Court Boetfort

15 February 2018

Fringed by Gillijnsstraat, Korreswegske (Oudstrijderslaan) and Sellaerstraat, Boetfort Court (the name has also been spelled Boetsfort, Boitsvoert or Bootsfort) has kept its original position. At that time it was a fortified farmhouse, and was sold on 15 April 1587 by Jan Thielman to Jacques Hanibal, a painter from the Brussels area who restored Saint Rumbold's Church in Steenokkerzeel in the period 1589-1598. After Hanibal, various famous Antwerp painters also followed the fashion for purchasing a castle: Pieter-Paul Rubens acquired the Castle of Het Steen in Elewijt in 1635, living there until his death on 30 May 1640, and David Teniers II settled at the Drie-Torens manor house in Perk from 1660.

But Jacques Hannibal had over-extended himself with the purchase of the heavily mortgaged Boetsfort country estate. On 20 December 1594 he was compelled to sell the castle to the Brussels alderman Hendrik Madoets and his wife Margareta van Zuene. By then, the castle was a ruin that had been reduced to rubble. From 1595, Hendrik Madoets oversaw the restoration of the magnificent edifice in the centre of the village. The castle was not completed until 1610, as the anchors on the facade indicate. The new Madoets Castle is said to have served as a hunting lodge on one occasion, when Louis XIV of France was passing through these parts...

Madoets and his wife had four children: Pieter, Karel, Isabella and Catharina.
Pieter Madoets inherited another property a short distance away, the Hof ten As with its woodland. Karel, who died childless on 3 November 1622, left nine hectares of "Bouchefort" Castle to his brother, Pieter, who set up a stone bearing the family coat of arms on the tomb of his parents, Henricus (or Hendrik) Madoets, who died in 1614, and Margareta van Zuene, who died in 1630.

This coat of arms featured a closed helmet. Later, however, Pieter had the helmet's visor opened - something that only members of the nobility were entitled to do. The gravestone is today located under the entrance to St Martin's Church in Melsbroek.

Pieter Madoets and his wife Anna de Facuwez had two male offspring: Edmond-Franciscus and Jaak-Lodewijk. Edmond-Franciscus married Antonia-Francisca de Locquenghien. He became the owner of Hof ten As and the local gaming house, Speelhuys van Boetsfort, with its sandstone towers. Jaak-Lodewijk's son Antoon-Lodewijk Madoets died on 18 June 1728, and Boetsfort thus came up for sale with four hectares of land on 1 October 1728, and was purchased by the count of Tirimont. This count, the lord of Gaasbeek, later sold it again, but his children still owned Hof ten As in 1774.

After a property dispute, Nicolas Hospies became owner of Boetsfort Castle in 1748. Between 1768 and 1777, extensive conversion work was carried out on the castle and its outbuildings. The old coach-house with its stables was demolished and replaced by a new building. With its great rococo gate in Louis XV style and the date 1767, this faces onto Gillijnsstraat. The moat around the castle was filled in and the drawbridge at the rear was replaced by a new residential block (1773). At that time, the castle, together with its grounds, park and fishpond, extended over some 20 hectares. The castle's chapel, lodged in a round side-tower, was preserved.

In the early 19th century, Madoets Castle belonged to Count Francois de Lalaing, who was the local mayor from 22 April 1809 until 1825. In 1841 it then entered the possession of the O'Kelly family, who used it as a country home.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the O'Kellys were to play in a prominent role in Irish history. The statesman Sean Thomas O'Kelly (Dublin, 25 August 1882), was one of the founders of Sinn Fein, the political movement for the independence of Ireland.

Count O'Kelly d'Aghrim married Dorothea Volcke. After her husband's death, the widow sold the property on 9 August 1850 to a couple by the name of Bonzans-Mahieux. They lived in the castle for around 23 years, and then left for Paris. On 20 June 1873, Mrs Mahieux, the widow of Henri Michel Bonzans, sold the castle to Armand Steurs and Emma Van Roosbroeck.

From the early 20th century, the earlier names of "Boetsfort Court" and "Madoets Castle" ceased to be used: the property was now always referred to as Dereine Castle. From 20 June 1873 it was owned by Armand Steurs (born Schaarbeek, 30 September 1842) and his wife Emma Van Roosbroeck (born Ghent, 13 September 1840). Steurs was a well-known figure in legal circles in Brussels, as well as mayor of St.-Joost-ten-Node for many years. Their daughter Emma Steurs (born 1872) married the lawyer Henri Dereine (born Tournai, 1872). This latter was also a fine painter, working in both watercolours and oils. Starting in 1908, Henri Dereine had the castle completely restored. After three centuries, this was certainly no superfluous luxury. The architect Abeloos had the central section, dated 1610, entirely restored to its former state. The facade with its entrance door and two turrets was completely new.

Mr and Mrs Dereine-Steurs always kept the castle maintained to a high standard over the years. Once again, you could daydream peacefully in a beautiful park with its romantic pond, weeping willow and bridge. After her parents' death, the castle was occupied by their daughter Marguerite Dereine, born in Brussels on 3 July 1897, who got married in 1919 to Robert Cambier, born in Etterbeek on 8 March 1895. They had two sons, Jean and René Cambier. During the Second World War, Boetfort Castle was badly damaged. However, Mrs Cambier-Dereine had it restored to its former glory. After her death, Dereine Castle was sold to Mr and Mrs Pieders-Hendrix. Until a few years ago, it was used as premises for a restaurant. However, Restaurant Boetfort went bust, and the castle changed hands again. Part of the surrounding meadowland was developed as residential building land by a Panama-based company. The actual castle, which by now was in a state of neglect, was bought by the operators of Thermae Grimbergen, the Van Der Zijpen family, which opened a cure resort and wellness centre there in 2010. The avenue and surrounding park were also taken in hand by the new owners. Thus a unique piece of history has been rescued from destruction - much to the delight of the people of Melsbroek!

Source: Jos Lauwers (1983) - Melsbroek, waar de melde bloeit in 't broek -
Uitgegeven door de Melsbroekse Raad voor Jeugd, Sport en Kultuur