My first steps in urban exploration

February 2020

When I explained on the page dedicated to my photos that I had kept only my memories of my first explorations, I came across, precisely, a picture of one of these places. Immediately, I had to share these memories with you. So back to the early 90's.

Internet was still completely unknown in Belgium, the young people of the time knew how to speak, read and write, you could walk after 8pm without risk, the telephone was only used to telephone (and wasn't an extension of the human body) and No Limit from 2 Unlimited was a radio hit. In short, a gloomy epoch that it's better to forget. Sigh...
Doing nothing like everyone else (yes, already at the time !), I convinced my friend Laurent to accompany me to places that nobody visited, for the good reason that these places were totally forgotten. I don’t know why I’ve always had this overwhelming attraction. Perhaps for the calm that reigns there or for the chance to meet no one there. I don't actually know. But the fact remains that my passion for urban exploration really began at the start of the last decade of the 20th century. Damn, it gives me a blow of old this story...

Let's go for a little description of these few places.

Château de Roisin
Well... This one dates back to well before the 90's.
I cannot say that I visited it but when I was eight, I was absolutely fascinated by this gigantic castle falling into ruins. Being able to see through the gutted windows a completely ravaged and partially collapsed interior, I had only one desire : enter and play adventurer.
Obviously, I was forbidden to came in but this castle is for me the starting point of my passion for forgotten places.
The castle was scandalously destroyed in the early 90's and replaced by... a gravel parking lot.

img > Château de Roisin

The Château de Roisin a few years before its destruction

This beautiful castle is mentioned on the page dedicated to the Haut-Pays, visited in 2009.

Grand Hôtel Majestic & the Kursaal
These too, I could only admire from the outside.
In the second half of the 80's, we had a caravan at the Belgian Coast. Well yes, what do you want. These are definitely my fondest childhood memories. And this caravan was located very close to Blankenberge. When we weren't at the beach, or me with my buddies from the camp doing anything and everything, we were in this famous seaside town.
The long dyke had already been massacred a long time ago by the concrete bunkers, however there remained several witnesses of the Belle Époque still more or less intact : the famous Pier, the hotels Bristol, Idéal, Petit Rouge, Pauwels-D' Hondt (with its giant luna-park Sportland) but above all the Majestic and its neighbor the Casino (or Kursaal).
The first was already abandoned in the 80's, and an entire side of the large building was surrounded by a fence preventing falling materials. Moreover, it seemed that this wing had collapsed on itself, while the central wing seemed to be in good condition. This huge hotel fascinated me and I wondered what was inside. I never knew. It will be demolished in total indifference at the very beginning of the 90's.
As for the Kursaal, its huge belfry was truly impressive, almost scary. He too was surrounded by a protective fence, the green earthenware composing his facade unhooking. The casino was not abandoned but it was in such a state of disrepair that we could easily imagine.
As for the interior of the casino, I saw the gigantic, still empty hall on the side of the Casinostraat. In this hall, there were beautiful Art-Deco light fixtures. If the casino wasn't demolished like the other buildings mentioned above, it was nevertheless totally denatured by a disrespectful renovation in the early 90's. Its decoration and everything that made it a unique building have been erased. Nowadays, we only have to “admire” yet another soulless concrete cube. As for the rest of the seawall , no comment. There is nothing to watch there anymore.
However, I returned there four times at the beginning of the adventure of this website, and even a visit in the snow.

img > Grand Hôtel Majestic Blankenberge

The Majestic (in the center of the photo) and the Kursaal (on the left) during the 60’s.

img > Grand Hôtel Majestic Blankenberge
img > Grand Hôtel Majestic Blankenberge

The Majestic, around 1975.
The right part will experience a collapse a few years later.

The rear facade of the Majestic, during the 70’s.
At the end of the building's existence, only the ground floor will still be occupied by a restaurant and a pharmacy.

img > Kursaal Blankenberge

The Kursaal, already surrounded by its steel cage, in the late 70's.
The future renovation will disfigure it irreparably.

After his few childhood memories that laid the groundwork for my passion for abandoned places, make way for the first real explorations.

Sometime before I started exploring abandoned buildings, I had dabbled in exploring sewers. What a strange idea for a 13 year old kid, isn't it ? But this wasn't just any sewer : it was right in the middle of the Mouscron countryside and seemed to be of no use, and its manholes didn't have any closures. It was also often dry (but not without grime). With a friend of the time, we explored it several times trying to go as far as possible until daylight and we spread out in the s*** and we had to go home to wash ourselves while crossing the city covered with a smelly material from head-to-toe
This comic episode persuaded me to explore abandoned buildings instead, a much "cleaner" activity.
A few years later, a new road and an industrial zone will take the place of the countryside. The sewer will then find its use.

img > Sewers

One of the entrances in 2019, closed for ages

Masurel Factory
Here is an old large textile factory as there were dozens in Mouscron.
Closing one after the other, some were fortunate to be converted while the others were already ancient history in 1992. This is the case of the Masurel Factory.
If the textile activity was stopped in 1969, the buildings experienced several reallocations until the opening of a furniture store in 1977. In 1990, an "accidental" fire ravaged the sheds (that is to say, the majority of the site) but spares the administrative buildings and a large warehouse at the ends of the site.
Like Indiana Jones, we had fun entering the site in the most discreet way possible, putting together plans the crappy ones each other. And once inside, we set out to explore the buildings as much as possible. Obviously, when you’re 14, you don’t think about the risks. Creaky floors or walkways overlooking the void ? Let's go for it ! Come to think of it, we were very lucky at the time !
It was at the corner of a corridor that we came across a large room completely covered with earthenware. If the exteriors of the factory were poor, this room would certainly have been immortalized. Unfortunately, Mouscron never took care of its heritage and the entire factory was demolished in 1997. In 2020, only a historic factory still remains but its death is already scheduled.

img > Usine Masurel

The Masurel Factory in 1988

img > Usine Masurel
img > Usine Masurel

The Masurel factory after the fire.
We will regularly visit the buildings visible in the background.

Château Allart
I have known this little castle for ages. It was only while writing this that I discovered his real name. We really learn every day.
Perhaps the most difficult exploration. Totally neglected for decades, there was no way to get into it. Trying it several times, we finally found access. Once inside, we were speechless ! Everything was still there, right down to the perfume bottles in the bathroom. The central room, circular in plan, was truly magnificent !
This place was so well preserved inside (the outside was completely devastated) that we wondered if it was really abandoned. Obviously, it was. But this place had a scary side and we never went back there again.
In the early 2000's, its rescue began. The little castle was saved, I was happy with it.

img > Château Allart

Château Allart in 2003, during its renovation

img > Château Allart

The rear facade of the castle

Château des Comtes
Originating in the 15th century, this proud castle has had a very eventful history.
Abandoned but restored externally in the 70's, the old manor will be the city's great forgotten for two decades. Even the locals didn't care and only a few enthusiasts wanted to defend it. On the barbed wire closing the access to the site sat a poster indicating "Castle to save".
The 18th century barns had either been demolished or had their roofs removed. Needless to say, the buildings suffered a lot. As for the castle, if the facade looked great, the interior, on the other hand, had been vandalized in a fairly violent manner. Stucco decorations, only a few vestiges remained. No more ceilings, no more floors, just the main beams that kept the walls standing. We were having fun walking on these beams, 5 or 6 meters above the ground. Fear is unknown at 15 years old.
We are also doing everything we can to hinder access to our favorite castle. Thus, we collect as much wood as possible to mount reinforcements against the doors and window shutters. We had our secret access and there was no question of intruders coming to take our loot.
Alas, in 1995, assholes managed to enter and set fire to it. All the roof framework disappeared and a catastrophic reconstruction took place. Since then, the castle has been in a lack of stability and brackets have been placed to prevent any collapse. As for the barns, they have been modernized (in other words massacred) and extended by a magnificent concrete building. It’s modern so it’s beautiful. And if you think differently, you're just a jerk !

img > Château des Comtes Mouscron

The Château des Comtes at its peak.

img > Château des Comtes Mouscron

The consequences of the 1995 fire.
A badly done reconstruction will follow which will undermine the stability of the gable on the right.

img > Château des Comtes Mouscron

The same castle, or rather what's left of it...
The support props needed to keep the castle upright.

Monastery of Notre-Dame-des-Anges
A place that has totally fallen into oblivion since its demolition in the mid-1990's. Located next to the former Néchin station, the monastery (later converted into a boarding school) had already been greatly amputated during our visit. For a long time, only the huge ruined chapel remained. From everywhere, you could only see it, was so imposing.
An exploration that had totally come out of my head. It must be said that we had only visited it once and the only tangible memory I could keep of it was a nice tear on a jacket that I particularly liked.
This tear had been caused by the terrible state of the chapel. If the facades were still intact, the roof and floors were in ruins. Nevertheless, inside, the majesty of the place had remained whole.
Unfortunately, the demolition took place shortly after our visit and only the staircase turret will remain standing for a few more months. Since then, nothing. There are still some annex buildings on the street front, but the land formerly occupied by the monastery and its grandiose chapel have remained untouched by any new construction.

img > Monastery of Notre-Dame-des-Anges

The vast chapel visible on the right.
The rest of the complex had already been demolished a long time ago.

img > Monastère Notre-Dame-des-Anges

The entrance to the monastery, located Rue de la Station.
The long building in the background still exists.

Funny detail : the location of the chapel is still represented on Google Maps™, almost 30 years after its demolition.

Château de la Royère
Two attempts will have been made for this very old fortress totally forgotten at the time. But the old fortress will never open its doors to us.
Spotted from the time when I cycled through my region from side to side, always with Laurent, we thought that after the Château des Comtes, it was time to explore a “new” testimony to the Middle Ages. Still surrounded by its moat, the castle was almost indistinguishable so much it was drowned in the vegetation and lost in the middle of nowhere.
Our first attempt was stopped short by a solid iron gate (the only solid thing in this castle by the way !) and a big padlock. Later, we managed to locate the owner (who lived a few hundred meters away), but the latter didn't allow us to enter the castle, claiming that it was dangerous. At the time, we complained a lot, but with hindsight, the owner's refusal was a wise decision, the ruin was so degraded and unstable.
Fortunately, since then, the site has come out of oblivion and has finally been maintained, conservatory work is still in progress to try to restore some luster to this precious witness of the past.

img > Château de la Royère

The Château de la Royère in 1810 by Jan Baptiste de Jonghe.
Since then, the state of the ruins has deteriorated sharply and there is almost nothing left of the fortress.

img > Château de la Royère

The Château de la Royère today : in poor condition but being saved.

Collège de la Salle
My last exploration of my "pre-urbex" period, this one going back to 1998.
The Collège de la Salle is a huge site built in 1907 and abandoned in 1985. A first fire damaged the building around 1995 but it can still be visited. This single visit will be expeditious and I was content to visit only the central wing. Why ? I don't know anymore.
Later, a new fire of a much larger scale destroyed the entire interior as well as the roofs in 2003, only the chapel having survived.
Since then, the building has been acquired by several crooked real estate developers and each time, work has begun before being arrested by the courts (fraud, illegal workers, failure to respect plans, etc.). The building now has a pathetic face.
What is its future ? No one knows.

img > Collège de la Salle

The Collège de la Salle at the time of its splendor

img > Collège de la Salle

The condition of the building today...

That's all for these evocations of my earliest memories of urban exploration.
It will take me several years to rediscover the urbex, first through the Internet in 2004, when I stumbled upon photos of Buffalo Central Station on the website. And finally, at the end of this same decade by pushing back the wastelands with the visit of the Giot Foundry in 2009 and the Asile 666 in 2011.

img > Fonderie Giot

Visit Foundry Giot

img > Asile 666

Visit Asylum 666


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