Tag Archives: Berchem

Spoorbaan Gate Showcase

Introduction – The city gates of Antwerp were part of the Grote Omwalling and included several monumental structures. In 1907 this series of defensive positions were decommissioned. Several plans were made to transform this newly gained space. In 1914 the German invasion of Belgium forced the Belgian military to reoccupy most gates and barracks. Actual demolition of the Grote Omwalling took place in the late 60′ as the Antwerp ring road was constructed (E3 Project). All monumental gates were destroyed leaving only two pillars. Some road intersections on the Singel ring road still refer to the former gates.

In June 2014  the former post distribution center Antwerp X was demolished in order to allow a new training center of the Province of Antwerp to be built in its place. During these works remains of the former Spoorbaan Gate were discovered. Some emergency archeology was conducted on the site. After one week of excavations all trances were torn down.

MiLANT contributed to this project by taking pictures of the site and conducting some measurements of the unearthed evidence. Based on these readings a 3D model was created. It was one of the rare occasions that actual debris and material from the gates resurfaced.

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.

Mechelen Gate

Description – The Mechelen gate was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) to the east. It was a monumental gate that offered acces to Antwerp (Borgerhout) and to Deurne. The gate was part of the front 8-9 and was linked to barracks together with the Berchem gate located a bit more north.

Construction & Armament – This monumental gate was built using bricks and earth works. The Grote Omwalling entails two defensive moats and intervals called saillants.

Current condition – All remnants of the Mechelen gate have been demolished in 1931 (?). Later the construction of the Antwerp ring road erased most traces but a part of the nearby fortifications can still be found on the Wolvenberg park/terrain more to the east. To the south a part of the moat still exists (Brilschans).

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. ;

Spoorbaan Gate

Description – The Spoorbaan Gate is named for the nearby railway connecting Antwerp with Mechelen and Brussels. It was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) to the west. The gate was a monumental gate that offered acces to Antwerp (Berchem) and to Borsbeek/Mortsel. This gate was part of the front 7-8 and was linked to barracks together with the Borsbeek gate located a bit more north. It should not be confused with the Spoorweg Gate which is located closer to the Scheldt river east.

Construction & Armament – This monumental gate was built using bricks and earth works. The Grote Omwalling entails two defensive moats and intervals called saillants. It is possible that the design of the gate was altered a bit since the railway access was located nearby.

Current condition – Most remnants of the Spoorbaan gate have been demolished in 1931 (?). Later the construction of the Antwerp ring road erased most traces. When the former postal distribution facility of Antwerpen X was demolished remants of the Spoorbaan gate were discovered. An ad hoc archeological survey was conducted but surviving brick work were torn down.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. ;