Rendez-vous at Town of Bailleul
Briefly occupied by the Germans in October 1914, Bailleul soon became a rearguard base for the British Army fighting on the front in Flanders. However on 15th April 1918 the Germans once again took the town as they advanced westwards. For more than three months, until its liberation on 31st July, Bailleul was shelled almost everyday by the British and, later, by the French. More than 100,000 shells landed on the town, destroying 98% of its buildings. Among the most prominent architectural features to be destroyed was the bell tower, built in 1686, which was crowned with a statue of the town's legendary protectoress: Mélusine the Fairy. Miraculously, the old 13th century guardroom standing at the foot of the tower escaped destruction.
Lille architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier was given the responsibility for rebuilding Bailleul and relished in the opportunity to produce some designs which reflected the Flemish ideal; however he did respect the traditions of certain dogmas, as can be seen in Saint-Vaast Church which is faithful to the Romano-Byzantine style. In spite of financial difficulties resulting from overdue state aid, the reconstruction did nonetheless provide the town with a modern infrastructure comprising schools, a hospital, a museum and so on.
Probably the greatest achievement of the architect from Lille was his design for the town hall and the bell tower, buildings which the Flemish consider to be symbols of their independence. He gave full vent to his regionalist ideas by including a central brattice, a corner tower, corbie-steps, and an impressive roof punctuated with dormer windows to give the building a strong Flemish character. The adjoining bell tower, also built in brick, towers a lofty 62 metres above the ancient guardroom and is topped with an onion dome and a statue of Mélusine, the fairy protectoress of the town.