Historical boundary stones in the Hallerbos: 1777 – 1779
Hallerbos undoubtedly has a rich history and is home to a wealth of so-called ‘small historical witnesses’, including boundary stones, more stones.
The starting point is one of the oldest and most famous Chapters of the Netherlands: the Chapter of St. Waltrudis of Bergen.
In 686, the Hallerbos comes into possesion of the Waltrudisklooster (Monastery of Waltrudis) by the legacy of Waltrudis, daughter of Walbrecht, the Count of Hainaut.
Since the Chapter is not competent to manage this remote border region, Hallerbos comes under the protection of the Lords of Brussels in return for a third – and later in 1239 for two-thirds – of the proceeds.
This is how later on, through inheritance, the Dukes of Burgundy and the Habsburgs obtain their share of the income.
Philip IV of Spain acts more as the owner than as administrator, when in 1648 he uses the City Hall with the Hallerbos as security for a loan from the Duke of Arenberg. Philip IV cannot repay the loan, and in 1652 the Duke of Arenberg, owner of two-thirds of the forest, comes into possession of another 900 acres (about 1,200 hectares).
Difficulties arise between the two owners, the Chapter and the Duke of Arenberg, and it is decided to settle the dispute.
On September 1, 1778, the Hallerbos is divided between the Duke of Arenberg for two thirds and the Chapter for one third, in accordance with a plan of partition, created on April 18, 1777 by the surveyors Desmoustier and Pourbaix.
24 boundary stones are placed bearing the letters SW (St. Waltrudis) along the side facing the Kapittelbos, and AR (Arenberg) on the other side.
The document itself, the partition plan of April 18, 1777 has not yet been found, but the implementation of the plan dating from October 9, 1779 has. It is a large document, meters wide, heavily damaged. Several parts of it are unreadable. It is kept in the National Archives (Arenberg Fund No. 1012).
Searches and re-measuring 1988 – 1990
Two hundred years after they were placed, the Halle surveyors Johan Vanvolsem and Koenraad Van Cauter looked for the 24 historical boundary stones and re-surveyed them.
Twenty boundary stones were found, including the three most important ones: the beginning point, corner point and end point of the hook-shaped border demarcation.
Four other boundary stones remain untraceable, they have probably fallen victim to the expansion of the Essenbeekse mining area.
All searches and measurements are recorded at the forester’s house.
The twenty recovered boundary stones stand neatly in line. The seven landmarks of the shortest axis of the square are intact. Four of the seventeen landmarks of the longest axis are missing. The angle between the minor axis and the major axis is an accurate right angle: 100 gradians (metric system) or 90 °. The total length of the short axis is 704.58 m, and the total length of the longest axis is 1944.90 m. Thus, the total distance between the first and the last boundary marker is 2649.48 meters.
According to the historical survey of Demoustier and Pourbaix the total distance is 497.5 rods, approximately 2646.7 meters. That makes a theoretical difference of 2.78 meters due to the conversion of the old measure “rod” in the decimal system: this represents a theoretical error of 0.10%. So the historical surveyors can be rightly proud of their accuracy.
The historic boundary stones of the Hallerbos are bluestone pyramidal boundary stones. Dimensions of the top surface: 28 cm x 28 cm, bottom surface 60 cm x 60 cm, length 1.69 meters, volume: approximately 1/3 m³, weight: about 825 kilograms (!). 60 to 80 cm of them is above ground.
Six of the recovered boundary stones are slightly to severely damaged: broken tops, chips at the edges …
Witnesses of a historical survey
More than two hundred years later, the 20 Arenberg-Saint Waltrudis boundary stones in Hallerbos still bear testimony of one of the largest land surveys and demarcations in the Netherlands and certainly of the largest, most demanding and most difficult historical survey in Halle.