Tuesday 23 May 2017

Brontë Society plaque on Bozar gets a facelift

It’s all too easy to walk past the bronze plaque on ‘Bozar’ commemorating Charlotte and Emily’s stay in Brussels in 1842-43, as it’s placed rather high on the building. Bozar, as many readers of this blog will know, stands on the site of the Pensionnat Heger (demolished in 1909) where the sisters stayed while in Brussels. The plaque is on Rue Baron Horta/Baron Hortastraat, to the left of the main entrance to Bozar.

Added to its lack of visibility, until a couple of weeks ago the Brontë plaque was looking sorry for itself under the grime deposited by air pollution.

Plaque before cleaning

It now has a brighter look after a spring cleaning. On 2 May it was restored – cleaned, polished and lacquered). The work, which took the best part of a day, was commissioned by the Brontë Society, based in Haworth, Yorkshire, with help from the Brussels Brontë Group. The Society plans to have regular maintenance of the plaque done from now on.

Plaque after cleaning

The plaque, the only memorial in Brussels to the Brontës, was placed by the Society on 28 September 1979 but the unveiling did not take place till 26 June 1980.

According to the report in Brontë Society Transactions, the day of the unveiling ‘dawned bright and sunny but by the time we were assembled for the ceremony stormy conditions prevailed and claps of thunder interrupted the proceedings.’ On 28 June 1980 Le Soir reported that the unveiling had taken place amid a ‘temps de Hurlevent’ – appropriate weather conditions given that Brontë means ‘thunder’ in Greek.

At the unveiling ceremony, members of the Brontë Society were joined by Brussels-based dignitaries including the Director of Bozar, two great-grandsons of Constantin Heger (Paul and René Pechère), the British Ambassador and officials of the British Council. There was an exhibition on the Brontës at the British Council to mark the occasion.

If you haven’t yet seen the plaque, or would like to see it in its present glory, do go and have a look.

Helen MacEwan