June 15, 2014 in Urban Exploration

Chateau de Noisy

The tragically abandoned castle of Chateau de Noisy (known locally as ‘Chateau Miranda’) is located in Celles, southern Belgium. This neo-gothic masterpiece is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the fortune to photograph, despite its advanced state of neglect.

Construction took place between 1866 and 1907 when it was built as residence for the aristocratic Liedekerke-Beaufort family. Today it is on the verge of collapse: derelict for decades, ravaged by arson and pummelled by the onslaught of weather. Its imposing exterior walls look deceptively strong, but the old structure is deteriorating with increasing rapidity as its internal timbers splinter with dry rot.

The building was conceived in the wake of the French revolution. It was an era marked by the decline of powerful monarchies and the rise of democracy. Count Liedekerke-Beaufort had left the nearby feudal castle of Vèves to hide in a farm outside a village near Celles. Situated just a few miles from the border with Luxembourg, the surrounding countryside is filled with verdant green woodland and secluded valleys: a perfect place for refugee aristocrats to bide their time and quietly safeguard their riches.

The Count’s farm gradually grew larger, finally evolving into this enormous castle when he commissioned an English architect to design his family a residence more befitting of their noble lineage. Featuring towers, conical roofs, and other elaborate neo-gothic details, the structure is a true gem to behold.

When the municipality of Celles recognised the castle’s impending collapse, they approached its owners and offered to save the structure. The family, however, refused to let go of their property, preferring instead to file for demolition of the castle in December 2013.

A group of concerned Celles residents responded to this decision by forming a coalition which is trying to save Chateau Noisy from being knocked down. They began a petition which now holds over 1,200 signatures and managed to secure the attention of Belgian government Minister Antonio Di Carlo, who visited the property in February 2014 and was impressed enough to give it a temporary one-year reprieve of demolition. Against the owner's wishes, it is now being considered for a place on the heritage register as a place of special historic interest. If the application to save Noisy is granted, its owner will ironically be obliged to provide 60% of the subsidies for building work, which will now be an extremely expensive bill given its careless abandonment.

The local Walloon administration will conduct an investigation to determine whether the castle will be listed on the register for protection. In order for this to happen, the castle must be judged to have "unique character, being representative of an era and a style of architecture, heritage and historical perspective." I, for one, feel that it fulfils all of those criteria – so let us hope that Chateau Noisy will remain to be marvelled at by future generations too.

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