Ancestry UK

Merchant Navy Training School, Wynghene (Wingene), West Flanders, Belgium

In 1855, a branch institution of the boys' reform school at Ruysselede was opened on a three-acre a site on Sint Pietersveldstraat, in the commune of Wynghene (now Wingene) about 400 metres to the south-west of the original insitution. The new establishment was intended to train reform school boys for service in the France's merchant navy.

A large pond was dug on land between the two school sites, on which floated the training school's ship. This vessel, modeled on a three-master of the commercial fleet, had a length of 100 feet and a width of 24 feet. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Directorate of the Navy of the State helped equip the ship and provided a large part of the rigging together with equipment from old gunboats. To prevent accidents during exercises, a net was placed over the whole length of the ship at a height of 2 metres above the bridge.

Gymnastics class at Naval Training School, Wynghene (Wingene), early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

Fencing practice aat Naval Training School, Wynghene (Wingene), early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

The naval school continued in operation until 1913, when the building became used to house destitute and vagrant children. In 1930, the site was taken over by the Directorate of Telegraphy and Telephony. In recent times, the building has been standing empty but with plans being discussed for its renovation.


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  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.


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