Tag Archives: Brialmont

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 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.

Turnhout Gate

Description – The Turnhout gate was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) to the west. It was a monumental gate that offered acces to Antwerp and the road to Turnhout/Herentals. The gate was part of the front 5-6 and was linked to barracks together with the Herentals gate.

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 Turnhout gate have been demolished in 1931. Later the construction of the Antwerp ring road erased most traces. Some debris was recovered in 2005 and one big stone is still on display.

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

Schijn Gate

Description – The Schijn  gate was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) up north-west. It was a non-monumental gate that offered acces to Antwerp and the road to Deurne. It was named for the river Schijn.

Construction & Armament – This non-monumental gate was built using bricks and earth works. The Grote Omwalling entails two defensive moats and intervals called saillants. It was located on front 4.

Current condition – All traces of the Schijn Gate gate have been demolished in the wake of city expansion. A nearby metro/underground station still bears the same name. The original access road is covered by the Schijnpoortweg

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Breda Gate

Description – The gate of Breda was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) up north. It was a non-monumental gate that offered acces to Antwerp and the road to Merksem and Breda. Close to the gate the Capine Canal (and later the Albert Canal) entered the port and city of Antwerp.

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

Current condition – All traces of the Breda gate has been demolished when the port of Antwerp expanded to the north. The access to the Asia and Capine dock was filled with eart (currently IJzerlaan).

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Ekeren Gate

Description – The gate of Ekeren was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) up north. It was a non-monumental gate that offered acces to Antwerp and the road to Ekeren.

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

Current condition – All traces of the Ekeren gate has been demolished when the port of Antwerp expanded to the north.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.