Ham-sur-Heure Castle was first mentioned in the 13th century when it passed, through marriage, to the Condé family. In the 15th century the castle was owned by the d'Enghien family. In 1487, when the last family member died without heirs, the castle went to the De Merode family.
In 1540 the castle was visited by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Around this time the castle was probably enlarged and strengthened.
In 1667, under Ferdinand de Merode, the castle was badly damaged and the keep was destroyed when it was sieged, without success, by French armies. Between 1669 and 1671 a protective rubble wall was built. But in 1689 the castle was again besieged by French armies. This time, even though there was strong resistance from a Spanish garrison based in the castle, Albert Maximilian, son of Ferdinand, was forced to surrender. The castle was partly destroyed.At the beginning of the 18th century the old castle was transformed into a luxurious residence by Joseph de Merode. Between 1776 and 1779 the castle was again rebuilt by Balthazar-Philippe, who would be the last Count de Merode-Deynse. The rebuilding was never completed and Balthazar left the castle and moved to Vienna because of the French Revolution. The next 70 years the castle was uninhabited and stood virtually abandoned.
At the end of the 19th century the ruined castle was rebuilt by Louise de Rochechouart Mortemart and her daughter, Renée Victurienne de Merode, the wife of Charles-Jean d'Oultremont. This rebuilding, which lasted more than 20 years, drastically transformed the building and gave it its present appearance.During WW I Ham-sur-Heure Castle was visited by several distinguished guests including the son of the German Emperor, Wilhelm II. From December 1918 to January 1919, Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales, also stayed at the castle, while visiting the General Headquarters of the Australian Army Corps which were based at the castle.
In 1956 the castle was bought by the municipality. At present Ham-sur-Heure Castle is used as the town hall.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.