The town of Doornzele lies just west of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal. In a 966 charter the town is summed up together with Sprendonk and Mendonk. It belonged then not to Evergem but to Desteldonk and before the Sasse Canal it had very different borders. Even before the Charter of 1248 Doornzele belonged to the parish of Evergem.
In 1547 the Sasse Canal was dug to connect the city of Ghent with the sea. The canal was first used on 4 April 1563. It thoroughly changed the outlook of Doornzele that would now for a few dozen years be a strategic junction.
On 28 October 1577 Jan van Hembyze and his gang took power in Ghent. And for the next 6 years the defenses of the Calvinist fortress that Ghent had now become were perfected. And this state of affairs had its repercussions also in Doornzele where the new regime forced the Sisters to leave the abbey. The sackings, theft of cattle and hostage takings by freeloaders and foreign soldiers and the quartering of these foreign soldiers who were supposed to protect our regions against the protestant freeloaders would last until well beyond 1605. Even so in that year the situation was still pretty desperate. For instance in Doornzele only two of the 18 leaseholders (pachters) paid something of their rent. On 9 April 1609 Spain and the protestant United Provinces (now more or less the territory of the Netherlands) concluded a peace deal and a period of 12 years of relative calm began.
From 1621 till 1645 it was more of the same and it is hard to say which was worst: the raids by gangs from the protestant north or the foreign soldiers here for the noble purpose of recovering the protestant Netherlands for Rome or for France, Spain or Habsburg Austria. The Treaty of Munster brought all this to an end. But the sigh of relief soon proved premature because now once again the French king saw his chance to get our regions back under his reign. And this fight was to last on and off till 1713 when our regions entered the Austrian period. But on 11 July 1744 Ghent was taken by French troops and now our regions became part of France.
In 1755 an infectious cattle disease broke out in Doornzele, Kluizen and Winkel. The bishop of Ghent put up guard posts in the surrounding villages to prevent the export of cattle from the infected region. This was to last for 15 years.
In 1825 during the reign of the Dutch king Willem I the canal was prolonged to Terneuzen. Now it is called the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, it is 32 km long and 200 meters wide. It allows access to ships of up to 125,000 tons.
In the afternoon of 22 May 1940 the church and the presbytery were destroyed by incendiary bombs. The whole parish helped to quickly build a small emergency church and in 1942 the bell that had survived the bombing was transferred here. On 17 February 1944 the Germans came to take that bell away.
The plans for Doornzele's current church were drafted in 1951 by the Ghentian architect Valentijn Vaerwyck. The new church was consecrated on 5 September 1955 by the bishop of Ghent, Monseigneur Calewaert. The tower clock was not installed until 1963. This is a very nice modern neo-Gothic building. It is full of light and devotion.
The Reverend Vanderpoorten who became Doornzele's parish priest in 1944 had to wait for his new presbytery till 1970. He died on 3 January 1971, just before its inauguration.
Doornzele has a remarkable windmill. It replaced a wooden postmill that had been built on the same spot in 1414. It was listed as a protected monument back in 1939 when it was exactly 100 years old.
There is nothing easier to accomplish (for a politician) than to make a solemn declaration: now that the mill was a listed monument its upkeep could be safely ignored and so its decline set in. This decline was accelerated by the February 1948 storm which blew off its cap and caused other damage but no reaction from the politicians. The upper floors then collapsed but still nothing was done.
Action to save the windmill was delayed until it became clear even to the most addlepated that it would take quite a few thousand euros to restore the ruin to its former glory. (Let's face it no one can pocket a meager million dollars of the tax payers' money if there is no way of justifying a budget of a mere one hundred thousand. Do I claim to know of some kind of hanky-panky here? Definitely not. Is this the one exception that proves the rule? No, there might be more than one.)
In 2001 a noble politician declared this windmill had to be saved for posterity and now at last real money could be spent liberally to transform a listed monument into what looks a bit like a lighthouse. And two years later he came back to officially open it and of course also hoping to wring (political) capital out of the feel good factor: he praised all those who made this fabulous result possible. All that is except the taxpayers who coughed up the money.
Doornzele is since 1977 administratively part of
Evergem together with
The source of much of the above is the Geschiedenis van Evergem (History of Evergem) a two volume study by Achiel De Vos and his workgroup, published in 1994.
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