Hougoumont should be a place known to every Briton. It was the site of one of the finest feats of arms in the history of the British military. If this farmhouse had fallen to Bonaparte’s forces during the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s 100 days would have become a French 100 years.
But history has not been kind to Hougoumont. It stopped been a farm at the end of the last century and souvenir hunters are simply stripping the place. The excellent Project Hougoumont stepped in to try to preserve the site. They found an ally in George Osborne, who first visited Hougoumont in 2012 and was shocked by what he saw. He started helping with their fund raising efforts. But when he heard about how the crucifix in the chapel in which the soldiers had prayed had recently been stolen, he decided more needed to be done. The government is now guaranteeing the work which will restore Hougoumont in time for the 200th anniversary of the battle next year.
Hougoumont is a classic example of how a relatively small amount of government money can make a big difference. I visited the site with Osborne on Monday, and the progress is remarkable. You can read my reflections on the visit and Osborne’s thoughts on the economy, Europe and the election here. But if you have a chance, do have a look at the Project Hougoumont website, it is an effort deserving of public support.