Description – Fort Steendorp is close to the Steendorp community on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It is one of three forts constructed in order to safeguard Antwerp just before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. It was constructed in order to secure strategic bridgeheads for the Belgian Army. It guarded the left bank of the river Scheldt and is constructed on a hill top. Initially referred to as Fort Rupelmonde it was the last brick fort constructed in Belgium.
Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1882 and completion, after some setbacks, was heralded in 1892. It is the last brick fort constructed but also the most expensive one (two milion gold francs). By the time it was completed it was considered outdated because of new artillery. Building the fort on top of a hill proved to be cumbersome. The soil proved unstable and was not able to support the full weight of the brick works. Because of this, a planned coupola was never installed and concrete refitting was deemed risky. The fort features a central reduit and offers an unique feature: a dry moat surrounding the fort. Because the fort guards the bridgehead of Rupelmonde-Wintham several annex batteries were constructed. Next to this the fort offers a caponniere and two half caponnieres featuring unique designs. Two very deep drilled water wells served as an emergency drink water supply.
- ?x 120mm fortress gun
- ?x 150mm fortress gun
- ?x 210mm mortar (?)
Current condition – The fort did not suffer a siege during the Great War but during the retreat of the Belgian Field Army to the Canal Gent-Terneuzen it was damaged by the garisson. During the interbellum a military factory was built to produce war gasses (poison gas). The main building sustained heavy damage and the artillery entrance is partly destroyed. The dry moat has changed into a wet moat due to insufficient maintenance. The surviving parts of the fort are amongst the most remarkable and beautiful examples of brick defensive structures. The caponniere features oreillons and the overall aestethics are simply impressive. The annex batteries have been, to our current knowledge, been demolished. The fort currently serves as a hibernation site for bats.
CAUTION: This site can be visited upon request but is not freely accessible. Some parts of the fort are flooded by rising ground water and the dry moat is very treacherous.
Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.