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Historic Henry VIII tower in Tournai now protected by tarpaulin and temporary roof

18:17 24/06/2024

“Tournai, the only Belgian city to have ever been English!”, declares the newly inaugurated banner adorning the city’s historic Henry VIII Tower.

The new tarpaulin and temporary roof are protecting the ancient vestige from further deterioration while it awaits long overdue restoration.

One of the few remnants of the brief English occupation of the Hainaut town, the tower was part of a citadel built in 1515 to house Henry VIII’s soldiers after the Tudor king captured it in 1513.

Despite considering the town his own territory and granting it the right to send members of parliament to the House of Commons in London, occupation was brief. The king’s troops departed from Tournai when it was acquired by Francis I of France in 1519.

Although it has withstood centuries of wear and tear, the 21m high tower has increasingly been suffering from water damage.

“It’s a fairly massive circular tower,” explained city heritage advisor Florian Mariage. "It was built as an artillery tower, capable of withstanding bombardments, and above all to accommodate cannons.”

The exterior facade contains traces of openings that were used for firing canons. “The masonry is more than seven meters thick and the dimensions are also quite impressive so that it could cover a relatively large territory,” he adds, pointing out that the tower corresponded to military architecture norms of the period.

Renovation of the building has been delayed by a lengthy legal saga, which ended with the city purchasing the tower a few years ago.

The new temporary roof and tarpaulin are likely to remain in place while a renovation project is set up. Located near the train station, the emblematic building is destined to become a tourist site. The €312,000 cost of the shoet-term protection was largely subsidised by the Walloon Region.

Photo: ©City of Tournai

Written by The Bulletin