Visiting Roncq, northern France: town at the crossroads of history, with architecturally distinguished buildings
Lesson in the fluidity of borders
Roncq has existed in one form or another long before France or nearby Belgium emerged as countries.
Before the Franco-Belgian border was fixed in its current location, the area around Roncq suffered the coming and going of armies from various countries. In the 16th century the Lord of Halluin owned the area; then it passed to Spaniards, then to French, then to Austrians, before finally becoming French in 1668 (although also invaded by Prussians in Napolenic times and by German troops in World Wars 1 and 2).
Some noted local buildings include the following:
This old church, with an 18th century tower, was the hub around which the town grew up. In fact, the name Roncq was settled upon as the town's name only after it had long been referred to by this church's name.
It contains some ancient gravestones.
Château des Tilleuls
The Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) is housed in a distinctive building. The Town Hall building itself is known as the Château des Tilleuls, built in 1859.
It took on its current municipal role in 1975.
Château de Verhaeghe
The Secondary Town Hall , housed in the Château Verhaeghe, was built in 1907, replacing a former building dating from 1775. It was rebuilt post-World War 2, after a fire.
It is named for Joseph Verhaeghe, who became the owner in 1922.
This building was erected in 1910. It replaced an earlier structure known as the Château Lagache.
The building now houses a cultural centre.
A particular feature of the Château Tiberghien which impressed me when I visited Roncq, was its fine gardens in its Vansteenkiste Park, including a well manicured floral display in the form of the town's coat of arms.
France's myriad cheese varieties contribute to its outstanding gastronomic heritage.
For its part, a specialty of cheese for which Roncq is distinguished is known as the Crayeux de Roncq .
Also worth seeing
Menen, Belgium (distance: 6.7 kilometres), situated in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, has an interesting octagonal tower, dating from the 17th century, on its Town Hall.
Tourcoing (distance: 6.9 kilometres) has many distinguished buildings, including a belfry, and the City Hall dating from 1885.
Lille, France (distance: 18 kilometres), has cultural attractions too numerous to mention, but these include the picturesque place du General de Gaulle , with its Old Stock Exchange (la vieille Bourse ) and the nearby Chamber of Commerce belfry; and General de Gaulle's birthplace museum.
Comines, France (distance: 9.9 kilometres), separated by the historic Lys River from the Belgian part of its conurbation, it has an interesting Town Hall belfry, and a bust of the Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes in the grounds of St. Chrysole church.
Renescure, France (distance: 66 kilometres), has an old castle, now the Town Hall, associated with the Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes.
Mont de l'Enclus/Kluisberg, Belgium (distance: 38 kilometres), a picturesque, wooded hill through which the French/Dutch linguistic frontier runs.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Roncq (distance: 116 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
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