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Beaumont (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2005-12-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: beaumont | castle (white) |
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[Flag of Beaumont]

Municipal flag of Beaumont - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 12 June 2005

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Presentation of Beaumont and its villages

The municipalityand town (Ville) of Beaumont (6,314 inhabitants; 9,301 ha) is located in the northern part of the botte du Hainaut. The "boot" is a narrow piece of land (c. 25 km in width) vertically flanked by France (west) and the province of Namur (east). Beaumont is located on the French border in the "bottleneck" of the boot, which is there 5 km in width. Note that there are no natural borders there and that you won't probably find oppressed when locked in the "boot". The municipality of Beaumont is made since 1976of the former municipalities of Barbençon, Beaumont, Leugnies, Leval-Chaudeville, Renlies, Solre-Saint-Géry, Strée and Thirimont.

The Salamander Tower (Tour Salamandre was built in Beaumont by Countess of Hainaut Richilde in order to watch the borders of the county; the fortress was increased by her followers, including Baudouin IV and Beaudouin V. The tower might have been burnt down in 1340, but protected efficiently the city of Beaumont (Bellus Mons, Belmont, Biaumont..., lit., nice mount) in 1408 during the war with Liège and during the war fought by Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold.
In 1453, Duke of Burgundy Philip the Handsome ceded the County of Beaumont to the Croÿ family, which transformed the fortress into a palace and the city into a small capital city. Antoine, aka le grand Croÿ, was succeeded by his son Philip de Croÿ, Councillor of the Duke of Burgundy and by William de Croÿ-Chièvres, private tutor of Emperor Charles V. Charles de Croÿ, the most wealthy and famous member of the dynasty, was born in Beaumont in 1560 and spent most of his time there, until his dead in 1612.
The misfortunes of Beaumont started in 1632, when the plague killed half of the population of the city. The city was besieged in 1637; in 1655, Turenne's troops entered the city and burnt it down; only thirty houses escaped the blaze, and the castle, the tower and the church were ruined. At that time, the city was surrounded with a 2.4 km long wall, protected by 30 towers and four gates. Today, 1 km of walls, seven towers and the smallest gate have been kept.
Beaumont is also known for its macarons (almond macaroons).

Barbençon was an important feudal domain. The feudal castle was replaced around 1675 by a castle in Louis XV style, trashed during the French Revolution. Around 1825, Jules Simonis built a hunting lodge nicknamed "the castle of Barbençon", which was completely destroyed by a blaze on 31 October 1966.
The Great Fire (Grand Feu) of Barbençon celebrates every year the return of spring. On the Sunday following Mardi Gras, a big puppet called "winter man" (bonhomme hiver) is placed in an old cart filled with straw and smalle pieces of wood. The cart is pulled by a group of young men called saqueux. During the parade, the astoqueux attempt to stop the cart by placing big wedges under its wheels, whereas the destoqueux remove the wedges with long poles. At the end of the day, the winterman is sentenced and the last newlyweds of the year set up the Great Fire and everybody dance the "seven leap dance" (danse des sept sauts) around the fire. In the past, the Great Fire was preceded by a three day carnival, where carefully disguised inhabitants of the village did a lot of forbidden acts: on the first day, the Restoneux invited themselves in the houses and cooked pancakes for themselves; on the second day, the Saligots poured buckets of slurry into the houses; and on the third day, the Biaux visited th houses and the cafes of the village for free drinks.
The village fair (ducasse) of Barbençon is celebrated on 15 August, along with the pilgrimage to Notre-Dame-des-Lumières (Our Lady of the Lights), invoked against eye diseases.

Vergnies, where Roman coins portraying emperors Hadrian and Antonin (IInd century) were found, was part of the principality of Brabençon, granted by Archiduke Albert to Robert de Ligne in 1614. In 1678, the enclave of Barbençon (Barbençon, Boussu, Erpion and Vergnies) was ceded to France by Spain. Louis XIV kept the enclave after the convention of Lille in 1699. Vergnies was transfered to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1813, without any written treaty. In 1831, the villagers asked to be reincorporated to France, to no avail. In 1889, the parish of Vergnies was transfered from the Bishopric of Cambrai (France) to the Bishopric of Tournai (Belgium).
Vergnies is the birth city of Emile Galet, who was Aide-de-camp of King Albert I from 1912 to 1918, Commander in the Royal Military College in 1919 and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces in 1926; and of the composer François-Jospeh Gossec (1734-1829). Gossec spent all his carreer in Paris; he was appointed Director of the Royal School of Singing in 1784, then Chief of the Band of the National Guard during the French Revolution. Gossec was one of the founders of the Conservatoire national, where he taught composition. He became a kind of officiel musician of the Revolution and wrote several anthems, marchs and choirs, including the Marche lugubre, which probably inspired Beethoven's Heroic Symphony.

Leugnies was a customs post. Under Maria-Teresa's rule, the country was divided into 21 customs department; the department of Beaumont was incorporated into the department of Chimay in 1761. In 1750, the Secretary Dupuy suspected that the chief customer in Beaumont was not very honest. The current customs post of Leugnies seems to date from 1925.

Renlies was known for the quarry of red marble of La Haie des Saules (the Willows' Hedge), founded in the last quarter of the XVIIIth century. In 1798, an inhabitant of Renlies purchased a former genever factory and transformed it into a marble sawmill. In 1833, there were 17 sawmills in Leugnies, powered by the river Sambre and its tributaries. The best saws had up to 18 blades. The Renlies quarry was modernized in the 1920s, with a motorized water pump and an helical wire use to cut the marble blocks. The quality of the marble was deemed too low in 1931 and the quarry was closed.

Solre-Saint-Géry is the only village of Beaumont which still has a bandstand, built in 1929 on the village square. In the past, the bandstand was a cart, so that music could be played in different parts of the municipality.

Strée was originally a Merovingian estate (casa), active in the VIIth century. The center of the village has kept the elements of the casa, replaced in the XVII-XVIIIth century by the farm of la Salle. The Merovingian oratory was replaced by the village church, consecrated in 1772. The farm of la Salle, built like a Roman villa, was used as the city hall for centuries, as well as a court (Cour de Strée) from 1490 to 1764. The farm produced today the Salloy cheese.

Thirimont is famous for its war memorial, called Le Petit Soldat (the Little Soldier), inaugurated on 30 May 1920. The monument was designed by Fernand Clignez, from Erquelinnes; the design is original because the soldier is not portrayed like a hero but like a humble defender of his country.


Ivan Sache, 11 June 2005

Municipal flag of Beaumont

The municipal flag of Beaumont, as confirmed by the municipal administration, is vertically divided white-red.

[Proposal of flag of Beaumont]

Proposed municipal flag of Beaumont - not used - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 14 May 2005, castle after Servais

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community proposed a banner of the municipal arms, red with a white castle.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 24 April 2005