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Exploring the History of the Ypres Cloth Hall: A Visual Illustration

Updated: Feb 26

A close up image of a pen and ink illustration of the Ypres Cloth Hall in 1914 at the start of the First World War.
Ypres Cloth Hall Close Up

Constructed between 1200 and 1304, the Cloth Hall was the beating heart of Ypres' thriving cloth industry. This Gothic masterpiece, featuring a breathtaking 70-meter belfry, housed merchants, weavers, and traders engaged in the lucrative wool and cloth trade. The Hall wasn't just a marketplace; it was a social hub, a symbol of civic pride, and a source of prosperity for the city.

However, at the start of the 20th Century, Belgium was caught between France and Germany when war was declared in 1914 and Ypres emerged as a vital strategic point. Its location near the English Channel made it crucial for both sides. The Germans sought a breakthrough to the Channel ports, while the Allies aimed to prevent encirclement and maintain a connection with the coast. This struggle resulted in not one, but five distinct battles fought around Ypres between 1914 and 1918. The Cloth Hall, once a symbol of peace and prosperity, became a target for German artillery due to its prominence in the landscape. By the end of the war, the building had been reduced to rubble.

In the aftermath of the First World War, a wave of determination swept through the city. The people vowed to rebuild not just their homes and lives, but also their cherished landmarks. The reconstruction of the Cloth Hall began in 1921, a painstaking process guided by meticulous historical records and photographs. The Cloth Hall reconstruction was completed in 1933 and today houses two museums: the In Flanders Fields Museum, chronicling the First World War and its impact on the region, and the Ypres Museum, showcasing the city's rich history and cultural heritage.

I have produced this illustration for my new First World War series. It measures 297mm x 210mm and is drawn using Staedtler Fineliners. I hadn't drawn anything architectural in a few months so I found this illustration a challenge, but I am incredibly pleased with how it turned out. I am planning on illustrating the Cloth Hall twice more, once for each major battle at Ypres, showing the destruction the war took on the building and the town.

A pen and ink illustration of the Ypres Cloth Hall in 1914 at the start of the First World War.
Ypres Cloth Hall Illustration


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