From a mere merchant house to a luxury Bruges Hotel

The earliest written mention of the house that was found, dates back to 1390. In the interest books in the archives, for the Bezemstraat the house ter Vaulte is mentioned, with a gate into the then cleen cuperstratkin (now Jacob Van Oosstraat). The original name of the Niklaas Desparsstraat was the Pluimstraat, but the presence of ten besemkine changed the street name into Bezemstraat. In 1569, Guido Van Steenlant lived in the “de Vaulte” house. Guido was a counsel for the city and the son of a cloth merchant. He married Catharine de Rudders in 1559. The de Rudders family traded in hop and corn. They were probably brewers. Until 1591, the de Vaulte house stayed in the possession of the van Steenlant family. The van Steenlant family originally came from the “Land van Waas” and had quite a lot of properties in the area of Rupelmonde.

Louis Delacenserie, architect of the current building (end of 19th Century)

Between 1591 and 1607, the house was owned by Jan and Colijnken Aerts. They sold it to the Bruges merchant Marco Cassetta. For that sale, the property was described as a huus(…)in het pluymstraetkin(…)genaempt de Vaulte(…) achterwaerts streckende met een ghemeene plaetse van lande ende uutecommende met eene ghemeene ghage ende poorte ten voorhoofde in het cleen cuperstraetkin(…) voorts met een cleen plaetsken van lande metgaders een ondercueckene ligghende onder de huuse de melcoe [translation: a house (…) in the pluymstraetkin (…) called de Vaulte (…) extended at the back with a common terrain and exit with a common gate at the end of the cleen cuperstraetkin (…) and a small plot of land with a scullery and a stable.]

Between 1616 and 1648, de Vaulte is owned by the family Vander Meersch-de Clerq. The house was then rented out. In 1644, it is explicitly recorded that Salomon Van Maldeghem is renting the de Vaulte inn. In 1648, Lenaert Huickelier bought the inn and lived in it himself. Possibly, he was the inn-keeper because after he died a payment was due for deliveries of wine. Between 1666 and 1684, the house was owned by the family de Rijcke-Cockhuyt. The tax books show that at that time, de Vaulte was one of the most expensive houses of the neighbourhood. It must have been a fairly large house. In 1706, Pieter Jessens, prosecutor and notary, bought the house and it remained in the possession of the family until 1782. Walburge de Wyntere had inherited the house and she sold the property in 1782, which by then also contained three small houses in a row in the cleen Cupperstraetkin (called Sint-Jan, het Peerdeken and Sinte Brandanis). The Jessens-de Wyntere family had enlarged the property. De Vaulte apparently was an outstanding house, copiously decorated with furniture, fabric, mirrors and carpets.

The building during the 80’s-90’s prior selling to the Creytens family

As of 1782 and certainly up to the French era, Liévin de la Villette de la Haymade from Rijsel (1742-1804) owed de Vaulte and lived in it. De la Villette was a lawyer as well as a counsel of the city. He was appointed governor of the Mount of Charitate. In addition, he was a member of the St Sebastian guild as well as the St George’s Guild. In 1767 he joined the Noble Brotherhood of the Holy Bood in which he would play an active rol. He was also a member of the Bruges Masonic lodge La Parfaite Egalité. Liévin de la Villette had a very busy social and cultural life. He would also play a part in the fascinating period around the turn of the century. De la Villette was rich and must have inhabited de Vaulte in style.

In 1796, he moved to Sint-Winoksbergen, where he died. After him, Bernard Van Cuyl, merchant and tanner, owned the house and lived in it (for a while?). The population registers show that in 1830 inn-keeper Joannes Van Hoogheweghe lived in it (or maybe the cellar was rented out separately as an inn?). As of 1847, lawyer Basile De Keuwer, his wife Delphine Declercq, his daughters Marie and Louise, their maid Angela and the nanny Emma live in de Vaulte. The building was designed in 1869 by Louis Delacenserie (building file 94/1869). De Keuwer ordered the construction of the new house in 1869. The property had a walled garden in the new Jacob van Ooststraat, fully fenced with two small entry gates. The decoration above the door was identical to the one on the façade in the Niklaas Desparsstraat. This garden part was built on in 1922 as ordered by the Crédit Général Liégeois to enlarge their bank branch, established in the Niklaas Desparsstraat 11-13. This new building with counter hall was designed by the architect Henri Fonteyne. These two houses were separated from each other in 1992. In the beginning of the nineties, the Niklaas Desparsstraat 11-13 had been neglected and used inappropriately by the bank.

The building hosting Hotel Heritage today

In 1992, the building was bought by Johan and Isabelle Creytens – Declercq and they made plans to turn the building into a hotel. The activities started in January 1993 and the hotel was opened in August 1993. It had 20 rooms and was called “Hansa Hotel”. Below the house, part of a 13th or 14th century cellar has been preserved. A brick cross rib vault is supported by a pillar of Doornik natural stone and a capital. The original level of the basement was quite a lot lower.

In 1999, the cellar was renovated and decorated as a gym area. In 2000, the roof floor, which were the living quarters of Johan and Isabelle Creytens, were turned into 4 complete suites. For the renovation of all the rooms in 2003, the name of the hotel was changed into “Hotel Heritage”. For a couple of years already, Johan and Isabelle, together with their clients, did not feel Hansa Hotel was an appropriate name anymore. Time has shown it was the right decision.