Rescuing the farm where Wellington won the battle of Waterloo

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tags: historic preservation, Napoleon, Belgium, Waterloo, Battle of Waterloo, Wellington

In an isolated corner of bucolic Belgium, down a dusty track that cuts through great fields of lettuce and shivering wheat, stands the farm that won Waterloo. Of the 170,000 people who visit the battlefield each year, few find their way to this particular spot. Fat wood pigeons coo undisturbed from the crumbling walls. The view across the miles of rolling fields over which Napoleon launched waves of attacks, is unspoilt by any building. The only sound of modern life is the faint roar of a motorway, hidden by a bank of trees.

Hougoumont is largely unchanged from where, on Sunday June 18, 1815, it was the centre of action throughout the Battle of Waterloo. Of the tens of thousands who died that day, 6,500 men were killed, or suffered terrible injuries, at Hougoumont. Many were dumped in a mass grave there to deter thieves....

But despite its status as one of Britain’s most important battle sites, one that, according to the man nicknamed the Iron Duke, “turned the outcome of Waterloo”, Hougoumont has been left to rot. Following the death of the cattle farmer who owned it a few years ago, the site has become derelict. The masonry and roof tiles of its outbuildings are crumbling. Trees spring out at improbable angles from locally quarried limestone walls. A 15th-century crucifix that adorned a chapel in the centre of the site and miraculously survived the blaze that gutted the château during the battle, has been looted....

Read entire article at Telegraph (UK)