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Vous êtes ici : Accueil / Loisirs / Archives / Tourism / Patrimony / Water in Seneffe / Water in Seneffe

Water in Seneffe

The city of Seneffe possesses a significant water-based cultural heritage: the old Brussels-Charleroi canal (70 and 300 tons) which crosses it from south to north, with its locks and its bridges, the new 1350-ton canal slightly further to the west, but also the Samme and its numerous tributaries, and we must not forget Seneffe’s springs and the holes of old quarries.

The Samme

A small river 21.6 kilometers in length, it winds in a rural valley.
Taking its source at Morlanwelz in the place called “Triangle des voies ferrées” (“Triangle of the rail lines”), it flows into the Senette at Ronquières, after having crossed the area of Seneffe from south to north.
Its route of 12.6 kilometers through the municipality absorbs several small tributaries to swell its rate of flow.
Shortly after its entrance into Seneffe, 6.5 kilometers from its source, it absorbs the Scailmont then, further and further along, the Chénia, the Grandrieux, the Renissart, the Belle fontaine, the Neuf-Vivier and the Bouleau.
Small bridges, in stone or masonry, straddle its course.

The Springs

La Coulette
This spring is more commonly called “coule Coulette.”
The water is drinkable but is not consistent.



 
  Le Tremblement
This spring, situated on the path du Croquet, behind the Château de Feluy, spouted for the first time in 1692 when an earthquake shook the region.


 

The Old Canal

Starting in 1550, there were thoughts of linking Brussels to Charleroi by a waterway. The construction of a canal along the Senne, the Senette and the Samme proved to be the best solution, but the crossing of the municipality represented an obstacle: the drainage divide had to be crossed. It was necessary to wait until 1827 for the project to enter its execution phase. The small-section canal designed at that time offered boaters water 15 meters in length and 2 meters in depth.

During the vast majority of the route, the construction presented few difficulties, but between Gouy and Seneffe, the drainage divide had to be crossed using a special structure.
Two solutions were possible: an underground passage or a trench over 30 meters in depth.

In order to avoid the risk of collapsing and to reduce as much as possible the quantity of earth to be moved, the solution of the underground passage was chosen. One man would make his mark in his realization of this big first, a side canal crossing a drainage divide: the engineer Jean-Baptiste Vifquain.

 

 
 

The tunnel of the "Bête Refaite"

The creation of the tunnel, which had to allow boats to cross the drainage divide, would prove difficult and tiresome; the terrain, waterlogged, provoked dangerous collapses, while the standard drilling techniques could not be applied. Several processes were elaborated over time in an attempt to overcome the difficulties, but failure was frequent. Four years would be necessary to achieve a subterranean tunnel 1267 meters in length, for a navigable width of 3.20 meters.

Later, a portion of the tunnel was demolished during the crossing of the 1350-ton canal. From the Gouy side, you can still see the cut stones of the roof, while from the Seneffe side, only the masonry work of the outer band remains (a small section of the tunnel is visible along the new canal: it serves as a protected shelter for bats).

The procedure to list this tunnel as a registered historical site, started in January 1983, has not yet been completed.
 

Locks

The first lock was located several hundred meters after the exit of the tunnel. Its dimensions were 19 meters in useable length and 3.20 meters in width. It bore the number 12, meaning that it was the twelfth from Charleroi but the first on the Scheldt side. Nowadays, old locks of this type can no longer be seen.
They were the victims of the widening of the 300-ton canal, although Lock Number 12 was not demolished like the others, but rather covered in earth.
The level of the divide section - the water level at the upstream portion of the canal - was situated 22 meters above the lowest water level of the Sambre and 107.80 meters above that of the canal from Brussels to Rupel.


 

 
 

The Pont de l’Origine (Bridge of the Origin) at Seneffe

It bears this name because it was from this point that the tax to pay was calculated, corresponding to the distance of the boat’s route.
This tax holds the name of droit de navigation (navigation right) and is calculated in tons / kilometers. This bridge is a draw-bridge, meaning that it pivots while lifting up around an axis situated at the height of the deck.

The structure of the bridge is called a lattice structure, offering a navigable passageway of 6 meters. Its sway is balanced by a counterweight located in the upper part of its construction.

It can be maneuvered in this way with limited effort.

 
 

Canal or Bridge House

Located close to the Pont de l’Origine, its construction is typical of the style of its time.
This house, designed to be constructed in many copies, complemented the locks and the canal bridges for the lodging of service personnel.
The edifice, situated close to the Pont de l’Origine, seems to be the best-conserved specimen.
The arcs that overhang the overtures in the façade draw our attention, and its restoration shows the full extent of this beauty that is more than 150 years old.

 

 
 

The “Pont de la 20” in Seneffe

Called as such because of its location close to Lock Number 20, it also has other names: “le pont qui cliquette,” “le pont Jenne d’Arc” or also “le pont de Renissart.”

 

The Railroad Bridge of Arquennes

It was demolished in 1940 and replaced by a provisional bridge of the Bailey type which is, to this day, still in service. The Railroad Bridge of Arquennes.
This bridge, 200 meters in length, the first of its kind constructed for a railway passage, was inaugurated on August 2, 1854 and is today a registered historical site.
It was a standing bridge, with master beams and an upper deck trellis that included a central pile halfway from the abutments.
Out of the 10 spans that make up the bridge, only 2 remain. The rest have been filled in with earth.

The Arquennes Swing Bridge

This is a metallic ensemble dating back to 1832, comprised of a pedestrian walkway and a bridge for carting.

The walkway, which can be accessed by metal stairs, is made up of 2 arc-shaped metallic beams.

The floor is situated halfway up the arc, leaving a sufficiently large opening for boating traffic.
The bridge is a swing bridge, meaning that it pivots around a vertical axis situated in the middle of the canal.

The central section of the bridge rests on a round pile fitted with a pivot.
It is from this place that the rotation of the bridge is controlled, leaving on both sides of this pile a passage for boats.
This ensemble, destroyed during the war of 1940, was restored and listed as a historical site by the Royal Order of November 7, 1978.
 

 
 

Baquet Boats

 

Jean-Baptiste Vifquain designed a type of barge specially adapted for this small-sized canal.
This barge, nicknamed “baquet” or “sabot de Charleroi,” had a length of 2.60 meters and a width of 19 meters.
It could carry 70 real tons, for a recess of 1.8 meters.
Some boats, specially constructed to navigate on this canal, can still be seen in the Bellecourt branch.

They have been transformed into houseboats.
The first were constructed out of wood; later, they would have metallic constructions.
Some examples in reinforced concrete existed during World War I.
Quentin Halflants continues the manufacturing of these boats in his workshop located on the Rue du Rivage in Seneffe (close to la Marlette). For more information, you can call 067/87.92.

The 70-ton canal soon proved to be insufficient to absorb its traffic.
Starting in 1842, Vifquain proposed a widening to 300 tons.
It was the Law of April 4, 1879 that decreed the start of construction.
In the crossing of the Seneffe, no delay was noted; quickly, the large canal replaced the small canal.
The 70-ton canal offered a 15-meter water span, while the 300-ton canal offered a length of 25 meters. In the beginning, Vifquain proposed locks 41.50 meters in length between culverts for a length of 5.20 meters (the useable length of the lock being 38.50 meters).

Growing knowledge of equipment allowed one 300-ton lock to substitute two 70-ton locks in bridging the difference in level between the upstream section and the downstream section.
In this way, the enlargement of the drop brought about a reduction of the number of locks by half.

The larger dimensions of these new structures posed the problem of water supply to allow them to function normally.
Due to this issue, all of the locks, except for Lock Number 12, were equipped with two reservoir basins still visible today.
Vifquain had already used this solution when he created the Canal de Pommeroeul in Antoing, but with only one reservoir basin.

The lock doors of the 300-ton canal were removed in October 1979 and replaced, as a security measure, by a cofferdam, the canal having been downgraded from a navigation point of view, its management ceded to Water and Forestry.

 
 

Pont du Château – Château Bridge

The most remarkable of these bridges is, without question, the bridge that crosses the Samme, in the extension of the path leading to the château.
This bridge, constructed in cut stone, forms a fully-curved arc whose keystone bears the coat of arms of the Depestre family.
Unfortunately, this keystone has deteriorated heavily, and the coat of arms is now only a faint image of past splendor.

Pont d'Arquennes – Arquennes Bridge

It is listed among mixed and skew bridges.
Indeed, its arc and its siding materials are constructed out of cut stone, as well as the base along the river, while the archway itself is made up of masonry bricks.
This construction appeals to particular material discipline: stereotomy or the study of stone-cutting.
The complexity involved in fitting the materials leads to a specific study of each element.
The part in cut scone is in an acceptable condition for the time of the construction, but it is not the same case for the brick section.

 

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