Un conflit de caractère moyenâgeux au XIXème siècle. Oignies-en-Thiérache : l'affaire des 520 bonniers.

A Medieval-Like Conflict During The 19Th Century Oignies-En-Thierache: The Affair Of The 520 "Bonniers (1): Oignies-en-Thiérachea little village in a forest area owned woods the profits of which were shared by the villagers during the 16th century. Moreover, the latter enjoyed the right to use the woods of their lords, the barons of Vierves, vassals of the principality of Liège. During the 17th century the inhabitants of Oignies ceded 520 "bonniers" of the communal wood and paid some 1,500 florins to the counts of Hamal, in order to obtain the amelioration of these rights of use and particularly the prolongation of the periods of pasturage. Though these conventions had brought about lots of differences, as a rule they were usually met by the Lords. On 14 Augustus, 1772 a mandate of the Prince-Bishop imposed to the entire principality to respect a period of seven years of growth before authorizing the pasturage, and prescribed to all people who had allowed premature pasturage against payment of money or the grant of whatever cessions to regard them as non-existent. The strict application of this mandate would have permitted the community of Oignies to recover the possession of the 520 "bonniers" ceded to the counts of Hamal. Yet, a status quo was decided upon and only a sum of 1,100 florins was refunded. During the revolution the Lords of the barony emigrated and on 16 "vendémiaire" (2) of the year III the community was given possession of the 520 "bonniers" by an arbitration. However, the counts of Hamal did not rest until the woods were restored to them. By the time of the Dutch Regime this loss was an accomplished fact and as their circumstances had changed, the former Lords sold all their woods to landowners who totally ignored the former rights of use they were encumbered with. This was the beginning of endless judicial proceedings with Mr. Fosses, a former district commissioner of Philipville. Afterwards his heirs started a lawsuit which even lasted for about half a century. They went from the court of justice to the court of appeals and to the court of cassation without getting satisfaction. In 1857 they had to accept the process of the cantonment, which had been sanctioned by the jurisprudence and which supposed a division in proportion to the rights each party had to the joint thing. For a long time they still cavilled at the determination of the part of the community was entitled to. As the rights of use had completely fallen into disuse, the balance of advantage was not in favour of the people of Oignies. Out of the 520 "bonniers" of wood, which had been ceded, only about 60 hectares remained in the possession of the community. When, in 1920, Fosses's forests were sold again, the inhabitants of Oignies thought they could still claim the 520 "bonniers"; it was necessary to prove to them that everything was lost. Yet, today's old people still talk about the woods that were once "stolen", without being able, however, to tell how and by whom it was done. (1) Bonnier : landmeasure of French-Flanders. Equivalent to 2,5 acres and 200 poles. (2) 1st month of the republican calendar (22 Sept.-21 Dec.).