SOIGNIES (or SOIGNES, the Walloon form), a busy and flourishing town of the province of Hainaut, owing its prosperity to the important blue granite quarries in the neighbourhood. It contains a fine abbey church of the 12th century and in the cemetery connected with it are many tombstones of the 13th and 14th centuries. Pop. (1904), 10,480.
The forest of Soignies extended in the middle ages over the southern part of Brabant up to the walls of Brussels, and is immortalized in Byron's Childe Harold. Originally it was part of the Ardenne forest, and even at the time of the French Revolution it was very extensive. The first blow towards its gradual contraction was struck when Napoleon ordered 22,000 oaks to be cut down in it to build the celebrated Boulogne flotilla for the invasion of England. King William I. of the Netherlands continued the process in the belief that he was thus adding to the prosperity of the country, and from 29,000 acres in 1820 the forest was reduced to 11,200 in 1830. A considerable portion of the forest in the neighbourhood of Waterloo was assigned in 1815 to the duke of Wellington, and to the holder of the title as long as it endured. This portion of the forest was only converted into farms in the time of the second duke. The Bois de la Cambre (456 acres) on the outskirts of Brussels was formed out of the forest, and beyond it stretches the Foret de Soignies, still so called, to Tervueren, Groenendael, and Argenteuil close to Mont Saint Jean and Waterloo.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)