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Wavre (Municipality, Province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium)


Last modified: 2005-12-03 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Wavre]

Municipal flag of Wavre - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 23 July 2005

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Presentation of Wavre

The municipality and town (Ville) of Wavre (in Dutch, Waver; 31,202 inhabitants; 4,228 ha) is the capital city of the province of Walloon Brabant. Wavre is located in the valley of Dyle, 20 km south-west of Brussels. The municipality of Wavre is made since 1977 of the former municipalities of Bierges, Limal and Wavre.

Funerary remains found in Bruyère-Saint-Job indicate that the fertile plateaus and the pastures bordering the Dyle and its tributaries were already settled in the Neolithic times.
In the Ist century AD, a wealthy house (villa) was built on the hillside of Hayettes in the site of l'Hosté in Lower-Wavre (Basse-Wavre; in Dutch, Neerwaver). The villa had a portico, living rooms and bathrooms, and was the center of an important estate. Its owner was probably a rich landlord or a retired civil servant. The house was trashed by the Germans in the IInd half of the IIIrd century. It is considered as one of the most important archeological findings in Belgium.

After the Great Invasions, the abandoned land was colonized by woods, thickets and moors. Re-settlement by clearing took place progressively from the Vth to the XIth century. Wavre was mentioned in 1050 as a village in the pagus (former Roman administrative division, later pays) of Brabant, as an rural domain belonging to the Count of Leuven. The name of Wavre is of Celtic origin, with German influence, and might have been used to designate marshy, scrubby lands. The Counts of Leuven set up a reserve near the former Gallo-Roman villa and built a chapel. Around 1086, they ceded a portion of their domain to the abbey of Affligem.
At the same time, a small city developed at the crossroads of the Brussels-Namur and Nivelles-Leuven roads and was granted a lord by Count of Leuven Henri III. A market already existed there in the beginning of the XIIIth century and Wavre became an important center of trade and transit. In 1222, the burghers of Wavre, supported by their lord, were granted by Duke of Brabant Henri I a chart, and gained therefore political autonomy and trade privileges. Specialized markets were created, for grain, cattle and butter and cheese.
The abbey of Affligem set up a priory in the village of Lower-Wavre, which became in the XIIth century an important center of Marian pilgrimage, with also two fairs on 8 and 21 September.

Wavre lived mostly in peace until the end of the XVth century. Wavre then supported the revolt of the States of Brabant against Maximilian of Austria and was trashed on 8 March 1489 by the Duke of Saxony. Until the beginning of the XVIIIth century, the history of Wavre is a succession of trashings and blazes: 1507, by the Duke of Gelderland; 1452, by General Martin Van Rossum; 1568-1596, during the Religious Wars; 1604, by the Spaniards, etc. After Louis XIV's wars (1667-1713) and the War of Austrian Succession (1744-1748), trade resumed in Wavre. The city had 2,478 inhabitants in 1693 and only 2,478 (- 20%) in 1709. Population increased then to 2,603 in 1755 and 3,789 in 1784. In 1755, there were 15 hotels, 15 pubs and 116 shops in Wavre. The number of shops increased to 176 in 1796.

The Brabant Revolution against Austria at the end of the XVIIIth century caused again great losses in Wavre. After the battle of Fleurus (24 June 1794), the French expelled the Austrians from the Low Countries and set up a French administration. A decree of 24 Messidor of the Year III (11 July 1795) suppressed the former municipal courts and merged the municipalities of Wavre and Lower-Wavre. The merging was confirmed by the Belgian law of 30 March 1886.

On 18 June 1815, the battle of Wavre opposed the rearguard of the Prussian troops to the French troops commanded by Marquis Emmanuel of Grouchy (1766-1847). Quoting the Napoleonic Guide website:

As fighting at Waterloo could increasingly be heard in the distance, France's Marshal Grouchy had a hard choice to make for his 33,000 men. March to the guns and give support to his Emperor, or carry on with his orders to keep his sword in Field Marshal Blücher's back and, hopefully, force the Prussians from linking with Anglo-Allied army under the Duke of Wellington.
Grouchy chose to follow orders and spent the day attacking the tenacious 17,000-man Prussian rearguard under General Thielmann. The Prussians were aided by a strong defensive position on the River Dyle and the villages of Limale and Wavre and the day ended with about 2500 casualties on each side - a slight tactical victory for Grouchy, but a massive strategic loss for Bonaparte.

Grouchy could not prevent the junction of Wellington and Blücher's troop, and he is recalled by "Napoléon expected Grouchy and he got Blücher", and traditionally considered as one of the responsibles of the defeat of Waterloo. Ironically, the Emperor made him Marshal the day before the battle of Waterloo.

From 1814 to 1914, Wavre lived in peace and enjoyed an economical boost, with the opening of several factory: papermill in Lower-Wavre (1819), sugarhouse of Wavre (1864), bottlecap factory Goffart and Gounisseu (1919), Orval cotton factory (1905) and Henri Berger foundries (1876).
The Germans entered Wavre on 20 August 1914 and burned a few houses. Two inhabitants of Wavre were shot as spies. In 1940, Wavre was part of the defense line K.W and occupied by the Brits. The city was bombed by the German Air Force on 14 May and its center, including the city hall, was burned down. Wavre was seized by the Germans on 17 May. In 1944, the city was liberated by the Brits and the local members of the Resistance on 5 September after a violent fighting.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 23 July 2005

Municipal flag of Wavre

The municipal flag of Wavre is white with three green waterlily leaves placed 2 + 1.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag is officially described as:

Blanc chargé de trois feuilles de nénuphar vertes rangées 2 et 1 au centre du tablier.

The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 23 July 2005