One of the most remarkable structures in Belgium is the 17th-century castle of Mesen. It is located in a park in Lede, and throughout the years it was the home of many members of the nobility. The first map of the structure dates back to 1628. For some time, it was a strategic castle used as a fortress. Built and destroyed several times, today the castle is ruined and completely abandoned. The castle’s facade was redesigned in the 18th century by the architect Giovanni Niccolo Servandoni. In addition to the castle built for Duke d’Ursel in Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode in Hingene, Belgium, Mesen Castle is considered to be one of his major works.
The castle was built for its first owners, the Bette family. At the beginning of the 17th century, the castle was used as a residence, and after 1796, during the Industrial Revolution, it became a tobacco factory, a potash refinery, a sugar refinery, and a gin distillery. The tobacco factory was situated in the caves of the buildings, and some machines from that time remain in the building.
Later, in the 20th century, Mesen was sold to a religious order which placed a boarding school in the newly constructed neo-Gothic chapel. Before the school moved to Lede and became Lede Boarding School, it was located in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France until its destruction. After WWI, it became a girls’ school where the teaching was rigorous, disciplined, and performed in French. In Belgium, the school was supported and financed by the aristocracy.
150 people were allowed to visit the school per month and the students were only permitted to return home for one month of the year. The youngest students were five years old and mentored by an older student who was responsible for their behavior, clothes, and well-being. The oldest girls in the school had private rooms with personal baths, while the younger girls slept in communal dormitories.
The school chapel still stands adjacent the castle and features an impressive blue carpet in the derelict setting. After 13 years of education, the girls were capable of working and were trained in housekeeping. After the school closed, the castle was given to the Ministry of Defence, who left the structure empty to deteriorate for years.
Any restoration was considered an unnecessary expense, and the authorities refused to designate it a historical monument. The castle was eventually completely demolished in 2010, but before its destruction was a popular site for urban exploration. Many visitors came to see the eerie castle and took impressive photographs of the ruined interior.
There were several outbuildings around the castle including the chapel, orangery, and stables. Explorers who visited the abandoned residence said that traces and artifacts from the building’s history remained. Many photographs were taken of the bathrooms, kitchen, classrooms, and other rooms. Entry to the castle was forbidden, and anyone caught attempting to go inside would be stopped by authorities immediately.
Nevertheless, UrbExers were not deterred. They found ways to enter the building unnoticed, and because of them, records of this stunning building exist today. In addition to photographs, there is even a video game about a man trapped inside the castle called Escape From Abandoned Kasteel Van Mesen Castle. It was developed by Eight Games, and it is a point and click room escape game. In the game, various hints, clues, and objects have to be discovered and solved to get out of the haunted castle.