We know for a fact that wine, beer and spirits are heavily consumed at the Battle of Waterloo. The beer is brewed locally, the spirits from local genièvreries or imported from Holland and Britain. The first bottle of Guinness (on the continent) is officially consumed at the farm as recorded by an English officer.
Anthony Martin seeks to brew and relaunch the Waterloo brand; from the family owned Hotel in the “Sucrerie de Waterloo”. A company restructuring delays the development.
Adrien Desclée, is able to brew and launch the Waterloo brand, with both a Dark and a Strong Blond version.
Anthony and Adrien unite their forces and embark on a daring challenge: to increase the nobility of Waterloo Beer, from the battlefield to the bar. Waterloo joins Timmermans, Guinness, Gordon, Bourgogne and others; all members of the John Martin Finest Craft Beer Selection.
Mont-Saint-Jean farm, the protected and listed “English Hospital” in the very heart of the Waterloo Battlefield, is bought and completely renovated by Anthony Martin’s group. Brewing starts immediately.
The presence of both the descendants of the Prince of Waterloo (the Duke of Wellington) and of Napoléon Bonaparte at the farm, mark the bicentenary celebrations. Thousands gather to celebrate its renovation. The new Medical Museum becomes a must visit on the Battlefield.
The microbrewery is joined by a micro distillery; Waterloo gin is distilled, and a year later the first oak vats of the future whisky (launched in 2020).
After lengthy negotiations with local authorities, construction starts on the new contemporary extension accommodating the restaurant, ageing cellars, exhibition and other meeting facilities.
Amidst the COVID19 crisis and extensive building developments at the farm, Sales of Waterloo suffer in the bar sectors, at home and for export, but reach record levels in supermarkets everywhere. Waterloo Whisky is launched by Edward Martin, Anthony’s youngest son.
The new building is finally inaugurated, delayed by the Covid19 crisis. The Restaurant is opened, the oak barrels in the new cellar slowly filled with the future whisky although production is doubled with the new craft distillery, the Museum is extended and the Anthony Martin group of companies moves its Head Offices from Genval to the Waterloo farm.
THE FARM THEN
Waterloo Beer is brewed with care and love at the Mont-Saint-Jean farm, which is located on the battlefield of Waterloo. The reputation of this historic site, adjacent to Waterloo, Plancenoit and Braine-l’Alleud, extends well beyond the fighting on 18 June 1815.
In 1219, Mont-Saint-Jean was already in Henry I’s Charter, a donation by the Wasseige family to the order of Saint John of Jerusalem, later to become the Order of Malta, whose famous cross is still above the entrance to the house since 1682. In 1230, the farm comes under Commander Arnould.
The vast buildings are leased from the 14th century onwards and taken over by the Boucquéau family in 1657. In August 1705, the farm witnessed its first major battle, when the Duke of Marlborough left Mont-Saint-Jean to attack the French army in Overijse.
The present buildings date from 1719, although converted to a closed square property in 1765. The site includes a house, brewery, stables, piggery, barns, oven, sink, and a chapel. In 1765, the road on which the farm was located (initially in the east) was moved to where it stands today. This important detail not relayed on Napoleon’s map is said to be the reason he wrongly attacked the other farm at La Haye Sainte in 1815.
Major renovations were undertaken in 1778. After the French Revolution, the farm is declared National Property, only to be re-acquired by a private owner, Gregory Boucquéau, in 1815.
In 1846, the farm is sold to the Claus family (Flanders farmers), who remain there until 2005.
The farm played a key role during the Battle of Waterloo. Indeed, the Duke of Wellington decided to establish his field hospital there during the famous 'Duchess of Richmond Ball', held on 15 June 1815 in Brussels.
6,500 wounded soldiers were treated there, under Deputy Inspector Gunning's (Royal Army Medical Corps), hence the name of the English Hospital: “l’Hôpital des Anglais”.
British soldiers were not the only ones to be cared for at Mont-Saint-Jean. For four days, doctors and surgeons attended ceaselessly to the many injured and dying. The scene was one of carnage and, according to the evidence, "amputated limbs were piled around the farmyard". The number of victims rose to 63,000 following the four battles that took place between 15-18 June 1815.
Prince William of Orange-Nassau was treated there for a shoulder injury before being transferred to Brussels. In 1826, his father, King William I of Netherlands, erected the Lion Mound site in his honour, directly in front of the farm. The Wellington camp aides Colonels Delancey and Gordon, and Gordon's nephew and secretary Lord Fitzroy Somerset, were also treated there.
At that time, the available water was too polluted, to avoid infection it was much safer to drink beer and other alcoholic drinks (including gin and whisky). Local breweries provided soldiers with high-fermented beer, such as Waterloo.
Napoleon christened Waterloo the 'Bataille de Mont-Saint-Jean', the farm being a key target of French attacks (as was shown by the archeological findings of WATERLOO UNCOVERED in 2019).
In May 1860, Victor Hugo stayed just next to the farm, at the Hotel de Colonnes, to finish “Les Misérables”.
Threatened with demolition in 1906 and saved at the last moment, the porch of the farmhouse collapsed in 1926, possibly caused by the tram line running right outside the building. Threatened again in 1972 by construction of the motorway, the farm was saved by local families who created the Waterloo Committee. Abandoned, part of the farm also collapsed in April 1994.
On 24 January 1995 the gatehouse, stables and barn were classified as Historic Monuments. Bought in 1996, by the Janssen family, and supported by the Region Wallonne, the collapsed porche is renovated but the rest of the Farm remains dilapidated and structurally unsound.
In February 2014, local entrepreneur Anthony Martin decides to buy and develop extensively the farm, renovating the entire farm square buildings (including the exceptional barn that housed the hospital) in a traditional and protected manner. He subsequently opens the farm to the public, with a restaurant and a medical museum housing an exceptional collection. Numerous events take place at the farm, now popular with tourists, locals and historians.
In 2019 sees Waterloo Uncovered make major archeological finds proving the farm was attacked by the French forces and vigorously defended by the allies.
In 2021, the Martins open a new contemporary extention housing a medical museum, restaurant, conference, meeting and other facilities in addition to the brewery and distillery.
THE FARM NOW
The new owner of the Mont-Saint-Jean farm Anthony Martin and his team are faced with a challenge – an emergency plan is under way to save the site. The project is being carried out in collaboration with the architects André Dupont and Associates, who specialize in listed heritage buildings – they were also responsible for restoration of the famous Hougoumont Chateau.
The goal is to preserve this historical heritage site, while also boosting visitor numbers – the ambition is for Mont-Saint-Jean farm to become a major tourist attraction. The site already hosts a microbrewery, where Waterloo Beer is brewed.
Visit the Mont-Saint-Jean Farm and its artisanal microbrewery:
Chaussée de Charleroi 591
1410 Waterloo, Belgium
T. +32(0)2 385 01 03
The battle of Waterloo
Located around twenty kilometers from Brussels, Waterloo is famous worldwide for being the site of the most famous of Napoleon’s: the Battle of Waterloo.
This legendary battle took place on 18 June 1815 and ended with the decisive victory of the allies (British, Germans and Dutch), commanded by the Duke of Wellington, and the Prussians – both opposed the French army, led by Emperor Napoleon 1st.
In fact, the fighting did not actually take place at Waterloo, but a little further south, in the territory of the present towns of Lasne, Braine and Genappe. In France, the battle has often been named ‘The Battle of Mont-Saint-Jean’, instead of the more customary title.
This battle was the last in which Napoleon took part personally – he had taken control of France during the period known as the Hundred Days War. Despite his desire to continue the fight with reconstituted forces, he was forced, owing to lack of political support, to abdicate four days after his return to Paris.
The Battle of Waterloo is considered a major historical event that ended the Napoleonic conquest of Europe, and established the boundaries of the future continent.
Today, the Waterloo battlefield is one of Europe’s largest historical sites to have been preserved almost intact. Every year, more than 300,000 visitors from around the world flock there and climb the famous Lion Mound, to see the breadth of the land on which the troops fought so hard.
Every year in June, thousands of participants gather at Waterloo to relive the battle. This larger-than-life spectacle is breathtaking for the thousands of spectators who are lucky enough to attend.
In 2015, an extensive project, conducted jointly with local authorities, aims to celebrate the bicentennial of the battle. A new underground museum, the renovation of the farm-brewery in Mont-Saint-Jean, a ‘Napoleon Road’ and an unprecedented reenactment bringing together 6,500 actors is likely to attract some 200,000 visitors this summer and then 500,000 visitors every year thereafter.