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Memorials and watermills in Rebecq

The museum display includes the tailplane of the Lancaster

Until May 29th, in the village of Rebecq, 25 km south-west of Brussels, the local museum is hosting an exhibition to commemorate the loss of an RAF Lancaster shot down over the village in the Second World War. During the night of 27/28 May 1944, the Lancaster was returning from a bombing mission over Aachen when it was attacked by a German night-fighter. The Lancaster, which belonged to 550 Squadron, crashed at Rebecq. Five crew were killed and are buried in Evere cemetery, Brussels; two crew survived.

The memorial to the RAF Lancaster which was shot down over Rebecq in 1944

On May 7th this year a memorial to the crash victims was unveiled and dedicated in Rebecq. Representatives of RAF 550 Squadron Association were present at the ceremony, along with guests from the UK, Canada and Italy. The display at the museum includes part of the tailplane on which one of the wounded airmen was carried to the local hospital. It was found in a loft when part of the building was demolished recently.

The display is interesting but small, so won’t take you long to view it, but the village of Rebecq is well worth a visit. In the village park is a monument erected in 1938 to Ernest and Alfred Solvay. Born in Rebecq in the early 19th century, the two brothers invented the famous “Solvay process”, which spawned the sodium carbonate industry and eventually the global company Solvay. The Solvay brothers’ former family home is now a listed building. It is located close to the Grand Place, at number 8 Rue des Sauniers. The word “Sauniers” reflects the Solvay parents’ profession — salt merchants.

The neo-Roman church of Saint-Géry, with its 52-metre tower is worth investigating. It was constructed between 1865 and 1868 under the supervision of local architect Emile Coulon to replace the existing 16th century church in the center of the square which was too small to accommodate the congregation. Inside the church, the paintings, walls and columns have been completely renovated to their original 19th century glory. The ceiling is decorated with frescos illustrating the apocalypse, created by the painter Charles-Henri Stiennon.

One of the watermills of Rebecq is still in working order

Since the Middle Ages, the Senne waterfalls in the centre of Rebecq have been used to grind cereals at the Arenberg Mills, which are also worth visiting. In 1973, the municipality purchased the mill complex, consisting of the Large Mill and the Small Mill, in order to save these monuments to industrial archaeology and create a museum complex.

The Large Mill remained in operation until 1964. It currently houses the machine room — impressive machinery powered by a waterwheel measuring 7.50 meters in diameter. You can also visit the porphyry museum — testimony to the entire region’s industrial past and present — and three storeys which are used all year round to hold exhibitions and other cultural events. It also houses Rebecq’s community library and tourist office.

The Small Mill was constructed in the 18th century and powered by the River Senne. In 1910, the wooden wheel was replaced by a turbine from the former Quenast mill, which had burned down. Thanks to a few devoted locals, the wheels of the Small Mill are turning once again. An old forge can also be visited on the same site. Demonstrations of traditional milling are organized in the Small Mill. Its impressive machinery, powered by the River Senne and still in working order, has been converted to show the steps involved in converting grain to flour.

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