The Sweet Chestnut of Hougoumont


A destiny...

The Sweet Chestnut (Castanea Sativa) of Hougoumont is an exceptional tree. It is a ‘living witness’ of events that marked history on the 18th of June 1815 during the famous Battle of Waterloo.

  The Sweet Chestnut of Hougoummont

The farm of Hougoumont was the scene of furious combat between the outnumbered British garrison who defended it and the numerous French troops who were trying to conquer it.

The Chestnut is in fact, the only survivor of a small wood that was standing to the south of the farm. This wood was separated from the farm by a 30 metre wide meadow. The Chestnut was standing on the northern edge of the wood facing the high walls of Hougoumont within range of musket fire.

Coming from the South, the French troops, under the lead of Jérôme Bonaparte (one brother of Napoleon) had to cross this wood to attack the farm. When the soldiers were coming out of the wood in direction of the farm they had to cross the meadow fully exposed to the British fire.

The assault on Hougoumont Hougoumont today
View on the battle

Due to its position, our Chestnut was on the frontline of the action that fateful day. Because of this, it received many musket balls, some of which are still embedded in his trunk. Two other chestnuts whose death might date back to no more than five to twenty years ago are still standing next to him forming a pathetic but monumental line. The trunks of both now naked dead trees are also riddled with musket balls. Their holes are well visible. Our survivor however, covered his under new bark. He is coming back to life every spring, defying time and weather. He is now the only survivor of the Battle of Waterloo.

The Sweet Chestnut is giving us fruits every year.

Numerous trees of the Hougoumont wood were victims of the defensive artillery fire because they were more remote from the crucially positioned farm and chateau. The shattered tree trunks wounded many French assailants trying to approach the farm. What was left of the wood after the battle was either cleared out or cut down. In its place now, a huge flat expanse of arable farmland leaving our three sentinels towering majestically over the bucolic Waterloo landscape. They now form a living memorial to the men of both armies that fought and died there on that historic day.

Aerial view of Hougoumont

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