The Verschaeve Site is one of the best-preserved flax companies from the interwar period. If you want to know what the flax industry looked like in its heyday, you should certainly pay a visit. There is a cafeteria near the site where walkers and cyclists can catch their breath for a bit.
A gravel road runs from the cafeteria to the site, but you can also have a look at the installations from the towpath along the River Lys.
The concrete building with the square black doors at the bottom is the rettery. It dates from 1936 and contains twelve retting pits – these are the rooms behind those doors. One retting pit could hold up to 4 tonnes of flax. Water was heated to 32 degrees in concrete tanks on top of the building and subsequently led to the pits. This initiated a rotting process which separated the textile fibres from the woody core of the flax stalks.
Retting took three to five days. Afterwards the flax was set up to dry in the typical flax ‘chapels’. The next step was braking and scutching: breaking the stalk and removing the woody remains from the textile fibres. This was done with the scutching turbine, a machine from 1952 located on the company's top floor. One pit of four tonnes of flax yielded approximately 800 kilogrammes of textile fibres.
The Verschaeve Site is unique because the original installations – including the steam engine – have been preserved.
The local history society Cuerna organises occasional visits to the site: highly recommended for anyone who wants to get a better idea of the flax industry.
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