AIA Spring Tour
May 13th - 19th 2024
6 nights, full-board from £1,170 Discount for AIA members
Booking is closed
Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics, and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish, which can also refer to the collective of Dutch dialects spoken in that area. The official capital of Flanders is the City of Brussels, although the Brussels-Capital Region that includes it has an independent regional government. Geographically, Flanders is mainly flat, and has a small section of coast on the North Sea. It borders the French department of Nord to the south-west near the coast, the Dutch provinces of Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg to the north and east, and the Walloon provinces of Hainaut, Walloon Brabant and Liège to the south. (Wikipedia)

The tour is all-inclusive: Transport, dinners, lunches, bed & breakfast.

The tour starts at our hotel in Gent and ends at our hotel in Leuven. Optional coach transfers will be provided between London and our hotel at the start and between our hotel and London at the end of the tour.

Non-AIA members are most welcome but paid-up members of the AIA at the time of the tour enjoy a £30 discount per booking, one of the many benefits of becoming a member. With this discount and if you take advantage of the new online-only AIA membership, you can actually save money by joining.  Join the AIA now

Thanks are due to the Vlaamse Vereniging voor Industriële Archeologie (VVIA - the Flemish Association for Industrial Archaeology) whose guests we will be in Flanders and in particular to Patrick Gurdebeke and his colleagues who have given me a great deal of advice in devising the itinerary for the tour and making arrangements for our visits. A member of the Council of VVIA will be with us each day to help and guide us through the tour.
Some of the visits are still subject to confirmation. We cannot at this time guarantee that they will all be included but we will make every effort to do so or find suitable alternatives. The order of visits may also change. Changes to the itinerary will be passed on to you before the final invoice is presented.

All prices are quoted in Pounds Sterling (GBP) whilst most of the costs are in Euros (EUR). In these turbulent times changes to exchange rates, accommodation, transport costs or taxes may necessitate a price change.
Members of the group make their own way to our hotel in Gent.

08:00 Optional coach transfer from London

19:00 Dinner at our hotel

20:00 Illustrated talk by VVIA Council member: The Industrial Heritage of Flanders.
  In the morning we will visit largest preserved steam engine in Belgium. At the end of the 19th century, the city council built this power plant to provide Izegem with electricity. The installation was steadily expanded and in 1936 a new steam engine was added which we can still admire today.

Known as ‘Stoom en Stroom’ (Steam and Electricity) we can see a demonstration of the engine in steam. After an early lunch (included) we will start on a busy afternoon of visits. The first is to Preetjes Mill the only remaining flax winding mill in Belgium powered by wind. This wooden standard mill from 1866 stands on a round brick tower with rectangular entrances and windows.
Next we will visit Vyncke a company whose business today is in biomass & waste-to-energy solutions.

With over 100 years of experience and craftsmanship in the field of combustion technology, they deliver tailor-made energy solutions to all industries and energy providers, globally.

We will explore their historic collection of steam related items: engines, boilers and a preserved blacksmith shop.

Then, under the guidance of Adriaan Linters, we will visit the flax scutching windmill and the flax rettery Verschaeve, one of the best-preserved flax companies from the interwar period.
 If time permits, after the rettery we plan to visit the oil mill in Deerlijk. An interesting windmill, also with a preserved steam engine as an auxiliary.

Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Gent.
In the morning we will visit the Museum Of Industry in Gent which is being opened that day especially for our party.

Housed in a former cotton mill, this large museum has an important collection of textile and printing machinery.

This year there is also a temporary exhibition on the history of metalworking in the area.
After lunch (included) we will visit the ‘t Aloam Museum at Geraardsbergen a unique working mill, converted into a museum with a collection of tools of old crafts. ‘Aloam’ is the Geraardsbergen dialect for tools.

The old water mill remained in operation between 1293 and 1992 but of course underwent several renovations. Two turbines, for example, were installed in 1905. In addition to the restored old mill, the original miller's house and the old 1900 classroom are preserved showing a large collection of tools.

Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Gent.
  In the morning we will visit the papermill Herisem and the former cardboard factory Winderickx which is a former 19th-century industrial complex that grew out of an old paper mill, with a history going back to 1536.

The complex as a whole is one of the best preserved examples of the paper and cardboard industry in the region of Flemish Brabant.

It is on the national treasure list of protected buildings in Belgium as industrial heritage and is recognized by the European Commission as an example project for preserving architectural heritage
After lunch (included) we will visit the Tram Museum at Schepdal. This site has been completely preserved as a local railway depot. Trams were sheltered and repaired at this location, tram staff were at home and passengers boarded. Schepdaal was on the busy line for passenger and freight transport between Brussels and Ninove, which also made the Pajottenland accessible. The historically very valuable trams – even with a royal carriage! – are safe here again.
We plan to conclude the day with a visit to the Slaghmuylder Brewery, a small Brewery which is notable also for having brewed one of the first of the modern tripels, a type of strong, golden pale ale. According to beer historian Michael Jackson, the first such beer was brewed in 1931 by Hendrik Verlinden, who was a brewer at the nearby Drie Linden Brewery and regularly assisted the monks of the Trappist Westmalle Brewery; in 1932, then working for Slaghmuylder, produced the tripel first called Witkap Pater, now known as Witkap Tripel - still praised as one of the best available.
Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Leuven.
  In the morning we will visit the hydraulic power station Zuiderpershuis in Antwerp which provided power to 156 cranes, three sewer slides, 30 capstans, six locks and three bridges since 1883. The complex consisted of two towers with accumulators, a machine hall with two steam engines, centrifugal pumps, boiler rooms with fourteen boilers, a chain annealing furnace, a blacksmith shop with five fireplaces, workhouses with lathes and planers, a jig shop, a joinery and a dressing house.

Despite the advance of electricity the Zuiderpershuis remained operational until 1977, to power the Nassaub Bridge (next to the MAS). Shortly after its closure, the building was recognised as a protected monument
After lunch (included) we can enjoy a walk around seeing the Museum aan de Stroom, Sint Felix warehouse and the historic harbour cranes.

Then later we will head for Brik Boom which pays tribute to the successful brick-making industry that brought prosperity to the region for years.

The visitor centre is housed in the buildings of Novobric, once a brick factory It is located in the middle of the former labourers' district Noeveren, that even today is still characterised by typical workers' homes that give this district its unique appearance.

Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Leuven.
For the first part of the day we will spend our time at the Beringen Colliery site. The history of the site began in about 1900 when the Belgian government decided to promote coal mining in the most easterly province of the country. The reason for this was the heavy demand for high-quality coal from steel producers at home and abroad.

Mining began in Limburg in 1901 and, in the course of time, expanded to comprise seven collieries. But as early as the end of the 1950s the industry came up against heavy competition from less expensive sources of energy like oil and gas. The last active colliery in the Limburg region closed down in 1992. Only the colliery near Beringen has survived – as the site of the Flemish Coal Mining Museum. The size of the site gives visitors a good idea of the huge amount of coal which was mined in the region. Four pithead buildings alone were responsible for connecting the overhead site with the galleries beneath.
To clear the coal dust from our throats we will certainly need a drink and that will be found at our last stop, the Nationaal Jenevermuseum in Hasselt.

The museum buildings are an I.A. pioneer project for re-use and restoration from the 70’s. The museum includes a steam engine (of course!) as well as lots of information about the gin distilling processes and its history and the tour finishes with a tasting.

Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Leuven.
The tour ends after breakfast at our hotel.

08:00 Optional coach transfer to London.
The first three nights are in the historic centre of the city of Gent:
The Novotel Gent Centrum, Hoogpoort 52, 9000 Gent, Belgium. All rooms are en suite with Air Conditioning minibar, safe, work desk and free WiFi.

The final three nights are in the university city of Leuven:
Novotel Leuven Centrum, Vuurkruisenlaan 4, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. All rooms are en suite with Air Conditioning minibar, safe, work desk and free WiFi.

Both hotels are modern but we are sorry to say that neither hotel offers twin bedded rooms.
The tour starts at the Gent hotel on the Monday evening and ends after breakfast on the Sunday morning in Leuven.

We leave you to choose the optional coach transfers from/to London or make your own travel arrangements to Gent and from Leuven to suit your own convenience and use of alternative departure points.

Travel during the tour will be by luxury, air-conditioned coach.

Detailed joining instructions will be supplied about two weeks before the start of the tour.

All site visits will include some walking which may include stairs.
You must ensure that you have a valid passport for travel in the European Union (and possibly visas for Non-EU citizens).

For UK residents, the Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC) replaces the former European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If you have an EHIC which is still in date you may use it. If yours has expired then you should apply for a GHIC here:
They are free and usually come quite quickly.
The cost of the trip is £1,170 per person sharing with a single supplement £350. The supplement represents the additional cost applied by the hotel for single occupation of a double room. The cost includes:
  • A programme packed with fascinating site visits
  • 6 nights dinner, bed & breakfast accommodation
  • Lunch on 5 days
  • Entrance fees at all sites and local guiding fees
  • Luxury air conditioned coach transport throughout including driver tip
  • Local guides and an experienced tour manager throughout
  • Research for the visits and professionally produced, comprehensive tour notes
Excluded are:
  • Drinks and any other expenses at the hotel
Additional cost options:
  • Monday 13th : Transfer from Victoria Station, London to Gent, £50 per person
  • Sunday 19th : Transfer from Leuven to Victoria Station, £50 per person
All prices are quoted in Pounds Sterling (GBP) whilst most of the costs are in Euros (EUR). In these turbulent times changes to exchange rates, accommodation, transport costs or taxes may necessitate a price change.

Inflation has hit the cost of these tours, the increase in prices for hotel accommodation, meals and the rate of city taxes has surprised us. The cost of the coach hire has doubled since we last arranged a tour like this. Nevertheless, for this unique and very full itinerary we believe the price represents excellent value for money and compares very well with other specialist tour operators.

Paid-up members of the AIA at the time of the tour enjoy a £30 discount per booking. (So you can book now and claim the discount as long as you join before the tour). The discount will be calculated on your invoice when it is issued.

Apart from the discount available on Heritage of Industry tours AIA members enjoy a range of benefits which are shown on the Membership page of the AIA website where you can also find full details of how to join:

An AIA member joining this tour will already have recouped 66% of the standard AIA membership fee and more than the online-only membership but, more importantly, the support members give enables the AIA to continue its work.
Please note that cancellation charges will apply from 18th March 2024 and, although these will be modified to the extent that costs are not actually incurred, you are strongly advised to insure against the need to cancel and to cover medical treatment and repatriation charges in the event of illness etc.

Participants who do not have travel insurance must nevertheless accept full responsibility for these eventualities. 
Booking and management of this tour has been entrusted to Heritage of Industry Ltd which is run by Bill Barksfield. Bill is Overseas Tour organiser on the AIA Council and will accompany the tour.

If you have access to an internet connected computer and use email please make your booking online. In the event that you are unable to use a computer then please fill in the attached form and post it to us at the address below.

If you give an email address on your application then confirmation and all subsequent communications with you will be by email.

Bookings will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to space availability. Booking is subject to a minimum of 36 and a maximum of 50 people. Book as soon as possible and by 18th March 2024  to ensure a place but please feel free to enquire after that date if a place is still available. We will contact you as soon as possible to confirm the booking and to issue an invoice for the balance of the price. Invoices for the balance of the price will be issued about 8 weeks before the tour starts. You are advised not to make contingent travel arrangements until we have confirmed that the minimum number of people required to operate the tour has been reached. We will inform you as soon as the minimum is reached.

A non-refundable deposit of £110 per person is required on booking. Bookings can be made definite only when the booking details and deposit are received and accepted in writing/email by Heritage of Industry Ltd. The company's standard terms and conditions apply. The balance of the price is to be paid to Heritage of Industry Ltd on presentation of the invoice. All monies paid to Heritage of Industry Ltd will be held, in accordance with government regulations**, in a customer protection account until the tour is complete so that your money is safe no matter what happens.

We are pleased to announce that we are now able to take debit/credit card and GooglePay payments.

Payment may also be made via your bank’s online banking facilities, the necessary details are shown on the booking form. Please send an email note when you have made payment in this way.

We prefer not to handle cheques for payment.

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** The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (SI 1992 No. 3288)