Sunday, 19 June 2011


Used extensively by the Commonwealth for stationing troops prior to the Battles of Ypres, the Flanders town of Armentières was a British stronghold for much of the Great War. It was also the inspiration for a famous war song which, according to legend, was written in honour of one Marie Lecocq who ran the Café de la Paix,describing her as the Mademoiselle from Armentières who 'hasn't been kissed for forty years'.
On 10 April 1918, during the Battle of the Lys, Armentières was evacuated by the British in the face of the advancing German Army. The town was subsequently bombarded by the Allies to render its roads, railways and buildings useless to the invading army. One casualty of the shelling was the 17th century town hall which was totally destroyed.
Mademoiselle from Armentières and Flemish Renaissance
After the war, architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier seized the opportunity afforded to him by the reconstruction effort to redesign the town centre according to the ideals of the Flemish Renaissance. He was responsible for an iconic feature of the town in the shape of the 67-metre high bell tower, decorated with bartizans and machicolation, which today dominates the central square.
 The town hall is another fine illustration of his Flanders style with its ornate facade, grand staircase and a great hall worthy of any burgomaster.
Cordonnier also designed the pyramid-shaped war monument in the town square, sculpted by Edgar Boutry, and the market hall which is today a venue for live entertainment. Another edifice of note is Saint-Vaast Church whose neo-Gothic grandeur dominates the town hall with its 83-metre-high bell tower.The architects of the Reconstruction also turned their attention to restoring industrial buildings and an example of this is the old Motte-Cordonnier Brewery built on the banks of the Lys River.
Interesting civilian architecture on the street named after President Kennedy is the result of some friendly rivalry between the town's prominent citizens as they rebuilt their homes.

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