Fort Steendorp lies in the town of Temse, in the province of East Flanders in the Flemish region in Belgium.
After Belgium gained its independance in 1830, the fear of a European conflict or invasion remained, primarily from the Netherlands or France. Because Belgium had no noteworthy natural defense, it was opted not to defend the whole country, but to opt for a ‘National Redoubt’. For strategic, political and economic reasons the city of Antwerp was choosen to become that National Redoubt.
In 1859 the Belgian government decided to defend Antwerp by building a new rampart around the city, called the ‘Big Rampart’, after a plan of the military engineer Capt. Henri Alexis Brialmont. It consisted of 15 km long earthen rampart with 19 gates around the city with an advanced ring of 8 forts, called the Brialmont Forts.
Although building the rampart and forts was a massive and very expensive undertaking, it was finished in 1864. But due to the expansion of the city and the advances in artillery these fortifications were not enough only a couple of decades later. So, at the end of the 19th century a new line of defence was made by building 6 new forts, amongst them were Fort Walem and Fort Steendorp.
Fort Steendorp was built between 1882 and 1892, as the biggest fort around Antwerp. It was the last fort in Belgium to be built in brick and also the most expensive to build. It has a trapezoidal ground plan and was circled by a dry moat, which was unique amongst the forts around Antwerp. However, due to blockage the dry moat is now partly flooded.
In 1913 a rebuilding started to adapt it to the advances in artillery but, due to the start of WW I, this was never finished. After being damaged during WW I, it served as a militar facility for the production of war gasses. The German army occupied the fort again during WW II and used it for ammunition storage. Later it became a military training ground for the Belgian army.
Since 2001 it is owned by a environmental organisation and used as a bat habitat.
At present Fort Steendorp can not freely be visited, only during guided walks on special days. I hope I’ll be able to visit it in the near future.