Sunday 17 November 2019

Hougoumont Update

I'm spending a lot of time travelling at the moment, so progress has slowed a bit.  Here are some update photographs.

Looking on to the burnt chateau.  The figures are Strelets, Airfix and Hagen

Looking north

The dovecote has been taken away to be re-worked

Voltigeurs attack through the orchard, Scots Guards to their front, Coldstream behind the wall  on their flank.

The berceau

French wounded head south through the east end of the wood.

The north gate

Looking west

Voltigeurs make their way across the killing zone

The east wall looking west

Nassau grenadiers defend the south wall

The orchard

The general view is that the Coldstream left their Colours on the ridge, so I better move them!

The main fight 

Light Company move through the chateau

The chapel - I need to put a cross on the spire

Ambulances ferry away the wounded.


The track running north-south through the wood.


Dead and wounded - I'm running out!

The berceau from the other end

French line the hedge at the edge of the killing zone

The garden looking east

French infantry in the orchard

The garden

The garden looking south

Looking east

Looking north through the wood - some of the heaviest fighting took place along this track.

I'm pleased with the atmospheric effect behind the trees

More French in the orchard

North gate

It must have taken some work managing this garden!

Making this model has helped me understand why it was so hard to get across this wall

The east side of the chateau

Detail at north gate

Inside the north gate

At the corner of the Gardener's House

West side of barn, invisible to the British.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Hougoumont Sources


The Craan map. Differing from the Siborne version. insofar as it does not show the track running south from the south gate through the wood and does not show roundels in the garden
My Hougoumont model still has a long way to go, lacking as it does numerous units from the Allied side (Hanoverians, Scots Guards, Brunswickers and KGL) and with barely any French.  The model also lacks the southern half of the wood, the kitchen garden to the west of the barns, the covered way and most of the great orchard.  Nevertheless, it's taking shape and I have enough done to bring together the source evidence for my decisions about the model lay out with some photos.

Hougoumont looking east.  You can see a gap between the sections will be closed when bolted together.
The whole complex

Looking north.

"The Duke of Wellington having determined on the ground where he would wait the attack of the French army, observed, on the right of his position, an old Flemish chateau, properly called Gomont, by defending which, he judged that much advantage might be derived. It comprised an old tower, and chapel, and a number of offices, partly surrounded by a farmyard. It had also a garden, inclosed by a high strong brick wall, and round the garden, a wood of beech, an orchard, and a hedge, by which the Wall was concealed; in another part, there was a pond, serving as a moat."

Burnt barns.  If the fire communicated from the haystack, was the roof of the barn thatched?

"To the left and adjoining the farm was the vegetable garden, on its front and left sides enclosed by a wall 5 to 6 feet high, and on its rear by a hedge. This wall bordered on its front into a wooded area (with tall trees) and, a few paces before that, was masked by a not very dense hedge. To the left of the vegetable garden was an orchard, however without access to the former. On its front it was enclosed by a hedge which was in line with that of the garden wall, but it was open on its rear. The buildings and the vegetable garden were concealed from the enemy by the wood in front." Captain Moritz Büsgen 1st Battalion of the 2nd Nassau Regiment.

"On a closer inspection, the ravages of the battle were very apparent, but neither the battered walls, splintered doors, and torn roofs of the farm houses of La Haye Sainte, astounding as they certainly were, nor even the miserably scorched relics of what must have been the beautiful Hougoumont, with its wild orchard, its parterred flower garden, its gently-dignified chateau, and its humble offices, now confounded and overthrown by a visitation, which, from its traces, seemed to have included every possible sort of destruction, not all these harsh features of the contest had, to my mind at least, so direct and irresistible an appeal, as the earthy hillocks which tripped the step on crossing a hedge-row, clearing a fence, or winding along among the grass that overhung a secluded path-way. In some spots they lay in thick clusters and long ranks; in others, one would present itself alone: betwixt these a black scathed circle told that fire had been employed to consume as worthless refuse, what parents cherished, friends esteemed, and women loved. The summer wind that shook the branches of, the trees, and waved the clover and the gaudy heads of the thistles, brought along with it a foul stench, still more hideous to the mind than to the offended sense."

The Garden Wall

A Victorian look at the fight for the wall.

Lt Col Edward Fairfield wrote to Siborne on the subject of the platform: "I remember seeing a sort of rough platform inside the wall, made of stone. Taken I think from a cross wall which separated the homestead from the kitchen garden. Captain Evelyn and the Light Company of the 3rd Regiment made the ‘Defence’. Evelyn was a very ingenious man, and acquired great credit in the regiment for the manner in which he affected the duty allocated to him."

The Nassauers

A romanticised view of the Nassauers

"The garden which was enclosed on its east side by a high wall, and which also had many loopholes."

south wall looking west.

Waterloo Uncovered's work foundFrench Charleville ammunition in the walled garden suggesting that the French breached the wall and gained entry.  Or was it actually Nassau ammunition?
Seeking relief.

The Wood

The Siborne model, showing the scale of the wood.

"All the trees in the wood of Hougoumont were pierced with balls, and, in some instance upwards of twenty had lodged in a single trunk. The strokes, however which were so gal to human life, had done but little injury here. Though the trunks were filled with balls, and the branches broken and destroyed, their verdure still remained. Wild flowers were still blooming, and wild raspberries ripening beneath their shade; while huge offensive piles of human ashes were all that now remained of the heroes who fought and fell upon this fatal spot."

 Col Ellis in a letter to Siborne described the wood as follows: "The wood at Hougoumont, was an open grove, and not so thick a wood as appears in your plan."

Showing the damage to the trees
A sketch of the wall through the wood

"A small wood was on the outside, a short distance from the high garden wall, which is of brick, perforated in two tiers for musketry, and shattered with the enemy's cannon balls. The light companies of the three regiments of guards were stationed in this wood, and were of course driven into the house."

Musket shot in one of remaining sweet chestnut trees

"An article of intelligence from Brussels, under date the 29th of March 1816, says that the winds have thrown down the observatory, which commanded a view of all the eminences and hollows of Waterloo. On the other hand, the proprietor of the ruins of the chateau of Hougomont, has caused all the woods to be felled. Those trees torn by thousands of balls, and that observatory, the witnesses of so much glory, and so much suffering, have vanished for ever!" - John Booth.

Hedge Junction

Henry Montagu 3rd Ft Gds: "I was ordered to take command of the grenadier company which had lost all of its officers. I found it very well formed, occupying the strong fence above the hollow lane, at the bottom of the orchard. I remained with it keeping up a desultory fire, till suddenly a shout arose on all sides, when, we passed out of the ditch and charged across the orchard driving the French before us, and passed another road by the gap at the left corner of the garden wall. The ditch had been cut deep, and had been full of water, but when I reached it, was completely filled with killed and wounded so as to form a complete bridge."

This French cannon is not yet attached but will be placed here at the hedge junction.
Waterloo Uncovered have found a French Marine Artillery button at this location.

The Garden

Craan's diagram of the garden - no roundel

The Siborne diagram shows two roundels in the formal garden not shown on his model.
It's interesting that in his model Siborne doesn't entirely follow his own diagram for the lay out of the garden.

"How shall I describe the delicious sensation I experienced! The garden was an ordinary one, but pretty-long straight walks of turf overshadowed by fruit-trees, and between these beds of vegetables, the whole enclosed by a tolerably high brick wall. Is it necessary to define my sensations. Is it possible that I am not understood at once? Listen then. For the last three days I have been in a constant state of excitement in a perfect fever. My eyes have beheld nought but war in all its horrors my ears have been assailed by a continued roar of cannon and cracking of musketry, the shouts of multitudes and the lamentations of war's victims. Suddenly and unexpectedly I find myself in solitude, pacing a green avenue, my eyes refreshed by the cool verdure of trees and shrubs; my ear soothed by the melody of feathered songsters yea, of sweet Philomel herself and the pleasing hum of insects sporting in the genial sunshine. Is there nothing in this to excite emotion? Nature in repose is always lovely: here, and under such circumstances, she was delicious. Long I rambled in this garden, up one walk, down another, and thought I could dwell here contented for ever. Nothing recalled the presence of war except the loopholed wall and two or three dead Guardsmen; but the first caused no interruption, and these last lay so concealed amongst the exuberant vegetation of turnips and cabbages, &c., that, after coming from the field of death without, their pale and silent forms but little deteriorated my enjoyment. The leaves were green, roses and other flowers bloomed forth in all their sweetness, and the very turf when crushed by my feet smelt fresh and pleasant." Cavalié Mercer.

The berceau that ran the length of the garden on its north side from west to east.

"The garden, which had been laid out with great care, in the old style of parterres and walks, was the chief post of the English Guards, who obstinately resisted the inveterate attacks of the large columns moved by the enemy on this, at times insulated, position." - John Scott  account of visiting the battlefield with his brother Sir Walter, Paris Revisited in 1815, by way of Brussels, 1816.

"Hougoumont was a gentleman's residence, and a fine one, with chapel, pigeon-house, out buildings, extensive gardens, orchard and grove. This is the only picturesque point in the whole field, and it is highly so a sort of oasis, or wood-island, having that beauty which a well-planted spot possesses in a bare and open country. There are avenues and covered-walks in the garden."

"In the orchard, which is a large one (not less than four acres), and in the grove and garden, many trees have had their branches carried away or broken, and their trunks wounded; but except in these marks, neither the grounds or garden bore any vestiges of war. The flowers were in blossom and the fruit on the trees. Indeed over the whole field poppies and pansies were in bloom; you saw them where the footsteps of the cavalry were still uneffaced, and in some parts upon the very graves."

“The pears had ripen'd on the garden-wall:
Those leaves which on the autumnal earth were,
The trees, through piere'd and scarr'd with many a ball,
Hold only in their natural season shed: 
Flowers were in seed, whose buds to swell began
When such wild havoc here was made of man;
Through the garden, fruits and herbs and flowers
You saw in grownth, or ripeness, or decay;
The green and well-trimmed dial mark'd the hours
With gliding shadow as they pass'd away;
Who would have thought, to see this garden fair,
Such horrors had so late been acted there?” - Robert Southey.

"Now discovered in the garden a sun-dial cut in box, but having been neglected and allowed to grow in its own way since the action. I should not have perceived what it had been if the wooden gnomon had not caught my eye and induced me to examine the circular bed in which it stood. It is surprizing to see how many small trees have been destroyed in the wood, and in a row beside the path, at the end of the premises. There can be no better proof how thickly the shot must have fled."

"We were surprised to find Hougomont (or more correctly Gomont, a mistake, it is believed, of Lord Wellington’s, destined now to perpetuity; and very naturally arising from hearing rapidly pronounced Le Château de Goumont,) a country seat with gardens neatly laid out in, the Dutch taste, and extensive Offices."

"When in the garden, where fruit-trees and shrubberies seemed as if they were blighted, and the neat alleys of holly and yew were much torn and deranged, we saw the poor gardener, who had remained in his garden all the time of the furious storm; because, as he candidly owned, after the battle was begun, he could not venture out of it. He confirmed the fact that the enemy never were within the premises; if we except occasional irruptions into the garden, out of which they were as often driven." - July 1815, James Simpson writes his account of the battle as part of a tour.

"The garden had been neatly laid out in the Flemish style, with clipped hedges, berceau walks, and fancy parterres; and some of the plants which still survive in the borders, afford evidence that a select collection of rarities had once existed here. We noticed a large tuft of the double purple Dame Violet (Hesperis matronalis, var.), which is a rare garden-flower; and a well established stool of one of the less common species of Peony (perhaps Paeonia hybrida of Pallas), of which the leaves only presented themselves at this season of the year." 1816, the Edinburgh Horticultural Society makes a tour of Northern Europe and visits the battleground.

"Although 11 months after the Battle, it was still highly interesting – I even saw blood on the wall, where a cannon ball had killed seven men – The deserted garden at Hougomont was flourishing in all the verdure of Spring – In the forest of Soignies, I saw Phyteuma spicatum, not a native of England, growing plentifully. It is very like our English Phyteuma orbiculare, only taller & handsomer with a longer spike of flowers – The blossom is dark blue, but I found a white variety also In the same place I saw a little of Convallaria multiflora – which is sometimes met with in England – Carex pallescens (which also grows at Castleford) & Rhamnus Frangula grew in the same spot – This was not more than three miles from Brussels. - Henry Fox Talbot visits and later reports his observations in a letter dated 14 Nov 1816.

"From the chapel we went into the garden. Its repose and gaiety of flowers, together with the neatness of its cultivation, formed a striking contrast with the ruined mansion, the blackened, torn, and in some parts blood-stained walls, and the charred timbers about it."

Going along the green alleys of the garden, quite overarched with hornbeam, we see the different holes broken by the English to fire on their enemies, and a gap on the northeast angle of the garden is the gap made by the French, who attempted to enter there, but were repulsed. Had they gained entrance the slaughter would have been dreadful, as we had four thousand men in the garden, which from its thick hedges has many strongholds, and they were greatly more numerous. The English also lined a strong hedge opposite the wood in which the French were, which they could not force, but the trees are terribly torn by cannon. - 9 Jul 16, Samuel Butler visits Waterloo and wrote in his diary.

"The clipped and shady walks have been long since cut down, which takes away much interest from it; and the stupid Fleming to whom it belonged cut down the young trees in front of it, because they had been wounded by the bullets, which he was informed “would cause them to bleed to death!” - 1816, Pryse Lockhart Gordon. Personal Memoirs or Reminiscences of men and manners at home and abroad during the last half century (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830) vol II.

"We went into the garden, which had sustained comparatively little injury, while every thing around it was laid waste. Its gay parterres and summer flowers made it look like an island in the desert. A berçeau, or covered walk, ran round it, shaded with creeping plants, amongst which honey-suckles and jessamines were intermixed, en treillage. The trees were loaded with fruit; the myrtles and fig trees were flourishing in luxuriance, and the scarlet geraniums, July flowers, and orange trees, were in full blow. My native country can boast of no such beauty as bloomed at Château Hougoumont: its rugged clime produces no fruitful fig trees, no flowers rich in the fragrance of orange blossom: — but it is the land of heroes! Man is the nobler growth our realms supply, And souls are ripened in our northern sky.”

"I saw the pure and polished leaves of the laurel shining in the sun, and I could not restrain my tears at the thought that the laurels, the everlasting laurels which England had won upon this spot, were steeped in the heart-blood of thousands of her brave, her lamented sons". -  1817, Charlotte Anne Waldie, Mrs Eaton, publishes her Narrative of a Residence in Belgium during the Campaign of 1815, she must have seen the field of battle within weeks of the conflict.

The East End - the 'Star'

This Victorian photo shows the star at the east end of the garden looking out to the east wall which was defended by the Coldstream.

Coldstream Guards defend the east wall

south-east corner with the trees of the star behind the wall.

south-east corner

1822, Christopher Kelly published the History of the French Revolution, and The Wars Produced by that Memorable event. This description of the battlefield claims to be one of the very earliest, though its publication follows on late. The detail is believed to be one of the earliest albeit a second hand account.

"In some accounts of the battle, and visits to the field, &c., it has been stated that this garden was a scene of slaughter. Totally untrue ! As I have stated in the text, I did not see above two or three altogether. There certainly might have been more concealed amongst the vegetation, but they could not have been many."

East wall looking north
north-east corner
Early work on the 3rd Foot Guards defending the orchard.

The Dovecote

The roof of the pigeon house over the well needs some work and the overall structure may be too small.
A good view of the dovecote without its roof before the collapse of much of its walls

The Gardener's House

Showing trees along west side

The Chateau

Siborne model

The chateau, upon which the attack was first made by the French, is immediately behind the wood, by the road leading to Nivelles. It was the country-seat of a Belgic gentleman, and was set on fire by shells, during the battle, which completed the destruction occasioned by the cannonade. In the garden behind the house, the orange-trees, roses and geraniums in full flower, presented a striking contrast to the mouldering piles of the ruined house, and surrounding scene of the desolation.

Siborne's model in close up.
A nice shot of the interior drawn in 1816, showing a much greater level of destruction than suggested by Siborne, who visited many years later.  If this picture is right, Siborne must have guessed wrongly that the shell of the chateau survived intact.

Ruins of the chateau.  The chapel needs a small cross on its steeple.
"The pompous title of Chateau gives a little additional importance to this position, though it is only a miserable dwelling of two stories, somewhat resembling the habitations of our bonnet lairds about the beginning of the last century. The area of the house is about two Scotch acres, including the garden." 

The North Gate and Hollow Way
Showing a slightly different shape to the dovecote 

The pond on the Siborne plan.

The north gate - the top cross beam is missing.
Showing position of trees at north gate and along west side
There's something squeezed about this picture

View from the north - this is how the various Allied units would have seen Hougoumont as they were fed into the fight.
Dinner service painting showing north gate

It's hard to get a good shot of the Hollow (or Covered) Way.  Interesting to note that the parallel hedge 50 metres south of the covered way kinks much as it did in 1815, delineating the boundary between garden and orchard.

View from the north - this is how the various Allied units would have seen Hougoumont as they were fed into the fight.

Dighton's image of the north side showing the brick kilns.

The Haystack and Burial Pit

I haven't put on the haystack yet, believing that by 1800 it would have burnt out and would only have left a blackened smouldering mark on the ground.  I wonder whether visitors after the battle mistook this for a burn pit?  Waterloo Uncovered have found no evidence of bones at this location.

Could the haystack have looked like this?
The burnt haystack would be at the bottom of this photo.

"These attacks were the commencement of the battle, and were repeated in the violent style of Buonaparte, with encreased means, but were all finally unsuccessful. In one corner the most terrible ravages attested the violence with which the enemy strove to force a passage: trees were felled and laid cross-wise for the purpose of defence, and in a single spot, a mere point, fifty dead bodies lie together, where they all fell. Near to this, there is a black scorched space, where six hundred human corpses, found in these grounds, were collected and burnt. Fire had been set to the buildings in the course of the engagement, and, in short, the whole place seemed to have been the theatre of some supernatural mischief, some celebration of infernal rites, or manifestation of heavenly vengeance."

An interesting shot of the balustrade.

North Gate

An interesting new shot that I hadn't seen before.

I don't know whether the two halves of the picture were ever united, but they clearly hang together.