A strong sense of place
2015 marked the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo.
The course of British and European history was determined on 18 June 1815 here at the gates of Hougoumont, a walled farmyard in quiet fields at Waterloo, some 10 miles south of Brussels. This place was inadvertently caught up in momentous events: the Duke of Wellington himself declared that ‘the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo depended upon the closing of the gates at Hougoumont’.
The Battle of Waterloo ended over 20 years of unprecedented warfare as Napoleon Bonaparte occupied most of continental Europe, Britain’s conquest clearly in his sights. Newly escaped from exile on the island of Elba, the confrontation at Waterloo was his last stand. Wellington, commanding the combined British, Dutch and Prussian forces, had no choice but to fight a defensive battle, his hastily assembled army outnumbered and outgunned by the French. The open terrain offered few defensible points: only Chateau Hougoumont and a little farmhouse nearby, La Haye Sainte, could prevent Wellington’s Allied line being outflanked.
Throughout this June day, gallant British troops defended the walled farmyard of Chateau Hougoumont, as waves of Napoleon’s soldiers beat against its massive gates in fierce hand to hand fighting, the chateau itself burning down around them. As light faded, it became clear that Napoleon’s army was defeated. The Napoleonic guard fled into the woods and fields: Hougoumont had held, and the Allies had won the day.
An atmospheric apartment
This simple first floor apartment in the former gardener’s cottage beside the south gates is furnished to evoke the Napoleonic era and looks out on ancient sweet chestnut trees that also witnessed the bravery and sacrifice here.This is a unique place to ponder the famous Battle of Waterloo by day and night.
Read Anna Keay's blog on her impressions of Hougoumont.