The flax site we pass is situated next to the river Leie, where on the other side one can remark the industries of France. It is one of the most interesting flax sites in the Leieregion, but please note it is private property which you cannot visit without prior appointment and consent of the owner.
If you would like to have a guided visit, please contact the West-Flanders chapter of the Flemish Association for Industrial Archaeology (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The site is protected as historic monument by decree of the Flemish Government of June 30, 2005.
It consist of the lands which were and to some extend during the season still are used to dry the flax in 'chapels' after it had been ret. The farm and the farmhouse are still used, and the site shows the evolution of flax fibre preparation since the middle of the 19th c. It has kept all it's machinery and tools, including the steam boiler and the steam engine. Moreover it has in its barn traces left by German soldiers during the first war, and being on the border of the tobacco region (Wervik) is also has a tobacco drying kiln.
It can be considered as a real 'time capsule'.
The site developed around a traditional farm with barn, stables and other farm buildings and a traditional bread oven. On a map of 1843 the site was mentioned as the "Ferme Deprez" (farm of the Deprez family), showing almost the same plan of the buildings as today - but the site then was completely surrounded by a moat (half of this remains, half has been filled in in 1939). In 1872 the farm buildings were thoroughly changed and rebuilt, but mainly keeping the old layout. The reason was maybe the change from other crop to growing and harvesting flax - which had a boom in those years.
The for the regional traditions exceptionally decorated large barn (built ca 1865-1870) is a typical flax barn, having a cellar at half height - the flax cellar or 'pédère' used to keep the scutched flax moist.
During the First World War the barn was used as a German lazaret where slightly wounded soldiers were cared, and which was also used for their leisure activities and religious services. The barn survived the war and has in its interior some remarkable frescos (1917) painted by an unknown German soldier.
South of the farm there is a tobacco drying kiln built in 1942 - completely conserved with its fireplace, the plates, the rods on which the tobacco leaves were hung (two floors) and on top a turn cap.
Next to the farm the primitive old scutching building still exists, around an interior courtyard. In one of the buildings the shafts and the mechanical so-called Flemish scutching wheels are still present (dating from before 1914), including the wooden protection case and the dust exhaust system.
The still active retting tanks for warm water retting of the flax, and the scutching mill are located to the south-east of the farm, being built 1938 and enlarged afterwards. These premises include twice eight concrete retting tanks. Here we find also an old Cornish steam boiler, made by the Fumière frères company from Forchies (near Charleroi). From a second steam boiler, a Lancashire-type, the name of the maker has disappeared. From both the security accessories have disappeared, as they weren't used to produce steam under pressure anymore but used for heating the water for the retting. The first one is still fired by coal of flax shives (the inner woody part of flax, the waste), the second is fired by fuel - showing the evolution in the production of energy.
In the more recent scutching building, opposite the latter, a horizontal single cylinder Bollinckx-steam engine (45 HP) has been preserved, driving an alternator 'Constructions Électriques du Nord'. Bollinckx was a famous steam engine builder from Brussels (with some steam engines preserved in other countries), while the CEN was a French firm from Tourcoing.
On the first floor there is a ‘modern’ flax breaking and scutching turbine - the principles of this kind of engine were invented and patented just before the first war by Constant Van Steenkiste in the nearby town of Wevelgem.