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Honnelles (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)

Last modified: 2007-12-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: honnelles | roisin |
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[Flag of Honnelles]

Municipal flag of Honnelles - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 6 May 2006

See also:

Presentation of Honnelles and its villages

The municipality of Honnelles (5,009 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 4,365 ha) is located on the border with France, 15 km east of Valenciennes and 10 km north-west of Bavay. The municipality of Honnelles was formed in 1976 by the merging of the former municipalities of Angre, Angreau, Athis, Autreppe, Erquennes, Fayt-le-Franc, Marchipont, Montignies-sur-Roc, Onnezies and Roisin.
These villages were quite isolated and close to France, so that the main traditional activity there was smuggling, facilitated by 10 kms of border with France and the development of an elaborated strategy. The new municipality was named after the two river Grande Honnelle and Petite Honnelle.

Angre is a very ancient settlement, as proved by Prehistoric, Roman and Frankish (necropolis) remains found there. Known in the XIth century, the family d'Angre was succeeded by the Counts of Hainaut and then by several local families. The village is mostly rural but has kept a significant wooded area known as the Beaufort wood, which includes the famous Caillou-qui-Bique, a 25 m high pudding stony rock looking like a human face. The Walloon singer Flora Leturcq recorded in the 1960s the famous song Au cayau qui bique inspired by the rock.
The St. Roch's chapel is located on the west of the village on the grassy top of a hill (69.25 m) dominating the neighborhood; thirty-nine steeples can be spotted from the chapel. St. Roch is invoked against the black plague and other epidemic diseases; in the XIXth century, cholera scoured Belgium, killing 23,000 between 1847 and 1851, and the devotion to St. Roch resumed. The Angre chapel, built in neo-Gothic style by the architect Victor Wins, from Mons, was inaugurated on 16 August (St. Roch's Day) 1851; it was a pilgrimage place on 15 August for a century.
Angre was the cradle of the industrial cultivation of chicory. The local families Launois and Wallon founded in the XIXth century a company that became one of the first in Belgium. The industry of chicory declined during the Second World War and disappeared in the 1960s.
Angre is the birth village of the engraver Charles Bernier (1871-1950). Bernier studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Mons, where he was taught by the painter Bourlard and the encarver Danse. After having won 14 first prizes in Brussels, Antwerp and Paris, Bernier, aged 20, won the second Prize of Rome in 1891, no first Prize having been awarded that year. Bernier moved to Paris but he had to come back to Angre after the death of his father in 1893. Bernier met there the poet Emile Verhaeren, whose poetry steered him to new fields, portraits and, later, country landscapes, especially the curves of the river Honnelle. On 7 August 1949, one year before the artists' death, the municipality of Angre inaugurated a street named after Bernier and a monument representing him made the French sculptor Elie Raset.

Angreau is "the little Angre", known as Angrellum in 1118, Angheriel in 1220, Angriaul in 1260 and Angriau in the XVth century. Angreau became a municipality around 1250 and was owned by several feudal families that ran the domain from the Lord's Farm (Ferme du Seigneur), rebuilt in the XIXth century and still inhabited.

Athis is a small village (263 ha) known since 1018/1185 as Astices. The family of Athis was succeeded by several local feudal families. The place called the Cow's Foot (Le Pied de la Vache) is the highest point of Honnelles (125 m).

Autreppes, today the geographical and administrative center of Honnelles, might have been named after the Latin words alta ripa, "high banks". The village is indeed built along a brook flowing into the Honnelle. The village is very small and its area represents only 4% of the total area of the municipality.
The last lord of Autreppe, Onnezies and Angreau was the famous military strategist François-Sébastien-Charles-Joseph de la Croix de Clerfayt (1733-1798).

Erquennes (410 ha) is the easternmost village of Honnelles. It was in the past divided into two feudal domains. In the XI-XIIth century, the village was harshly disputed among the local lords, the abbey of Saint-Ghislain and the abbey of Crespin. This rivalry might explain the great number of religious toponyms such as the Dumbs' Cross Crossroads, the Street of the Great Cross and the Tree of the Little Good Lord. Erquennes was in the past a border village. The customs post set up in the place called "Rat d'Eau" (Water Rat) was transformed into a chip shop (friterie). The Grand Prix d'Erquennes is still the first cyclist race of the season in Wallonia.
In 1992, the Festival Committee of Erquennes launched the Village-Etoiles (Stars' Village) contest. Only some 15 houses were decorated but the festival became every year more popular, with more than 100,000 visitors in 1998.

Fayt-le-Franc was probably free (in French, franc) of some taxes and servitudes in the Middle Ages. The local legend says that a young woman about to marry the miller escaped the droit du seigneur (something that probably did not exist in the Middle Ages, anyway) by cutting her throat. The lord repented, went on the crusade and, back to Fayt, enfranchized the farmers and suppressed the droit du seigneur. Fayt might come from fagus, "a beech".
The farm of Rampemont, located near the eponymous wood, isolated from the village, was the seat of a powerful domain known since the XIth century. In 1253, Knight Alexandre de Rampemont was listed as a vassal of the Count of Hainaut and of the Order of the Temple (commanderie of Piéton, today in the municipality of Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont). The domain was later transferred to the Ghoret, Fives and du Mont families. Thierry I du Mont, husband of Jeanne de Fives and lord of Rampemont in 1559, was Councillor of Emperor Charles V. His successor Philippe I du Mont was elected 17 times magistrate (échevin) in Mons; he was also commissioned to manage the fortifications of the town.
The linden decorating the square of Fayt is said to have been planted by General Dumouriez, winner of the battles of Valmy and Jemappes. A traditional activity in the village was smuggling, since the border, the brook of Bracquemart was easily crossed using a "secrete" ford.
The municipal merging was probably not welcomed in Fayt, since a plaque on the former town hall recalls the "last meeting of the Municipal Council" and deplores "the autonomy lost by Fayt-le-Franc on that 31 December 1976".

Marchipont, now a tiny village, was the place of a bridge (in French, pont) on the grand chemin linking Mons and Valenciennes. The French destroyed the bridge during the battle of Malplaquet, in September 1709. The march might have been created by Emperor Otto I to protect the empire against Arnould I of Flanders. However, the local historian Paul François believes that the name of the village was Mauritson-Pontem, that is "Maurice's bridg"e. Before the fusion, the town hall had only one room, a door and two windows, and housed only the Mayor, two Deputy Mayors and five Municipal Councillors. The rectification of the border decided in 1779 (Treaty of the Limits, Brussels, 18 November 1779) made of the mighty brook Aunelle the new border, so that the parish church and four houses of Marchipont are located on the French territory, in the municipality of Rombies. The church was transferred from the Archbishopric of Cambrai (France) to the Bishopric of Tournai (Belgium) only in 1942.

Montignies-sur-Roc was known in the past as Montenneio (1057, when the village church was granted to the Chapter of Cambrai), Montegni (1181, in a bull by Pope Lucius confirming the grant), Montigny sur Roc (1260), Montignies Notre Dame (1468/1489), Montigny Notre Dame sur Rocqz (1560), Montighy sur Rocg (1589, on a municipal seal), Montegnies sur Rocq (from 1799 to 1814, on the municipal seal), and Montignies sur Rocq (from 1833 to 1860, on the municipal seal). The rock on which the village is built is recalled by several toponyms such as Plat Caillou, la Roquette, le Haut des Rocs, le Bas des Rocs and le Roctiau.
The French Countess Jeanne de Belleville (1867-1953) settled in Montignies at the end of the XIXth century. In August-November 1914, she served as a nurse in the British military hospital of Audregnies. After the lost battle of Mons, several British soldiers remained behind the lines and were hidden by Belgian civilians. Jeanne de Belleville, living close to the border with France, organized a channel to cross the border, in relation with the castle owned by Prince Reginald de Croÿ in Bellignies (France). She was arrested by the Germans in August 1915. On 7 October, she was sentenced to death with other members of the network set up by Edith Cavell. After the execution of Edith Cavell and Philippe Baucq on 12 October, protest by Spain, the Holy See and the USA forced the Germans to commute Jeanne de Belleville, Louis Theuillez and Séverin's sentence to life inprisonment. They were transferred to the camp of Sieburg, near Bonn, which was liberated by the German revolutionaries on 8 November 1918.

Onnezies is locally known as le pays des leux. According to Marc Coquelet, there was in Onnezies in the 1860s a famous accordionist named Leleux, who often crossed the woods with the youth of Onnezies to play in Autreppe. The villagers used to say V'là les Leleux d'Onnezies. The only remain of the former feudal castle is its pigeon loft. Onnezies is today famous for its circus, the only permanent in the region.

Roisin, including its hamlet Meaurain, is the biggest village of Honnelles, representing one quarter of the total area and population of the municipality. The village was already settled by the Romans, who called it Racemus ("a grape"). Later names such as Resin, Roizin and Resenium all allude to the grape, in French, raisin. In the Xth century, Roisin was one of the 44 Baronies of Hainaut, but nothing has remained from that time.
Roisin has remained famous as the vacation place of the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916). The poet arrived at Roisin in August 1899 with his wife and their friend Emilie Nysten, who translated for Verhaeren the letters he received from his German friends. They were welcomed by Anna Rodenbach and her son. Anna was the widow of the novelist Geroges Urbain Rodenbach (1855-1898), a great friend of Verhaeren. The two writers are considered as the founders of the Belgian symbolist school. The doctors advized the widow to leave Paris for a quite place; her parents from Frameries found a farm located on the Caillou-qui-Bique, then owned by the Laurent family and known as a famous inn. After his first visit in Roisin, the Verhaeren came back to the Caillou-qui-Bique every year until 1914. They received there famous people, such as the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig in 1904. The Verhaeren left the place in summer because the poet sufferred from hay fever. Verhaeren was highly estimated by the villagers and took part to all kind of celebrations and festivals that took place there. Verhaeren has remained famous for his poems describing the progress of industrialization (Les Campagnes hallucinées, 1893; Les Villages illusoires, 1895; Les Villes tentaculaires, 1895), using (some say overusing) mechanic assonances (et déchiquette avec des dents d'entêtement) and celebrating Flanders and the valley of Scheldt (Toute la Flandre, five volumes, 1904-1911). Verhaeren was shocked by the First World War and tried to support the allied effort of war, especially on the Yser frontline. He was killed by a train in the station of Rouen.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 6 May 2006

Municipal flag of Honnelles

The municipal flag of Honnelles is diagonally divided white-red-white-red-white-red.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, the flag was proposed by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community and described as Six laizes diagonales descendantes alternativement blanches et rouges.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

According to the Heraldus website, the lords of Roisin were allowed to bear their own banner. For some ten centuries, the barony of Roisin has belonged to the same lineage, the lords of Roisin. The oldest known arms of the lords of Roisin are bandé de six pièces d'argent et de gueules, "Bendy argent and gules six pieces", which are the current arms of the municipality of Honnelles. In 1293, Alard added a border or to these arms.
The church of Roisin has an altar dedicated to St. Ghislain, on which the crest of the arms of the lords of Roisin shows a monkey proper in a squatting position holding in one hand a bunch of grapes (in French, raisin, canting for the legendary etymology of the place and family name) and in the other one a shield "Bendy argent and gules six pieces". The root of the Roisin family is Baudry of Roisin (Xth century), aka the Child of the Miracle. The legend says that St. Ghislain saved the Dame of Roisin, about to die in childbirth, by placing his belt made of donkey skin on her womb, like a baldric, therefore the name given to the miraculous child, Baldéric or Baudry (in French, a baldric is a baudrier).

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 22 July 2007

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