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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Hougoumont’s western kitchen garden :

For all discussions relating to the Hundred Days and Napoleon's final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Re: Hougoumont’s western kitchen garden :

Postby MarkW » January 28th, 2016, 4:53 pm

cheers Iain, that is one book still outstanding from my shelves - Glover's Clay original....fantastic find that and how you did it is well fantastic....the image of the battle is getting such wonderful and insightful redress and clarity with work like you are doing, Glover, Franklin, Adkins, Fields....

thank you and i look forward to your next updates

Mark W
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Re: Hougoumont’s western kitchen garden :

Postby Iain » January 29th, 2016, 6:47 am

On just about every map dating from 1777, the western kitchen garden is always surrounded by a hedgerow.
In the meantime..., I think I’ve come to the conclusion that there was NO, inside hedge during the battle, nor, was there a hedge separating the north and south parts of the garden.
I believe there was just one single hedge surrounding the north, west and south sides with a simple fence dividing the two halves; and another wooden fence extending along the lane.

Why:
Firstly; and totally independent of any military source, pure gardener’s logic would want the garden to have a maximum of eastern sunlight. (especially with the barn creating a late morning shadow) Also, a late afternoon shadow from the outside hedge would permit watering without baking the top-soil and burning the leaves.
Secondly, even today, when possible, we like to keep an eye on our garden’s security..., even if it’s just to ‘shooush’ away the birds. One of my 3xGreat Grandfathers was jailed in Kent for steeling an armful of fodder for his horse..., as such and in the same context, why plant a hedgerow to provide comfort to the gypsies and local thieves to uproot your precious vegetables and pinch all your strawberries. Lol..., ‘ça coule de source’!
As such, it’s not a hedge that lined the lane but a wooden fence.

Thirdly..., and to get back to our ‘lamp swinging’ Matthew !
On page 17 of his narrative:
Our company led into a long narrow kitchen garden, which was extended under cover of a close hedge, NEXT TO A CORNFIELD, through which the French skirmishers of the enemy could be seen advancing to attack.

On page 18 and kneeling by this outside hedge: (Clay being in the rear sub-division near the NW corner)
“Our Commanding Officer on his charger remained on the road BETWEEN THE FENCE of the garden and the exterior wall.”

Conclusion:
Following the retreat from the wood/haystack, Clay mentions that he kept to the high ground and this statement has always bothered me. (what, “high ground”?) The only high ground along the lane would have been the grassy bank between the lane and the wall. (probably 50 centimetres higher than the track)
Gann, on the other hand maintained the “low ground” with the result that the enemy was singling out Clay. He adds of course that it was his red coat that caught the attention of the enemy..., but in reality, I’m just about sure that our Old Soldier Robert was well out of sight and running down the hedge side of the garden.

When standing on the old perimeter of the wood, the lane can be seen with a positive dip beyond the western door and the garden to the left dips even further. To such an extent that the exterior hedge would have been nearly out of sight. (and with Gann’s experience he knew this)

Of course, another aspect of such a fence increases the arc of fire for the French. (quote Clay: “We were under intensive fire while kneeling by the hedge”!) Had there been two hedges, (the lane and the central one) they would have been invisible and they’d only have received stray small shot.

NOTE: Trees still to be added.
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Last edited by Iain on December 26th, 2016, 6:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Hougoumont’s western kitchen garden :

Postby MarkW » January 29th, 2016, 7:22 pm

great stuff
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Re: Hougoumont’s western kitchen garden :

Postby Iain » March 14th, 2017, 7:21 pm

Hi All…

Just been going through some of my old images trying to see what I can get out of them.
I took the image below during the winter of 2014 and as we can see, the shadows indicate a low sun with east to the left and west to the right.

I took the image from the site of old demolished Mathias farm (built in 1816) and we see an excellent view of the grassland that separated the farm and the sunken lane.
Remember in 1815, the sunken lane crossed this field to the ‘Chemin du Goumont.’ (the road we see leaving the farm) However, the lane did not turn right as it does today to take us to the Lion’s Mound, it continued north to the main Braine-l’Alleud > Waterloo road.

Now…, look at the snow on the left.
This clearly shows a ridge along the northern wall with the snow being shaded by a low, December sun. Meanwhile; it clearly indicates a sharp slope down to the grassland.
Moving closer, we see a clump of trees and to the right and left of the clump, there’s another shallow ridge…, in harmony with the snow.
Now look left to the foreground and we see another downwards slope…, and to the right, we can see a trench that some farmer dug to drain the pond/s. Today it’s a large drainage pipe and it passes under the lane. There are two of them…, meaning that there was much water to evacuate !

I don’t think it needs much imagination to visualize the size and the position of the pond/s in 1815.
What’s more, although it’s easy to imagine the exact location, we must also take into consideration that following 200 years of soil erosion, this field must have accumulated hundreds of tons of earth spilling from the ridge and the surrounding pasture land. Especially following the construction of the ‘new’ autoroute and the demolishing of the Mathias farm.
Note…, Waterloo Uncovered found many bricks in this field. Probably thrown into the pond to get rid of all the demolished buildings.

Also…, two wells in the farm !
Indicating that in 1815 and independent of the streams from the ridge, such a pond would have also been filled by numerous springs.

PS
Lol… look at the horizon and the snow to the right. This is the first time I’ve really noticed the start of any valley between La Belle Alliance and the ridge. With your back to the tavern, this feature is extremely difficult to comprehend.
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Re: Hougoumont’s western kitchen garden :

Postby Iain » March 27th, 2017, 2:07 pm

Concerning the potential size and position of the Hougoumont pond: (on the day; not two..., just one)

Hi All…

Not very proud of myself in having lost the URL of this tourist’s video; nonetheless, I did manage to captured a few fuzzy frames. (annexed)

Something important to remember here is the fact that this part of the northern field has taken on hundreds of tons of top soil due to erosion and ploughing over the past 200 years.

Now, if you look at 1A, we can see the northern gate. Where we’re standing is the Chemin du Goumont and it was about here where the sunken lane finished. Just beneath us is today's evacuation pipe. (one of two because there's a lot of water to eliminate in that field) Note; if this pipe didn’t exist in 1815, then the waters would obviously have been much higher than the level we see in the images below.

1B is further along the Chemin du Goumont and slightly higher, we now see the water on what was the cornfield in 1815…, with the horse standing on the northern end of the kitchen garden. To the left of the horse (unseen) is the Chemin du Goumont leading to the northern gate.

1C and on the far side; shows how the pond skirted the ‘Neanderthal’ track heading north. From here, we also see part of the western lane (bottom right) with the horse still on the kitchen garden. The northern haystack was probably where the horse was standing because from the haystack at the time, they could see the northern gate.

It pleases me to think that the Newspaper Reporter for the Bristol Mirror on the 16th of September 1815 was probably not that much of a ‘lamp swinger’ after all !
Writing that “when standing by the gate, it was like a moat surrounding the farm.”
Said..., well after the Battle date in the 'middle' of summer. (perhaps one week later)

PS
Concerning the 1st Léger when they attacked that morning, (including the remainder of Napoleon’s left flank) they were obviously limited to the kitchen garden for any western assault on the farm because a large part of the cornfield up to the kitchen garden must have been under water.

PPS
1A and the grassy island. Could this be the spot where all the chateaus’ bricks were thrown following the battle ? ('out of sight, out of mind') Meaning that the pond was a permanent feature and much deeper than many are inclined to admit.
Note; Waterloo Uncovered have already researched part of this field and found a lot of bricks. As such; this allows me to imagine a parasole on a rowing boat for some pleasurable fishing during the warm summer days. A Gentleman Farmer's lifestyle in relation to the formal garden !

PPPS…
Many specialists have since made the remark that in my kitchen garden image, my estimation of the size of the pond was a bit on the big side. In the meantime and thanks to this video, I can not only see that I’m not too far off the mark, but I can also push the 'pond' south and around the kitchen garden. (in regards to the 18th)

PPPPS…
Something has just occurred to me. In the text above, I mention the evacuation pipe.
With all my research so far, I have a stream running alongside the sunken lane. (north side and being a source of water for the pond) A logical thing to have when you consider the lane to have been semi-pebbled acording to the specialist Alasdair White; and had there not been a stream, the waters flowing from the ridge would have washed away the surface.
What’s more…, (lol) I also need something deep for Matthew Clay to nearly drown in.
But more to the point: If, there was a stream running parallel to the lane, then the position of this evacuation pipe is simply there because it followed the direction of the original stream. Providing us with an exact position for the sunken lane's 'T-junction.'
Cela coule de source... ;)

PPPPPS…
This image also tends to eliminate the fairytale images of The Waggon Train hurtling towards the gates with ammunition.
If these images are anything to go by, then the road was surely under water. Meaning that the Waggon Train used the sunken lane before crossing the cherry orchard to the north gate. (next to no Enemy fire power and moving very slowly)

…, Iain.
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3 Panorama with flood image (low pixels).jpg
3 Panorama with flood image (low pixels).jpg (79.56 KiB) Viewed 12 times
1 Hougoumont moat.jpg
1 Hougoumont moat.jpg (190.56 KiB) Viewed 97 times
2 Pond bordering lane.jpg
2 Pond bordering lane.jpg (101 KiB) Viewed 97 times
Last edited by Iain on April 22nd, 2017, 9:07 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Hougoumont’s western kitchen garden :

Postby Iain » March 30th, 2017, 2:08 pm

Looks like I got my bearings wrong.
The ‘T’ junction was much closer to the gates and the evacuation pipe is well to one side. (must check for the second)

Note: This could also mean that on the day, the western end of the sunken lane could also have been under water.
Meaning that ALL access to the farm was done via the sunken lane hedgerow giving on to the orchard.
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