Beauvoorde Castle looks 17th century. But it was created in the 19th, through the romantic vision of one man.
In 1875, at the tender age of 22, wealthy nobleman Arthur Merghelynck fell in love. However, the object of his desires was not a local beauty. It was a ruined castle in the tiny village of Wulveringem, West Flanders. He was attracted by its picturesque setting, but also by its potential to fulfil his grand scheme.
Merghelynck was an incurable romantic. He resented the increasing industrialization of Flanders. He wanted to cherish the atmosphere, style and romance of the past, and in particular the 17th century. In the remains of Beauvoorde Castle he saw the possibility to realize his dream.
Restoring a derelict castle
Over the next 27 years Merghelynck methodically and lovingly rebuilt and restored Beauvoorde Castle, and filled its many rooms. Searching the length and breadth of Flanders, he purchased original Flemish furniture and art from collectors and auctions. What he was unable to find, he had reproduced. The result is a seventeenth century castle fully furnished in the style of that period.
During the process of restoration, when Merghelynck was in his 40s, he fell in love again; and this time it was with a local beauty! Yet his romantic streak again came to the fore. He was not interested in a financially advantageous or politically correct marriage. Instead, he fell in love with, and in 1895 married, Julienne Flyps, the waitress who served him his aperitif in his favorite café in Ypres.
It was a union that divided his family. The result was that when Merghelynck died in 1908 — tragically only a few years after the castle was completed — he stipulated that Beauvoorde should remain his widow’s residence until she died. After her death, the castle and all its belongings were to be given to the Belgian state. His wishes have been totally respected, and this unique heritage site is open for the public to visit and enjoy.
Highlights to look out for
When I was there a few years ago I was impressed by these aspects:
- The coat of arms over the main door displays the name of the De Bryarde family. They lived in the castle from 1573, before moving to Ghent in 1662, after which the castle gradually decayed until Merghelynck appeared on the scene.
- It’s full of portraits. It’s logical to assume that they are of relatives of Merghelynck. They are not. The family feud which erupted after his marriage led to Merghelynck refusing to hang family portraits in his castle. Instead, he purchased paintings of unknown noblemen.
- Similarly, the family trees, heraldic emblems and coats of arms are largely of unknowns.
- From 1885 to his death, Merghelynck was Mayor of Wulveringem, and the town council met in the Knight’s Hall. With its gilded leather wallpaper, suits of armour and Spanish chairs, it must have been an imposing room to discuss the business of a small agricultural village.
- The castle has a large number of stoups — holy water fonts. Merghelynck was a keen collector of them. More are present in the chapel, which was built to house his religious artefacts. However, the chapel was never consecrated and the couple attended the village church.
After touring the castle, don’t forget to walk around the garden. The orchard contains a number of fruit trees, many of them local varieties. Most are apple trees, but also present are mulberry, pear, plum, walnut and cherry trees. The orchard is managed organically, and the apple harvest makes Chateau de Beauvoorde apple juice.
- March 31 — November 4: Wednesdays 2.00 pm — 5.00 pm. Weekends and public holidays: 10.00 am — 5.00 pm.
- Summer school holidays: Wednesday to Sunday and public holidays: 10.00 am — 5.00 pm.
- Entrance costs 8 EUR.
- More information here.
Also worth visiting nearby
The Merghelynck Museum in Merghelynckstraat 2, 8900 Ypres is a perfect reconstruction of a building from 1774 that was owned by a relative of Arthur Merghelynck. In beautifully decorated salons and boudoirs you can see original French period furniture, paintings and silverware, saved from the fires of the First World War. There is also a unique collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. You also get to understand some of the ups and downs of the Merghelynck family.
I love touring castles. Discovering the nooks and crannies is always fun.
Yes Carrie, they bring out the child in us!
Another castle for my list of castles….:)
Is that your castle visiting list or your castle purchasing list Cherie?
Just visiting of course! As an unemployed nurse my purchasing power is pretty low right now. 🙂
Yes, and then there’s the upkeep, and the staff … I’ll settle for just visiting too.
It looks a beautiful location. 🙂 🙂
It’s nice to know that this area of Belgium isn’t only known for its First World War sites Jo.
What a treasure, thanks to this man’s passion and vision.
Yes Eliza I think that without him it would be a pile of rocks now.
It looks wonderful, and I’m so glad the public can visit it.
Apparently it’s recently been used as a filming location for a Belgian TV series Robert, set in the 17th century.
How silly and sad for a family to become estranged over a marriage. They must have loved each other deeply to withstand the dislike. I’m glad the castle is available for everyone to enjoy now.
Yes, you can imagine the grumblings amidst the relatives when they heard who he was marrying!
She must have been a strong character to stand up to them. Good for her…and him.
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A wonderful story, Denzil. A strong-minded individual, romance, restoration, history, architecture, a beautiful castle, and all in a small town. Thanks for sharing.
You have summed it up brilliantly Cynthia. You should write a book on it!
No, I was actually thinking: YOU should write a book about it!
Ha! I’ll write the foreword and leave the rest to a professional.
All the elements of a real-life fairy tale, how wonderful!
My great great aunt was Juliana Flyps, the local beauty who divided the family.
Wow now that is interesting! Do you still live in the area Donnamarie? Do you still have links to Beauvoorde?