The lifestyle in rural Belgium as reflected in the working and living conditions at the turn of the 19th century in Flemish Brabant were all vastly different than are today. For example, the house in which Jozef De Veuster, who became the most famous citizen of Tremelo, Father Damiaan1, most likely grew up was one of the very few brick dwellings in this poor Campine ('Kempen') community. Such brick houses are near the center of the village, close by the church. The household in which Jozef De Veuster grew up also probably was more prosperous than the average in the region; his father was a farmer and grain dealer. A sign of the De Veuster family's affluence was that young Josef was sent to a residential monastery school in the village of O.L.V. Waver, which lies about 15 km northwest of Tremelo, so he could lear 'proper' French. (O.L.V. = "Onze Lieve Vrouw" = Our Dear Lady = Mary, the mother of Jesus.)
Meanwhile, Jozef's contemporaries from poorer families went to the local school but often had to stay home to help with the chores. Many often did not get to school at all, and generally did so only when work allowed. As a result, most went to school only in the winter. But many also attended a "Sunday school" organized by the local priest for teaching of the catechism, and some managed to learn to read while there. So no doubt the education received by such children from moderately poor families was not up the high standard offered in monastic and private schools. But how did the more severe generalized poverty affect the children's education?
At the end of the 19th century ordinary people in the various hamlets away from central Tremelo lived almost exclusively in small clay-walled houses.
around Tremelo provided the alder- and willow -branches that
reinforced the clay-soil-straw 'mortar' of the walls but larger
pieces of wood for carpentry was obtained from Westmeerbeek, 15
away. A full cart load of top ends of oak, usually lopsided and
crooked, was brought to the site where the house was to be built and
straightened out there. Generally no flooring was to be installed and
stone was needed only for the chimney. Thatching was the common
The prospective 'householder', with the help of friends and neighbours, would start work on a given Sunday on his new house. At the end of the day work was stopped for a week and resumed the next Sunday. By the end of that Sunday the little house was done and ready for occupancy. Only a few more elaborate stone houses took longer to complete.
André Deblaere, after viewing this page wrote that "his great-grand father Karel Deblaere and his wife had lived in a similar little wattle-and-daub hut in the woods of Wingene. Such cottages were built in one night on the property of a local knight there who lived comfortably in his castle. They had to be built overnight so that, according to ancient rights, they could not be expropriated, i.e. the dwellers could not be driven off. But there's more to their story..."
devoted priest who, almost all alone, changed the life and the faith
of the lepers of Molokaï, Hawaii.
1a The description of the house construction in and around Tremelo at the turn of the 19th century were contributed by Roger Verhaegen <email@example.com>. They were drawn from the book "Tremelore 1900" written by Rik Wouters, Kruisstraat 101, 3120 Tremelo, Belgium. Jan Van Looy, a native of Tremelo provided translations of the local dialect.
2 This house is in the open air museum at Bokrijk, province of Limburg, Belgium.
3 The photos of the house and of the wattle-and-daub construction is from <www.netpar.com.br/COLEMONTS/BELGICA/INDEX.HTM> courtesy <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Although those mentioned above, and others accidentally omitted, provided most of the content of this site, the overall objectives of this Website and all failings and errors are the sole responsility of Marcel Blanchaer and he invites you to send him your comments, corrections and suggestions.
See some of the stories Tremeloners told.