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Sitting in the middle of the woods near the village of Celles, you almost won’t see this portentous ruin of a castle until you’re practically next to its stone walls. The trees, especially with the summer rain, have done a good job in keeping the building even more secluded. As this is private property, visitors are not really welcomed through the front gate, a small hike across the forest is necessary to reach it. There is a guard on the property – which we never saw in the 4 hours we spent in our visit – and you can incur in a 250 Euro fine if caught trespassing. Regardless, the castle is quite the pilgrimage place: from moderns age explorers, photography and architecture lovers, simple tourists looking for excitement, to Satanists choosing it for rites practice, Miranda attracts them all! The countless coke and beer cans spread out everywhere and many graffiti sadly testify to the disrespect of many.
Despite its evident state of disrepair, the sight of Chateau Miranda gave us goose bumps. It’s still majestic in its crumbling walls and broken windows (more than 500 of them). Its many towers and conical roofs give it an extra fairy tale magic! Designed by English architect Edward Milner, who died before he could see his work completed, was then replaced by French architect Pelchner. He extended the property largely and built the clock tower that serves the main façade of the building. The beautiful landscaped gardens around it welcomed guests for summer parties hosted by the Liedekerke-Beaufort family, who used it until World War II, when it was occupied by German troops during the battle of the Bulge.
In the 1950’s, Belgium’s National Railway Company took over Château Miranda, renaming it Château de Noisy and turning it into a summer camp for children. The ground floor still keeps the remains of its many locker rooms, bathrooms and schooling rooms. It received up to 200 children coming from Belgium, France and Italy. The huge kitchen served healthy meals and the round fountain on the back of the chateau was turned into a swimming pool. The summer camp project was abandoned around 1980, when the costs with maintenance became too many to bear.
After efforts to turning the castle into a hotel failed, Château Noisy was definitely abandoned in 1991. 25 years past, the beautiful château is now a derelict wonder. Its beauty still impacts those who arrive through the woods in silent steps, weary of a possible existing guard who has, meanwhile, accepted the excursions of visitors to the place and left several notes around its standing walls “Please respect the castle and the forest”, it appeals. This request seems almost senseless. The castle has its outer walls standing but that is about it! The basement is flooded and foundations lay rotting. In 1995 a fire destroyed most of the top floor and the trees have been standing when once wooden floors were. The luxurious blue marble fireplaces and hardwood floors were then stripped down and sold by the family to be used in a neighboring farm and transplanted to another castle in Italy. Then, in 2006 a violent storm made another part of the roof to collapse. Currently, there are ceiling lamps standing in an open sky, rain falls freely and trees are claiming the remains of the castle as their own, the ruins of the barely existing floor entangled with branches.
It’s dangerous to go up until the very last floor as every step has to be measured carefully. However when you finally do reach it, there’s a breath-taking view from the clock tower over the Ardennes hills and the Vêves castle peeking behind it.
Alleging an increasing risk for the safety of its many visitors, the Liedekerke-Beaufort family filed for demolition in 2013. Many petitions against the loss of this heritage castle have been taken forward meanwhile, encouraging the local government to prevent the demolition and find a solution that would enable its restoration maintaining the original facades.
In February 2014, the Minister Di Carlo Antonio enrolled the castle as a candidate to being included on a walloon heritage conservation list. However, the Wallonian administration has determined the castle was not worthy to be ranked. Its faith lays once again on the decision of the owners who have, so far, refused private and public offers to take over the castle. Its rehabilitation costs are estimated in between 20 to 25 Million €. A Belgian-Luxembourgish group would have made an offer of € 4,000,000 in order to turn it into a hotel – restaurant. A second group would have proposed to invest € 10 to € 15 million for another project.
The commune of Houyet still needs to give the approval for demolition. What will be the ending for this fairy-tale place? Sign the petition to prevent this heritage site from disappearing.