Grand Hornu (Wallonia - Belgium)

As I mentioned in the last post, during industrial revolution, Belgium was a major supplier of coal to all industries across Europe. There are 4 major coal mining sites in Belgium that are listed under UNESCO and 2 of those are very close to Mons. One of those is Grand Hornu, indeed a grandiose of places!
It has a quite interesting history. This was built in 19th C by Henri Joseph Degorge LeGrand. He was originally from an economically poor background who grew to own the most sophisticated and biggest coal mine of Belgium. That made him a beautiful mix of socialist and capitalist ideas! When he bought a huge piece of agricultural land which turned out to be sitting on a huge coal reserve, he built the mine. Very interestingly he built it with neo classical style, just like the churches of the era.

His wages were good and the housing he built for the workers was relatively large for the era. Those houses even included private bathrooms & toilets which was really luxurious, for the working class of that era! All houses were duplex and had 4 windows. The engineers had a larger house than that which had 6-8 windows!! The houses had separate rooms for parents, boys and girls. He himself had a bungalow in the middle of the street.

He came up with several ideas which were too forward thinking for the era. He made primary education compulsory for all the children of mining workers and had set up a school in the community. Then they were all taken in as miners. The children who studied well were given a chance to study further to engineering with an assured job as an engineer in the mine! In an era when a labourer's child had no educational option, to come up higher in social strata was unheard of! Henri LeGrand realized the importance of giving them education would not only help them, but also earn him loyal workers and skilled engineers for his own mines!!! This whole concept is called 'Industrial Paternalism'.

With so much of skill and forward thinking, he was a pioneer in several aspects including introduction of industrial railways to transport coal. For all his leadership skills, he was elected as the senator in the first ever cabinet of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1831. Sadly he passed away in 1832, of suspected cholera.
This was then, liquidated and various pieces of land was sold to various people and the construction material was being just removed by surrounding people for their own uses. It was in 1971, the architect Henri Guchez, took it on himself to renovate the place. 

Today the whole place is open to public for viewing and understanding the mining culture of Belgium. The coal pits are now closed and 2 circles can be spotted at the car park which were once the pits. The various rooms like horse shed, workers shed etc are now being used for exhibitions, museums, library as well as a restaurant. The entire central region is just huge and fascinating and to some extent reminding me of the Royal Cresent in Bath, England.

The houses in the quarters are now private properties though. The bungalow of LeGrand houses an institute and 1 of the houses in the street is still maintained as it was but being a private property, cannot be accessed inside. Btw, that's our guide Ms.Aubane with me, who told me the fascinating history of LeGrand.

The crypt of LeGrand is also within the premises where the tombs of both him and his wife Eugene are located. There are several empty spots around it and it was the first ever time I saw empty spots in a crypt and it was honestly, creepy!!! Yes, those are used by local cats as resting spots, so care is to be taken when climbing down as a startled cat can jump onto you!!!

To Stay:
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Mons Town Centre.
Here’s my review of Hotel Dream where I stayed.

To Get There:
On Google Maps: Grand Hornu
To reach Mons: Refer to my earlier post
To Grand Hornu: 9km on N51
Regular buses (no:7 & no:9) are available from Mons SNCB and takes about 30mins travel time.

Entry Ticket & Timings:
€8; Tue-Sun 10:00AM to 6:00PM. Free entry with museumpassmusees
€14 for combined ticket with Bois du Luc.
Inclusive in Mons Card
Ticket can be bought at the entrance of the site 
Free entry on first Sunday of every month.
Free guided tour is available subject to availability of guides on Tue-Sat 11AM & Sun 3PM.

P.S: I was invited by Visit Mons and Wallonia Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. Didn't know at all about Belgium's coal mining history, and really enjoyed reading about it and the Grand Hornu site.

  2. What a guy LeGrand was! Making education compulsory is a very important initiative, apparently just one of many he accomplished during his lifetime! I've never heard of the Grand Hornu before, so really glad to have stumbled across your post!

  3. Clarice Lao / Camping for WomenJune 9, 2018 at 12:16 PM

    These are good to know. I love visiting heritage sites as they are rich in history and the stories fascinates me. Would love to visit this wonderful place in the future.

  4. Loved reading this post. Didn't know this side of Belgium. Very rich in culture and history. We need more men guys like LeGrand around.

  5. Henri LeGrand sounds like such a nice guy for that time - I especially love reading what he did for education! Mining communities, relics and museums fascinate me a lot - I'm from what was traditionally a mining community in Wales, and our past is definitely cemented in our surroundings. I guess I'd feel a connection with this place in that way, definitely somewhere I should visit!

  6. Wow there is so much history to this place. Providing free education to kids and housing for miners, LeGrand was way ahead of his time. You are right, the empty crypts do look creepy.

  7. Loved reading this post.

  8. I always love how detailed your guides and articles are. I love the fact that LeGrand made education compulsory, I wish it was so all around the world, but we still have to work towards it. I will try and visit this place next week as I'm heading to Belgium! :)

  9. Grand Hornu seems so charming and it is indeed very rich in history, Bhushavali. Thanks for bringing this place closer and telling us its story. It seems like a must visit when exploring Belgium!

  10. Very interesting to see a guy like LeGrand with so many progressive ideas back in the beggining of the 19th century, even if it was to make sure to get a pool of educated workers it's still really good. I like to read stories like that!

  11. This is very interesting and its awesome that they built a museum for coal mining! It's cool that you've got to visit it with your friend.


  12. That is a lovely gem that you have discovered. I loved the story behind the town - how one single person made a different to the mining community. Bringing in the schools, railways...totally inspirational. Thanks for this read.

  13. you keep opening up new, lovely locations around Belgium. When I have been there, I have only seen regular touristic stuff.

  14. I am going to Europe in less than a week and I do have coal mining history on my mind. While, I had been to Belgium but never explored it from this angle. I am quite intrigued to try out this time.

  15. I think back then they will treat as "coal like gold!" Purchasing a land, and discovering your are sitting on top of the reserve is a holly molly blessing! He helped to built the Belgium's history.


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