Leopold I’s Forgotten Colony for the Poor: The Story Behind the Verabus Bridge Rising in Kent

Listen to a conversation with Tina de Gent on Radio 1 Select ‘The World Today’

Bridges are always given a name, and often refer to a historical figure, a city or a country. This is no different on the Verapus Bridge. Urban historian Tina de Gent Explains the story: “The story surrounding the name Verapaz begins in the mid – 19th century. At that time, Kent was overthrown by a massive immigration from the Flanders.”

Test colony for Leopold I.

He says poverty was high at that time. “Thousands of people who worked in the factories tried to survive for an apple and an egg. They lived in many chicks, including Vormoid, where the Verabus Bridge was built. During that time, Belgium gained a colony in Guatemala, in the Verabus region.” Alta Verrabas is a port in Guatemala in the heart of the country. The capital is Copenhagen.

At the time, Guatemala saw potential in Belgium, which was at the forefront of industrial development, says de Gent. “Because there were so many engineers, Guatemala wants to bring them in to experience an industrial revolution.” And the city of Kent had its own idea about this: “Kent thought: We’ll send the people we want to get rid of here. It’s about the people who lived in the chicks.”

Kent thought: We will send people who want to get out of here. It is about the people who lived in the chicks

Advertisement for Verabus

To do so, an advertisement was made, and a Gent song, “Wie Gos with it to Verapaz”, was even written. “At that time it was common. In that way people were induced to join Verabus by boat.”

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In the Voormuide district of Ghent, there was a boulevard (mostly small workers’ houses together on Dead Street) where a group decided to go and move to the colony. “They have disappeared with the northern sun. Years have passed and no one has heard from those people again,” says De Gent. The colony was shut down, and no one knew what had happened to the gentry.


There was a suspicion that something mysterious was going on. “Because,” says De Gent. “Verapaz is very similar to the French word ‘tu ne verras pas’. You will never see it. Those Gentenaars were trapped and sent to sea to disappear with nothing. Most people are afraid they will disappear.”

Kent thought: We will send people who want to get out of here. It is about the people who lived in the chicks

Then, not so long ago, those people came there and started a colony, which De Gent says was not successful. “Then it really happened. There were not many survivors because of the scurvy on the ship.”

Belgian tracks in Verapaz

And there are even traces of Belgium’s presence in that colony and in Verapaz. “There is a Belgian club still active there. They are of Belgian descent and still proud of their heritage.”

Documentary filmmakers An Van Dienderen and Didier Volckert filmed the story from the inhabitants of Veracruz with bright blue eyes.

Welcome Center for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

The name Verbus was not just given to the new Kent Bridge. There is a reception center for refugees and asylum seekers, near the famous hatch, near the planned bridge. “That center was also named Verabus. And more or less with the same meaning: those sent here with false promises,” says de Gent.

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Listen to a conversation with Tina de Gent on Radio 1 Select ‘The World Today’

BRon: vrtnws.be And ‘The World Today’

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