October 1, 2022

Taylor Daily Press

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The fairytale Westmalle Castle is looking for a new owner after the death of the Baroness (Male)

The fairytale Westmalle Castle is looking for a new owner after the death of the Baroness (Male)

Westmalle Castle is located near the church. Baroness Jacques van der Straten Willet, born in Brussels as Countess Christian de Lannoy, died this spring. The castle is still inhabited by a family member and therefore is not empty. The Countess married Baron Jacques van der Straten Willett in 1945. In 1972 they inherited the castle. The baron and the baroness had five sons, fourteen grandchildren, and dozens of great-grandchildren.

The Baron died in 1984. The birthday of Our Lady of the Castle was celebrated with the whole family on the grounds of Westmall Castle. In 2019 she played the hostess at Natuurpunt’s Evening of Bats. For example, an ice vault in the domain is used for bats.

Another part of the noble family still lived on the adjacent detached farms. But it is clear that the direct heirs of the Baroness decided to sell their share of the castle and the surrounding 12-hectare park. According to the estate agency’s agent, the Van der Straten Waillet family prefers to do so freely with as little publicity as possible. The property is advertised as a “unique opportunity”. Keeping sales quiet is difficult. Hugo Bruin, president emeritus of the local history department, used to write about 150 pages of the castle’s history.

Baroness Jacques van der Straten Willett © rr

French Revolution

Bruin: “Since the French Revolution, the estate has had quite a few different owners. The noble Van der Straten Waillet family acquired it in 1914 through the inheritance of the Baron de Turck de Kersbeeck. Therefore, it was not so in the hands of the Van der Straten Waillet for several centuries …although I think some will turn in their graves when they hear this.Baron Jacques van der Straten Willett was very committed to his castle and its history.I was a bit afraid that the new generation would be less emotionally attached to the castle.Young nobles are active in the banking and insurance industry and nearly all live in in the area around Brussels and Namur.

According to Broen, Westmalle Castle has been perfectly preserved. “The front is certainly still quite original. The drawbridge has since been built with bricks. The castle has its origins in a large fortified farm, founded around 1100. It was the residence of the mayors of the Dukes of Brabant. The cornerstone of the present castle was laid in 1561.”

Many angels followed him. In 1848 the castle was sold to a Jewish diamond dealer from Antwerp named Bovi. He renovated the castle and created a garden by the landscape architect Quillich. From 1874 to 1878 the castle was owned by Louis Gilland. Baron de Turck de Kersbeeck bought the field in 1878.

In 1914, Baron Alphonse van der Straten Willet, Mayor of Westmall, inherited the castle. Dividing among his children, it passed to his fourth son, Baron Jacques van der Straten Willett in 1973. In 1978 it was protected as a monument.

Al-Harji’s renovated house is also for sale, as is the impressive circular building. “It was actually a typical farmhouse with stables on the outside, a loft and another house,” says Hugo Broen, who was able to accurately reconstruct history thanks to the preserved notes the family allowed him to study. The church with its integrated altar plate is also a valuable heritage.

Leo Van Ginckel, active in the local history circle, recalls how the castle used to hold annual mission parties. In winter the villagers were allowed to skate on the pond. The postman went to the castle door. Now the mailbox is hanging at the front of the bridge. The domain is now completely inaccessible.

According to the broker, it can use a comprehensive rejuvenation, but otherwise offers endless possibilities. “On this property, you imagine yourself in your own lush green oasis: your own relaxation resort full of history,” praises De Waele Vastgoed.

Male municipality?

In 1983, the Municipality of Malle purchased the Castle de Renesse and part of the park in Oostmalle from the property of Count Thierry de Renesse, also a former mayor. It has been managed by a non-profit organization since 1985 and can now be enjoyed by all residents. What if the same script could not be written for the Westmalle sub-community? “Some residents will really like it, others won’t, because such a purchase weighs on budgets,” says Patrimony Alderman Wim Jordens (CD&V). “The castle field in Ostmalha still costs us money every year. We shouldn’t engage in waffle iron politics. But we’re not saying no in advance either.”

Perhaps the estate will not be sold so quickly. Zoerselhof Castle in Zoersel has been up for sale for over two years for approximately €4.4 million. This is a completely different kind of classic castle, from the 18th century and has been greatly renovated.

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