How large was the textile industry in Anderlecht?
This tradition dates back to the very origins of the city, which developed along the banks of the Zenne. This watercourse not only facilitated the import and export of products but was also essential for textile processing. Just like in other lowland regions, Brussels also expanded its cloth-making industry.
Production thrived, particularly when the Brussels court was one of the most important in Europe in the 14th century. The Dukes of Burgundy indulged in luxury, and luxury products were, of course, part of that. In addition to the cloth industry, the production of tapestries and Brussels lace also flourished.
This textile industry has remained a part of Brussels’ DNA through the ages, especially along the Zenne. The mills on the banks generated energy, and the water was used for textile processing. Previously, this was primarily done in people’s homes, but this handcraft developed further, and in the 19th century, various textile factories, especially in Kuregem, emerged.
For instance, in Kuregem, ‘indienneries’ could be found: factories where cotton was printed, a tradition that had indeed come from India. Savien Peeters from La Fonderie, the Brussels Museum of Labor and Industry, tells us about this. They also dedicate a part of their exhibition to the textile industry. According to Peeters, “Damp grounds were required for that manufacturing process, and the marshy Brussels area was extremely suitable for it.”
But there was more. Hat manufacturers used the hides of slaughtered animals from the abattoir. Additionally, there were bleaching plants, weaving mills, tailors, leather manufacturers, and more. The reason they were mainly located in that part of Brussels was due to the presence of the Zenne, the canal, and the proximity of the train tracks.
The number of workers in the sector was immense. The textile industry was one of the largest in the city, up until the 20th century. The covering of the Zenne, urbanization, and, most notably, mass consumption and foreign competition led to the decline of Brussels’ textile industry. Finding that ‘Made in Kuregem’ label will be a long search indeed.
by JORIS FROM ANDERLECHT