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Neupré (Municipality, Province of Liège, Belgium)

Last modified: 2011-05-14 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Neupré and its villages

The municipality of Neupré (9,748 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,169 ha) is located south-east of Seraing, in the Liège conurbation. The municipality of Neupré was made in 1976 by the merging of the former municipalities of Neuville-en-Condroz, Plainevaux, Rotheux-Rimière and Ehein. The name of the new municipality is an acronym made of the first three letters of Neuville and the first letter of the three other former municipalities; it sound in French like "new meadow".

Neuville-en-Condroz, once known as "Nova villa in condrosio", probably emerged in the early 13th century as a domain founded by Renier of Dommartin, son of Thomas of Hermalle and grandson of Othon of Warfusée. In the 15th century Isabelle Marteau de la Neuville married Arnold of Warnant; in 1724, Aldegonde Louise Françoise of Warnant married Damien Adrien Ernest de Lannoy de Clervaux, whose family kept the domain until the Revolution and the castle until 1854, when Count Adrien de Lannoy died, all his goods being transferred to his wife, Baroness of Tornaco.
Neuville is the place of one of the 14 American permanent cemetaries set up outside the national territory. Several of the soldiers buried there were killed during the Battle of the Bulge in winter 1944-1945.

Plainevaux, once known as "Plana vallis", "the flat valley", belonged to the abbey of Val-Saint-Lambert. In 1188, Count Gilles of Clermont gave Estriveal (Strivay), Plainevaux and Rosière to the abbey of Signy to set up a Cistercian abbey; founded in 1192, the abbey did not stay for long in Rosières because the place was deemed unpleasant by the monks. Count Gilles transferred all his goods to Duke of Limburg Henri III and the monks moved to the today's site of the abbey of Val-Saint-Lambert.
In 1316, the domain of Plainevaux was transferred to Jacques of Tongeren, a vassal of the Duke of Brabant; however, the Principality of Liège kept some rights on the village, which depended on the two courts of Brabant and Liège. In 1649, the abbey of Val-Saint-Lambert purchased the whole domain for 105,000 guilders and kept it until the French Revolution.

Rotheux belonged to the domain of Esneux, while La Rimière, today a hamlet, belonged to the abbey of Val-Saint-Lambert, following a joint transfer by the Duke of Limburg and his vassal Jean of Halleux. The Duke was lord de jure while the vassal exploited the "profitable domain". This odd status caused several quarrels, for instance in 1562, when the lord of Esneux, claiming justice rights on La Rimière, sent a mob of villagers from Esneux to break the doors of the jail of La Rimière.

Source: Municipal website

However, the most famous place in Neupré is most probably the hamet of Houte-Si-Plout. The mill of Hoûte-s'i-Ploût was built in 1559 in a small, isolated valley of the domain of Esneux, on the border of the Duchy of Limburg and the Principality of Liège. The name of the mill appeared in the 17th century, derived from the French expression Écoute s'il pleut, "Listen if it rains". Originally designating a mill powered by a brook whose intermittent flow strongly depended on the rain episodes, Hoûte-s'i-Ploût became a matter of jokes and legends. It was said that the miller, when having waiting very late for a rain event that had not came yet, used to go to bed and ask his wife or daugther to listen to the rain. The expression was changed to hout s'i plout, that is "sheltered if it rain". The place was quite famous since the opera Li fièsse di Hoûte-s'i-Ploût, composed by Hamal and Vivario in 1757, was played for the first time on 8 December 1757 in the ceremony room of the town hall of Liège.
There are several Ecoute-s'il-pleut toponyms in France, as well as several Hout-si-Plou in Wallonia. In French-speaking Belgium, Hout-Si-Plout is synonym of "the place in the middle of nowhere"; according to Le Soir, 25 November 1998, it is exactly "the place where you would like to send Séraphin Lampion" [this is the original name of the insurance broker who bugs Tintin and Captain Haddock in several Tintin's adventures]. An alternative to Houte-Si-Plout is Gingelom.
The Dutch-speaking Belgians have an equivalent place called Bachten de Kupe, located somewhere/nowhere in the neighborhood of De Panne, Nieuwpoort, Diksmuide, Veurne and Alveringem. The equivalent places in French French are Trifouilly-les-Oies and Pétaouchnok, which never existed, while the Belgian Houte-Si-Plout, Gingelom and Bachten de Kupe actually exist!
The hamlet of Houte-Si-Plout, five houses and twelve inhabitants, gained international fame on 15 December 1965, with 4,000 French-speaking students, "expelled" from the University of Leuven during the Walen buiten (Walloons out) movement, founded the University of Houte-Si-Plout. The new university of Louvain-la-Neuve had not been planned yet and there was no place to relocate the expelled, who symbolically settled in the middle of nowhere. This was mostly a protest against the partition of the venerable Catholic University of Leuven. The University of Houte-Si-Plout still exists as a cultural association organizing conferences, meetings, concerts etc. on the site of the original University.


Ivan Sache, 5 September 2007

Municipal flag of Neupré

According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones [w2v03a], there is no municipal flag used in Neupré.

Pascal Vagnat, 5 September 2007