Take a relaxing break... on the battle field at Waterloo

The Belgian farmhouse at the centre of the allied victory 200 years ago will soon be available for holidaymakers to rent

Today Château d’Hougoumont sits amid sleepy farmland south of Brussels and within earshot of the hum from a nearby motorway, with little sign that this basic Belgium farmhouse was the scene of one of the most important battles in British and European history.

Sitting as the anchor of the British line, the walled farmhouse was the central point of the Battle of Waterloo; on 18 June 1815 several hundred men from the Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards and Grenadier Guards battled to hold it against repeated waves of attacks by Napoleon’s infantry.

The battle was fierce; the French at one point breached the gates, only to be repulsed by the Coldstream Guards. When the French finally yielded the battlefield, leaving thousands dead, the Duke of Wellington said it was the farmyard’s stout walls and fierce defenders that had “turned the outcome” of the battle.

 

Now though, 200 years after the battle, the sturdy gates of Château d’Hougoumont are set to be thrown open after a £3.5m restoration project. And to coincide with the bicentenary of the allied victory at Waterloo a British charity, the Landmark Trust, which rescues buildings of historic or architectural importance, is offering holidaymakers the chance stay in the property.

“It is only very rarely that the Landmark Trust takes on a building outside the United Kingdom,” said Anna Keay, the charity’s director. But, she said, staff agreed it would be “unthinkable” not to help with the restoration of Château d’Hougoumont.

Following the pivotal battle, Château d’Hougoumont remained a working farm for nearly 200 years until 2003, when the last tenant retired, after which it fell into an advanced state of dilapidation. Restoration work began in October 2013 under the management of the Intercommunale de Bataille de Waterloo 1815, a consortium of local authorities, in consultation with the Landmark Trust and with £1m donated by the British Government.

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The château of Hougoumont today (Landmark Trust)

The Landmark Trust is also working closely with Project Hougoumont, a charity dedicated to returning the farmstead to its appearance after the battle, without replacing any of the buildings that were destroyed or damaged and later demolished.

From July, guests will be able to book a break in the farm, which has been restored using three sepia-wash drawings completed just after the battle by the military painter Captain Denis Dighton. These have been crucial in ensuring the restoration is accurate.

Guests will stay in a building that was once the gardener’s house but is now a two-bedroom apartment, furnished to evoke the Napoleonic era, according to the trust.

“There can be few buildings in Europe on which the continent’s history turned more definitely than Hougoumont in Waterloo,” Dr Keay said. “We are thrilled to be able to play a part in its restoration and to make it possible for people to stay in this fabled place.”

Bookings open from 12 April at landmarktrust.org.uk

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