Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Brussels Stock Exchange .. on stocks

Brussels has a fascinating stock exchange building. 
Have you already had the opportunity to run up and down 
the large stairs at the entrance between the two giant stone lions. 
And did you admire the impressive pediment?  
How did the building get there in the first place?

vignette of the Brussels Stock Exchange on a share of the Banque Auxiliaire de la Bourse
Banque Auxiliaire de la Bourse
detail from the certificate below
double-click image to enlarge

By decree of Napoléon
The first stock exchange in Brussels was established in 1801 under the government of Napoléon in Belgium. The former Saint Augustine Convent was chosen for the original premises. After the convent buildings were sold, the exchange continued its business in the national mint, the Hôtel des Monnaies. When the mint re-opened in 1820, the brokers rented a house on the Rue Guillaume, now called the Rue Léopold. By the 1850s that building was becoming too small for the growing activity.  
share of the Banque Auxiliaire de la Bourse
Banque Auxiliaire de la Bourse
founder's share, 1895 Brussels
printed in blue color tints by Lith de la Cote Libre

Architect Léon Suys designs a larger building
In 1858, no fewer than 11 petitions for building a new and larger stock exchange building were handed to the city council. It was the eclectic design of the Belgian architect Léon Suys that was chosen for the new exchange. The building could be entered through several imposing doorways under the decorated pediments.  

Vignette of the Brussels Stock Exchange in the underprint of a renewal coupon.
Banque Auxiliaire de la Bourse
detail from the certificate above
Also the renewal coupon depicts the exchange.

Not Belgian but English entrepreneurs start building
In 1866, an agreement was made between the city council and the (English) Belgian Public Works Co Ltd for the cleansing and overvaulting of the Zenne river and the erection of  the new stock exchange building. The overvaulting made possible the construction of a wide traffic axle between the north and south railway stations. Along this axle, the mayor J Anspach wanted the construction of prestigious buildings: the new exchange would be the crown jewel. BPWC contracted the Waring Brothers, English entrepreneurs in public and railway construction, for the building of the exchange.  In 1868 on average, 99 workers and 26 horses were employed on the construction site every day.

Comptoir International de Banque et de Change
detail from the share below

Léon Suys sees a way out during the Franco-German war
In 1869, after the completion of the foundations and the substructure of the building, the architect Suys took over the Warings’ job, becoming both architect and builder. In 1870, the supply of building stone from the French quarries in Anstrude and Ravière was interrupted by the Franco-German war. A solution was found: the quarries on the English Isle of Portland could provide stone of similar colour and quality. The City of Brussels took over the management of the project after BPWC went into liquidation in 1871.  Finally in 1873, King Léopold II and Queen Marie-Henriette attended the inauguration ceremony. The building was completed in 1874. 

Share of the Comptoir International de Banque et de Change designed with Art Nouveau elements.
Comptoir International de Banque et de Change
preferred share of 100 Francs, 1901
splendid Art Nouveau design, printer unknown.

Léon Suys' stock exchange is rarely seen on share certificates
So much for a little of the history. Only a few share certificates are known with a vignette of the Brussels stock exchange.  I still know only four types of certificates:
  • Banque Auxiliaire de la Bourse, part de fondateur, 1895
  • Comptoir International de Banque et de Change, action privilégiée de 100 Francs, 1901. An action ordinaire is also known
  • Société Financière Liégeoise, action de capital de 500 Francs, 1925, best known in unissued form
  • CODEP-Banque Nagelmackers, bon de caisse, 1995, large underprint of the stock exchange, no further details known, unfortunately no image available
I would be very interested to hear about other types.


Société Financière Liégeoise, share of 500 Francs, 1925, with detail from Brussels stock exchange

Société Financière Liégeoise
share of 500 Francs, 1925, issued (rare)
printed by H. Wolf from Liège

Société Financière Liégeoise, share of 500 Francs, 1925

  • Ter Beurze, by Geert De Clercq (in Dutch and French), pub. Tijd 1992, ISBN: 9069660814 

PS : This article is based on the one written for the May 2006 issue of Scripophily magazine, published by IBSS.

post card Bruxelles La Bourse, around 1900
Brussels Stock Exchange post card, around 1900