The name Waregem, originally Waro-ingha-heim, was first mentioned in 826 and means ‘the residence of the clan Waro'. However the name and the settlement referred to are older than this, they date back namely to the Frankish period.
Evidence has been found to prove that there were in fact several settlements in Waregem during the Gallo-Roman period. This includes arrowheads, fragments of pottery and coins.
The first inhabitants of the present city of Waregem settled along the banks of the Leie. The main part of Waregem consisted mainly of forest area. At around 950, the Sint-Pietersabdij (Saint Peters abbey) of Ghent received a grant for an extended area of land consisting of a large part of Beveren, almost the entire area of Desselgem and the larger outskirt regions of Deerlijk and Waregem. Up until the 13th century, much of the land in Vijve and Waregem was owned by the Ghent Sint-Pietersabdij. The period from the 9th to the 13th century was marked by the feudalization of the Gaver region whereby powerful landowners acquired parts of property originally belonging to the Ghent Sint-Pietersabdij.
The situation was not much better in Vijve and Waregem which also belonged to the abbey. The centre of Waregem was surrounded by properties belonging to the landowners of Dendermonde who took possession of Waregem in the 12th century.
As an exception however, the community centre was given to the ‘Our Lady' chapel in Doornik. The French revolution brought an end to the feudal system in the area. As an alternative, a modern and centralised state based on a new administrative division, separate from the legislative and judicial powers was founded. Waregem, Desselgem and Beveren-Leie became affiliated under the district of Harelbeke while Sint-Eloois-Vijve came under the district of Oostrozebeke.
The municipal autonomy of each of these regions was very well respected. Only after the fusion, which became effective on the 1st April 1977, were these four municipalities joined together to form one larger municipality namely, Waregem.
On the 23rd June 1999, a law approving the title of town to the municipalities of Genk, Mortsel, Seraing and Waregem was passed. Waregem was officially proclaimed a ‘town' on the 1st January 2000. At present, it has a surface area of 4 494 hectares and a population of no less than 35 819 people according to the last count on 1st May 2001.
Waregem is located on the outskirts of the predominantly industrialised city region of Kortrijk (Courtrai). It also makes up part of this industrial region of Kortrijk which is administratively bordered by the municipalities of Menen, Avelgem, Waregem and Lendelede.
This area together with the industrial sites of Bruges, form the backbone of industrial activity in West Flanders.
Waregem has very little primary activity compared to the rest of West Flanders. Industry however, especially in Waregem itself, is relatively more important than in the rest of the province particularly concerning the amount of enterprises and the employment rate in the area.
Waregem has been noted in several scientific publications as being a centre concerned with the surrounding environment which is populated by approximately 65 000 to 100 000 people. Culture, recreation and sport play an important role for the environment of Waregem. The cultural centre known as ‘De Schakel' is a multifunctional building in which a library, a CD library, a fivehundred-seat theatre, an exhibition foyer and several other multifunctional rooms are located.
It possesses one of the leading sports infrastructures too, not only in the entire district, but also in the province and in the country itself. As well as having an indoor swimming pool, it also features several sport centres (public and private), an indoor shooting range for rifles and revolvers, a jogging track and a minigolf course. It also has an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and last but not least the Bloso centre for equestrian sports complete with racing horse track.
Good health services (hospitals, retirement homes...etc.) also serve to attract more residents to the area.
The education infrastructure in Waregem is also admirable. It contains more than 20 schools varying from kindergartens and elementary schools of all teaching nets to the 7 secondary schools.
Waregem is very well located along the E17 motorway and has both an approach and an exit on this motorway. There are two important industrial areas along this Antwerp-Kortrijk connection namely Vijverdam and Deerlijk-Waregem. The local road between Kortrijk and Ghent is also an important travel route to Waregem and the railway line between Kortrijk and Ghent, which was converted to electric in 1980, stops over in Waregem station as well.
The IC train provides an hourly connection between Ghent and Kortrijk.
The dependent municipalities of Beveren-Leie, Desselgem and Sint-Eloois-Vijve are located along the river Leie which is navigable for ships up to 1 350 tons.
Commercial and service centre
The oldest shopping streets are Stormestraat and Stationstraat which together with the Pand, Holstraat, the Keukeldam and the Market Square form the commercial centre of Waregem.
The Pand is a shopping centre with extensive shopping facilities, retail businesses, restaurants, pubs and service industries. Worth noting are the Town Hall of Waregem, the post office, the police station and the ministry of finance (tax office, land registry office, registration and VAT administration). There is sufficient parking both around and under the complex for around 850 cars. The whole complex was constructed and financed by the municipality of Waregem and is subsequently the property of the town itself.
On the 29th November 1784, it was decreed that Waregem could have a public market every Saturday. The market still takes place every Saturday from 8 till 12 in the market square.
Places of interest
Both Waregem and its dependent municipalities feature a number of scenic places, important buildings and an extended infrastructure worth visiting. These include, the town centre of Waregem, The Pand, the cultural centre ‘De Schakel', the Baron Casier park, the Rainbow stadium (Regenboogstadion), the Gaverbeek hippodrome and Bloso centre, the American cemetery in ‘Flanders Field', Goed te Nieuwenhove and many others.