Castle of Mesen: Urban Explorers Document a Haunting Ruin

While many of us envision the past through photographs and historical works, urban explorers actively seek it out in the myriad abandoned mansions, buildings and other derelict places that dot the (urban) landscape. Enter the Castle of Mesen in Lede, Belgium, – a building that is so impressive and unique that it’s impossible not to be drawn into its weird world.

The Castle of Mesen, or Kasteel van Mesen, has a chequered history.  Destroyed and rebuilt several times, the current building dates to around 1628. Originally built as a major stonghold, it ceased to be a royal house after 1796.  The Industrial Revolution brought with it a series of interesting reuses, from gin distillery to sugar and potash refinery, tobacco factory and finally a boarding school.

After the First World War the castle became a boarding school for girls, with tough classes and rigarous discipline exercised in a strict Victorian manner.  The 150 pupils were reportedly allowed one visit per month and could only return home for one month of the year.  The youngest girls were just 5-years-old!  Infiltrating the castle today is difficult, while escaping from it a century ago must have been virtually impossible.

The school was financed by the Belgian aristocracy and days began early, with Mass at 7am.  On top of academic lessons, girls received a thorough grounding in society’s highest standards, from impeccable etiquette to managing employees and being able to perform housework expertly.  The process took 13 years to complete, with girls of 5-years-olds eventually leaving the school as 18-year-old ambassadors of high society.

Abandonment came after the Castle of Mesen passed into the hands of the Ministry of Defence, which left it to rot for decades.  The cost of restoration ultimately spiralled to the point that it was considered uneconomical and the powers that be refused to list the castle as a historic monument.  The fight is not yet over.  But even if the conservationists win, will it be in time to stabilize the collapsing Kasteel van Mesen?

The Castle of Mesen is set in around seven hectares of parkland and overgrown greenery in central Lede.  The impressive Gothic Revival chapel was added after the site was sold to a religious order in 1897, still standing proud despite 30 years of abandonment.  Not surprisingly, the pews and religious adornments have long gone, replaced by decades of debris.  For a birds-eye-view of the Kasteel van Mesen, click here.

Related Articles:
Exploring Mysterious Abandoned Mansions
Abandoned Mansions, Farms and Ghost Towns
Citadels of Christendom: 6 Mighty Crusader Castles

 

Around the web

  • Irez

    I’m gonna tie myself to it the day they’re gonna throw it flat T_T I live in the town, it’s so sad…

  • Kevin

    I have been reading with sad news that the go ahead has been given to start demolition this April on the castle of Mesen to build luxry flats, they plan to leave the main tower and some out buildings but everything else will be torn down! I know there was always a problem with Lede not having money to restore the place but it still could of been saved. If the only started up a volunteer program for people to come and start to clean the place up and clear the grounds of all the over grown shrubs many people that loved this place would of come! Then they could of got people with trades i.e. builders, carpenters, roofers, plumbers, and so forth to donate their skills… I am sure there are plenty that would volunteer their services! Materials for the restoration could of been aquired from local businesses and surrounding areas, they could of donated these supplies but they still wouldn’t be out of pocket as they could clame them as a donation and have it written off on their tax. There is always a way around these situations, instead there going to lose a beautiful jewel to the past when we should be saving these places for fucture generations.

  • Tom

    Thanks a lot for your comment, Kevin. I totally agree with you that this is a sad state of affairs indeed and boggles the mind to think this building couldn’t have been saved one way or the other… I completely understand local authorities not having the funds to pump into places such as this but it’s surprising it wasn’t considered a building of national historic significance? I don’t know how the system works in Belgium? I totally agree with you though that scores of people, including craftsmen etc, would have volunteered their time and efforts to help secure it. Bottom line is, buildings like this can never be rebuilt so hopefully they’ve given it a lot of consideration… RIP Caste of Mesen! By the way, are you currently in Lede? If so, send some photos and I’ll definitely feature them.

  • Kevin

    Irez, can you please contact me urgently, we have formed a forum of people who wish to save the castle of mesen and are trying to get the demolition stopped which will start on the 12th of april!

    many thanks kevin

    you can get intouch with me at http://www.forbidden-places.net/urban-exploration-castle-of-mesen-lede

  • http://www.artparadise.be Natascha

    Irez, are you still alive?
    I live in Lede too, and I hate it!
    Half of it is now demolished. The rest will fall soon down :(

  • Liebestraum4

    nice one….

 
 
 
 
 
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