Where does the name Woluwe-Saint-Pierre come from?

The name of the municipality comes from an affluent of the Seine which runs in a valley, the Woluwe, and Woluwe finds its etymology in the Germanic words “wele”, “woel” or “wale” (source or fountain) and “euw”, “eeu” or “eawe” (water). Woluwe-Saint-Pierre was successively called: Wolewe (1154), Obwolewa (1164), Welewe (1270); Woluwe Santi Cetri (1409) and St. Peters Woluwe (1435).

We had to wait until 1117 and the charter of the “cartulaire” of Forest to see, for the first time, the name of “Wolewe”. Woluwe-Saint-Pierre finds its origin in a significant hamlet made up of vast farms which remained exploited during nearly seven centuries by the abbey of Park (close to Leuven). We don’t know if our municipality was, at the beginning of its existence, managed by one or more lords of the manor; but we are sure that the abbey played an essential role there.

Round 1561, when there were rumblings of revolution against Spain, it became dangerous, the cloisters were devastated, the heretics held their meetings in the wood in order to raise the country against Philippe II. The bells of the Saint-Pierre church then were hidden and thus withdrawn from the requisition; it is only in 1585 that they founded their place. Poverty and famine prevailed then and ended only with the government of Albert and Isabelle. Those decided to improve, in 1617, the access roads between Brussels and Tervueren and built a roadway, known under the name of “street of the Duke”.

A little more than two centuries later, in 1795, when the French occupation started, the alarm bell goes back to sound, because the revolt thunders against the laws in force. It is one period of great insecurity not only for the campaigns, but also for the forests. Many armed bands crossed the wood, which will not be saved either by the inhabitants who, pushed by the inoccupation and poverty, braconnent and decimate thus most of fauna. Stags, deer, roe-deers and wild boars disappeared thus. Because heating coal and wood were rare and expensive, we started to exploit the peat bogs of the Valley of the Woluwe, those peat bogs were exploited till 1840. Because of the law of March 18th, 1800, the first Consul Napoleon Bonaparte removed the town councils of canton and restored the autonomy of the municipality. During this French period, the municipality, made up of several hamlets and localities, had, like the others, its mayor, his mayor-assistant and his town council. The first mayor of our municipality, Marc Fabry, and its assistant, Philippe Theunis, were sworn in on May 26, 1800.

The first municipal council took place on January 13th, 1819. At that time the mayor was Henri Van Keerbergen.

At that time, poverty had disappeared because of the new commercial tradings with the rest of the world. In 1830 when the temporary Belgian Governement started it immediately wanted new municipal council. The deputy mayors who were chosen among the upper middle class and according to a complicated system, had to be elected by direct election and paid by the citizens after 1830. This new council built the first public school in the municipality, which was also used as a city hall but was demolished in 1958 because a new city hall had been built ( Avenue Charles Thielemans 2). The new council also had to fight has Stockel will of indipendence.

When Léopold II became the king, the evolution of our municipality was kind of slow but the agriculture was still very important.

In 1880, the municipal coucil was asked to build a railroad going from Leopold neibourhood to Tervueren, the municipality was divided in two different areas and the municipality had two stations. We stopped using this railroad in 1958 and the bridge crossing the Avenue de Tervueren was demolished in 1972.

In 1897, for the International Exposition of the Cinquantenaire, Léopold II built the Avenue de Tervueren, a huge road surrounded by trees going from the Cinquantenaire till the Catsel of Tervueren. In order to accomodate all the visitors, he built a tramway. A lot of private mansions were built by famous architects along this road, for example the Palais Stoclet.

The municipality becomes more and more important and isn’t a rural municipality like it used to be.

Two years later, in 1899, the architect Lainé was asked by Léopold II to design a big park in the Valley of the Woluwe. In 1906, a racecourse was built in Stockel. This racecourse became really famous because of races but also because of big aerial events, famous pilots were attending those events. The racecourse was demolished in 1958, except for the stand. A leisure centre was built there in 1975.

After World War I, the municipality got more and more important. In 1921, the Agency for cheap houses (la Société locale d’Habitations à bon Marché) was created. With the financial help of the municipality, the agency built the cité-jardin by the wood and known as “Cité de Joli-Bois”. The partnership between the municipality and several real estates helped building several roads.

At the end of World War II, the urbanization was growing. The neighbourhood of Joli-Bois was created but also the neighbourhood of Stockel and the neigbourhood of Europe. The city hall was becoming more and more important so a new city hall was built. The new leisure center, the home Roi Baudoin, several community centres and the Cité de l’Amitié.

Since the city was getting more and more important, public transportation to Woluwe-Saint-Lambert had to be created and also the ring road of Brussels. The extension of the line of the tramway 39 was just created but also the Place Dumon and the last subway station of the line 1B, opened in 1988.


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