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De Panne (Municipality, Province of West Flanders, Belgium)

La Panne

Last modified: 2007-11-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: de panne | la panne | diamonds: 3 (yellow) | lion (green) |
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[Flag of De Panne]

Municipal flag of De Panne - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 18 September 2006


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Presentation of De Panne

The municipality of De Panne (in French, La Panne; 10,153 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,390 ha) is located on the North Sea, on the border with France. It is a popular sea resort known as "The Green Pearl of the Belgian Coast". The municipality of De Panne is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of De Panne and Adinkerke, from which De Panne had seceded in 1911.

The beach of De Panne is said to be the widest (450 m) and quietest (no breakwater there) in Belgium; this is the beach where sand yachting was invented in 1898. Moreover, De Panne has a pleasant microclimate: thanks to the dunes, which absorb the sun heat and leak it later, the average temperature in De Panne is one degree (sic) higher than in its rival Knokke!
The name of De Panne means "the small valley between the dunes" (Duinpan). The town is indeed surrounded by dunes since one third of the Belgian dune area is located in De Panne. The nature reserve of the Westhoek (340 ha), the oldest in Flanders, was created in 1957. Along with the Parrot's Dunes (225 ha) in France, the Calmeynbos-Krakeelduinen (105 ha) and the municipal dunes of Oosthoek (60 ha), it forms the biggest continuous dune line on the coast. The reserve includes endangered biotopes such as dune grasslands and the so-called grey dunes, colonized by mosses. The fossil dunes of Garzebekeveld (80 ha) are considered as the oldest dunes in Belgium; they are the last remains of the shore dunes that existed 3,500 years ago. After the withdrawal of the sea, the dunes were colonized by a specific vegetation and their natural evolution stopped, therefore the name of fossils given to them.

On 17 July 1831, Prince Léopold of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha entered De Panne in a barouche via the Dunkirk (France) beach, and was officially welcomed in Belgium by the town of De Panne. Four days later, he took the oath on the Constitution in Brussels and became the first King of the Belgians. On 5 October 1958, King Baudouin inaugurated the Léopold I Monument made by the sculptor René Cliquet.
After the invasion of Belgium by the German troops in autumn 1914, the Belgian Royal family settled in October in De Panne. Later, King Léopold III and his three children, including the current King Albert II, often stayed in the Villa royale and went on Sundays to the Oblate Fathers' Church to listen to the mass with the "local" residents (indeed rich people from Brussels, who had vacation houses in the Quartier Dumont).

In the Middle Ages, the dunes were shared between the Count of Flanders and the powerful local abbeys, and were mostly used for hunting. The French Revolution suppressed all these privileges. In the beginning of the XIXth century, the dunes of De Panne were owned by Pierre-Louis Antoine Bortier (1805-1879), from Diksmuide (650 ha) and Louis Ollevier (176 ha). Bortier built in 1842 a hunting lodge on the seashore; he had strict morals and did not enjoy the swimmers coming from the neighbouring town of Veurne, but helped the fishers of La Panne. Therefore, he did his best to restrict the development of the sea resort. In 1866, he was able to prevent "foreigners" to settle into the Het Hooge inn. In contrast, Ollevier had a good business sense. His proposal of urban planning presented in 1866, requiring the building of new road to the sea through a big parabolic dune, failed because of its huge cost, in spite of the support by the Liberal Deputy Bieswal-Bricourt. At that time, the beach of De Panne was already famous among painters like Artan, Musin and Serruys, and writers like Conscience and Van de Woestijne. In 1892, Pedro Ollevier (1853-1929) proposed to bypass the big dune rather than going through it; he commissionned the building contractor Bonzel, from Lille, and the famous architect from Brussels Albert Dumont (1853-1920). Helped by Georges Hobé (1854-1936) and his own son Alexis (1867-1962), Dumont set up a brand new borough that was immediatly successful among the rich inhabitants of the towns and the aristocracy, which would later be named Quartier Dumont / Dumontwijk. The new bourgeois ideology, based on return to the nature, individual freedom, exotism and hygienism, induced those who could afford it to spend two-three months per year on the seashore. In 1901, Hobé improved the access to De Panne by founding the Société anonyme du Tramway de La Panne; horse-drawn tramways linked the seashore to the small railway station of Adinkerke, located on the Dunkirk-Ghent line. From 1914 to 1920, General-Baron Empain replaced the horses by tractors powered by a petrol engine, later superseded by two steam locomotives.
In 1911, De Panne had 3,600 inhabitants, 10,000 summer residents, 60 hotels and 300 villas, and became an independent municipality, seceding from Adinkerke. The Dumont family was the main organizer of the social life that made the fame of the resort. François Dumont designed beautiful posters advertizing De Panne and organized several festivals, such as the Gallo-Roman festival in 1923.

Source: History of the Quartier Dumont / Dumontwijk, by José Decoussemaeker

Ivan Sache, 18 September 2006


Municipal flag of De Panne

The municipal flag of De Panne is vertically divided; the left half of the flag is blue with three yellow diamonds placed 2 and 1, whereas the right part of the flag is white with a green lion.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 17 January 1991, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 11 June 1991 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 25 September 1991.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms.

The municipal website, quoting Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, explains that brand new arms had to be designed since neither De Panne nor Adinkerke ever had arms. The diamonds represent the Cambry family, from Baudimont, owner of the manor of Marienhove for four generations, from 1694 to at least 1753. The lion represents the town of Veurne and recall that De Panne belonged to the domain of Veurne, but the link with the arms of Veurne ("Or a lion sable langued gules charged with a trefoil vert"), is quite loose.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 18 September 2006