastions; the design is the same as nearby Fort 6. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 7 was included in the Grote Omwalling and served as an additional redoubt. Construction of the R1 ringroad erased most trances.

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

Fort 6 Wilrijk

Description – Fort 6 of Wilrijk (Wilryck) was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 6 Wilrijk had a four pointed star shape with bastions; the design is the same as nearby Fort 7 and Fort 4. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 6 was included in the Grote Omwalling. Construction of the R1 ringroad erased most trances.

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

Fort 5 Berchem

Description – Fort 5 of Berchem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 5 Berchem had a five pointed star shape with bastions; the design is the same as Fort 2 Deurne. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 5 was included in the Grote Omwalling and the main building served as a redoubt. Construction of the R1 ringroad erased most trances. Today part of the moat is still accessible in Park Brilschans, named for the former redoubt or fort.

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

Fort 3 Berchem

Description – The fort of Berchem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 3 Berchem had a four pointed star shape with bastions. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Presumably the fort was completely demolished since it does not show on maps since 1859. No known remains of Fort 3 still exist today.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Remes, K.

Lunet Deurne

Description – The Lunet of Deurne was part of the first line of defensive structures protecting the city of Antwerp after 1851. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle. Sometimes referred to as Lunet 2-3 because its location was between the smaller forts 2 (Deurne) and fort 3 more to the south. Locals referred to it as “halve maan” (half moon) because of its shape.

Construction & Armament – The lunet was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades) and it has a triangular shape. It had a wet moat surrounding the ramparts.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 the small forts surrounding forts were completed. By that time it became clear that they could not defend Antwerp and tensions rose because they could be used to bombard the city. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Lunet 2-3 located at Deurne continued to exist and a military butchery was installed on the site. Several buildings were erected. The lunet was demolished and a laboratory and research facility was built on its premises.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort 1 Merksem

Description – The small fort (1) of Merksem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later fort of Merksem located more northeast. It was built on a strategic location to guard the main road to Breda (Bredabaan) but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 1 Merksem had a four pointed star shape with bastions. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 1 of Merksem was demolished to allow the town of Merksem to expand. It’s shape can roughly be identified if one looks at aerial photographs. No part of this fort is still visible on site. Parts have become a housing area. Note: other sources locate this fort near the later Turnhout Gate.

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

Fort 4 Berchem

Description – The small fort 4 of Berchem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (pallisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort but this raised tensions with the city of Antwerp. Fort 4 Berchem had a four pointed star shape with bastions. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  In the case of Fort 4 of Berchem it was decided to build an arsenal on the eastern part of the site in 1898. The arsenal entered use in 1907). Later the western part became the military hospital of Antwerp (construction started in 1899 and was completed by 1911). When the hospital was disbanded it served as a housing project (Groen Kwartier) and during these works parts of the former fort 4 were uncovered. Remants are no longer visible.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort 2 Deurne

Description – The fort of Deurne was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (pallisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 2 Deurne had a five pointed star shape. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Parts of the fort (2) of Deurne still exist today. It is the only remnant of the first generation of forts and has been converted to a sports center (Arena hal Deurne).

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Vlaams Hoofd (III)

Description – Fort Vlaams Hoofd was a brick fort built on the left bank of the river Scheldt protecting the city of Antwerp. Close to the fort the village of Saint Anne was located. A ferry service connected the city of Antwerp with the left bank hence the local population referred to it as “Fort ‘t Veer” (Tête de Flandre). A railway line between Antwerp and Ghent was built next to the southern flank of the fort. Next to guarding the Scheldt access to Antwerp it protected the Borgerweertpolder area and secured the strategic Verbrande Dijk road to the east towards Fort Stengel (until 1865). It was the third fort with this namesake as earlier fortifications had existed on this location.

Construction & Armament – The fort features a five point star shape and features earth works and brick. It was surrounded by a wet moat. Construction commenced in 1852. When it was finished it was rendered partly obsolete since new forts were heralded in 1859 in order to protect the city of Antwerp from bombardment. It featured several buildings including main infantry barracks, several artillery sheds, two powder magazines, two guard stations and a pavilion. Between the fort and the Scheldt river additional army logistics barracks were present (1840).

Armament – Fort Vlaams Hoofd

  • ?x 150mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort Vlaams Hoofd did not take part in the siege of Antwerp in 1914 and was not damaged. The defending garrison fled east on October 9th when German troops tried to cross the river. The fort was demolished in 1930 and the moat was filled with dirt in 1932. A very small part of the fort is still visible close to the river. The Antwerp pedestrian tunnel crossing entrance is standing roughly in the middle of the former fort.

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