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Comines-Warneton (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)


Last modified: 2022-06-16 by ivan sache
Keywords: comines-warneton | komen-waasten |
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Flag of Comines-Warneton - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 30 April 2006

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Presentation of Comines-Warneton and its villages

The municipality of Comines-Warneton (in Dutch, Komen-Waasten; 17,544 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 6,109 ha; municipal website) is located on the French border, 15 km north-west of Lille. The municipality forms an enclave of Hainaut inside West Flanders. It was established in 1976 as the merger of the former municipalities of Bas-Warneton (in Dutch, Neerwasten), Le Bizet, Comines, Houthem, Ploegsteert, and Warneton.

The honorific title of "Town of Comines-Warneton" was obtained after a long political battle. Comines has been bearing the title of town since the charter granted in October 1276. The title was confirmed on 10 November 1820 by the (Dutch) Council of Nobility. However, the Decree of 30 May 1825 listing the places officially allowed to bear the title of town omitted Comines, whereas Warneton was listed.
When the first merging of municipalities took place in 1970, it was stated that the new municipalities replacing former municipalities listed as towns by the 1825 Decrees were "allowed to bear the title of town". Accordingly, 87 of the 89 towns were maintained: Gosselies lost its title after the merging with Charleroi, whereas Warneton lost its title after the merging with Comines, since the new municipality was simply named Comines.
On 12 April 1976, Senator André Bertouille tabled a Bill modifying the name of the municipality to Comines-Warneton and allowing the municipality to bear the title of Town of Comines-Warneton. The Bill was unanimusouly passed on 9 December. On 29 June 1978, the Chamber decided that the new municipality and town would be called Comines. On 28 June 1979, the Senate (144 yes and 1 abstention) reestablished Bertouille's original Bill. On 1 April 1982, the Chamber passed the Bill (169 yes, 1 no, 1 abstention) so that the municipality of Comines-Warneton is allowed to bear the title of Town of Comines-Warneton.

Comines, possibly named after the Latin word Comius or Cumma, a deformation of the Celtic word cumba, "a valley", was founded in the 3rd century by St. Chrysole. In the Middle Ages, the town was divided into a northern part belonging to Ieper and a southern part belonging to Lille. Comines was successively ran by the families of Wasiers, Clite, Halluin, Croÿ, Henin and Orléans. The castle of Comines was burnt in 1297, revamped and eventually destroyed in 1382 when King of France Charles VI burnt down the town; Colard de la Clite rebuilt the castle, Vauban increased its defenses and the castle was destroyed again in 1674. In 1456, Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Good granted to Comines a free fair beginning on St. Remigius' Day and lasting three days. Charles the Bold supported the industrialization of the town and granted a municipal administration with seven Councillors (échevins) submitted to a Bailiff.
There are today two neighbouring towns named Comines, one in Belgium and one in France, separated by river Lys. In 1668, the territories located south of the Lys were allocated to France (Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle). The northern territories were added in 1678 (Treaty of Nijmegen). The Ryswick peace (1697) confirmed the borders but the northern territories were reallocated to the Austrian Netherlands in 1713 (Treaty of Utrecht). The French Revolution definitively established the Lys as the border and separated the two towns of Comines.
In 1719, Philippe Hovyn, flax merchand and manufacturer in Ieper, set up a binding workshop in Comines-France, to avoid the customs tax. After the invention of the steam engine, the binding makers ceased to work at home and the production was industrialized. Around 1900, there were some 3,500 needle looms in Comines, producing each year some 400 million meters of binding. Comines was then the world capital of utilitarian binding. The current production of binding in Comines is 600 million meters made by 250 high-speed looms. The young factory workers, called marmousets du devant, are recalled by the Marmousets' Festival, celebrated on the third Sunday of July.
During the First World War, Comines was located close to the frontline and was totally destroyed. Kaiser Wilhelm II, visiting the frontline, stopped at Comines in 1915. Adolf Hitler, fighting in the 15th Bavarian Regiment in the region, stayed several times in Comines. On 26, 27 and 28 May 1940, there were violent fightings, part of the Battle of the Canal, in Comines.

Warneton is watered by brook Warnave, whose name might be the origin of the name of the town, known as Warnasthum (1007), Warnastun (1056) and Warnestium (1110), probably a contraction of "Warnave's tun", "the Warnave enclosure". In the 9th century, the Norsemen sailed on the Lys upwards and sacked Warneton and the neighbouring town (today in France) of Armentières. In 1150, Robert de Béthune increased the town and surrounded it with a wall defended by five towers. The town had two weekly markets and a yearly fair, held from 1 to 8 September. In 1226, Warneton had a municipal seal and was known for river fishing and cloth industry. The town belonged successively to the families of Béthune, Cassel, Bar, Luxembourg, Nassau and Isenghien. Warneton was burnt down in 1297 by the French and Constable Clisson suppressed the fortifications in 1297. The town was often sacked during the Hundred Years' War, for instance in 1436 when the English invaded France. In 1527, a huge blaze destroyed 300 houses and the town hall. Warneton was again sacked in 1565 and 1568, during the Dutch revolt.
Turenne seized Warneton in 1658, after another blaze caused by the French in 1645. The Treaty of Nijmegen (1678) allocated Warneton to France until the Treaty of Radstadt retroceded it to the Austrian Netherlands in 1714. Emperor Josef II increased the fortifications of the town. According to the Treaty of La Barrière (1715), a Dutch garrison was stationed in Warneton until 1781. Warneton was occupied again by the French in 1797.
During the First World War, Warneton was completely destroyed and its historical treasures were lost for ever.

Bas-Warneton (Lower-Warneton) included under the Ancient Regime the two villages of Bas-Warneton and Warneton-Bas, today separated by the Lys and located in Belgium and France, respectively. Before 1114, Bishop of Thérouanne Jean I de Warneton (1099-1130), indeed from Bas-Warneton, granted the church of Bas-Warneton to the St. Bertinus abbey in St. Omer. In 1119, he confirmed the settlements and asked the abbey to found a priory, which ceased to house monks at the end of the 13th century. Bas-Warneton was separated from Comines in 1645 and made a fief of Lille. After its complete destruction during the First World War, the center of the new village was moved from the bank of the Lys to the road Comines-Warneton.

Houthem was located in the past on the southern edge of the big forest known as charcoal forest (forêt charbonnière), therefore its name, from Dutch hout, meaning "a wood", and Celtic hem, meaning "a settlement". Gommar d'Houthem, mentioned between 1180 and 1201, was a vassal of the lord of Comines. Houthem was crossed by entranchement lines made in 1678 to protect Lille. The village was later split again by the railway Kortrijk-Ieper (1853) and the canal Lys-Yperlée (1862). The village was completely destroyed during the First World War.

Ploegsteert became a municipality by separation from Warneton (Law of 8 January 1850). The village is named after a manor already known in 1622. Ploegsteert was not occupied by the Germans in 1914 and housed British troops. Churchill was stationed there for a while.

Le Bizet is located on the French border and is today a satellite of the big French town of Armentières (26,000 inhabitants).

Ivan Sache, 30 April 2006

Flag of Comines-Warneton

The flag of Comines-Warneton is vertically divided yellow-red with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03], the flag, adopted on 6 October 1978 by the Municipal Council, is prescribed by a Decree adopted on 15 July 2003 by the Executive of the French Community.

The colours of the flag are taken from the coat of arms, "Or a key sable surrounded by eight roses gules three dexter three sinister one in chief and one in base".
These arms were originally granted by Royal Decree on 19 December 1842 to the town of Comines. Servais [svm55] says that these arms were featured on local seals from 1643 and 1672; the roses are derived from the arms of the lords of Comines, whereas the origin of the key is unknown. Until 1842, Comines used different arms, granted in the early 19th century, "Per pale, argent a lion sable crowned argent, azure a key gules surrounded by five roses of the same". Whether the lion represented Flanders or Hainaut (or something else!) is not known.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 8 June 2007