Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Posh Neighbourhood

Apart from the stone commemorating the crash of Régis Deleuze the area around Houten is thick with castles that trace back to medieval times. The marshy area north of the Kromme Rijn was drained and turned into polder in the 12th and 13th centuries, soon followed by keeps of local lords.

The medieval keep of castle Sterkenburg
with 19th century additions
Like many of the remaining castles, Sterkenburg (ca 1200) now has been converted to a hotel/B&B. Apparently it was up for sale earlier this year for slightly less than 10 million euros (a bargain I'm sure). They do tours in the weekends. Tempting!

Castle Weerdensteyn with the moat and entry gate

But the real prize was the discovery of Castle Weerdensteyn, built around 1300 and hidden within a wood so it cannot be seen from any road. By chance we hit the path that passes it. The top of the keep is reasonably intact, but the base has been reworked in the late 19th century. Apparently it has been refurbished again recently and is still inhabited. Just shows that it pays not to stick to the beaten path.

Castle Lunenburg
Another reasonably well preserved keep, castle Lunenburg. Bombed in WWII because German vehicles had been spotted near it.

There are dozens more in the area so I'll be keeping my eyes open. With the fortifications of the Oude Hollandsche Waterlinie also in the neighbourhood and the remnants of the Roman limes, which lay at the Kromme Rijn, this is an interesting place.


  1. apparently these towers had no real military role, which is why they were tolerated by the bishop of Utrecht. Which leaves oneupmanship as the only explanation.

    1. not the only explanation. The article you sent me (for which many thanks! It is easier now to track down the ones I haven't seen yet) suggests that safe storage was also a function. They might not have withstood a determined band of soldiers, but they would have kept out thieves and other threats to the produce of the land. ANd they would have still emphasized the claim of the castle builders over the area. WHich is why they owned several castles in the same area.

  2. I'd consider a castle a bit of overkill against rodents! Not sure about the level of lawlessness and feuding in 13/14th C. Utrecht. I somehow don't think it compares to the Scottish Borders, Mani in Greece or even Frisia.
    Do you know if Utrecht practiced primogeniture, or if they partitioned inheritances? The latter might also lead to competition within families.

    1. Obviously, the Kromme Rijn area was not the Wild West. It's just that I can't see the abundance in the 13th century that would allow noble families to throw up several strongholds in an area just as an act of conspicious consumption. I'm not very knowledgeable in medieval studies so I have no idea about inheritance practices in the area. I can see how it affected landholding and castle building

  3. partitionable inheritance is always given as an explanation for the disproportionally large amount of motte-castles (vliedbergen) on my home island of Walcheren.


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