Veenhuizen, Netherlands, Europe
Year1823latitude: 53° 1'
longitude: 6° 23'
Initiator(s)Maatschappij van Weldadigheid
Planning organization
Nationality initiator(s)Netherlands
Designer(s) / Architect(s)
Design organization
Inhabitants1,300 (2020)
Target population
Town website
Town related links

type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy

The asylum for orphans
source: https://www.canonvanneder e-vo/dwangkolonie-veenhui zen

The sleeping hall / workspace in one of the asylums, with hammocks raised to the ceiling
source: https://www.canonvanneder e-vo/dwangkolonie-veenhui zen

Administrative intake of a beggar, 1896
source: https://www.canonvanneder e-vo/dwangkolonie-veenhui zen

Second Asylum for orphans
source: wiki/Veenhuizen_%28Noorde nveld%29

"To work is to live"
source: http://www.alleplaatsenop =plaatsen&plaats=1890

Second Asylum, nowadays: The Prison Museum
source: wiki/Veenhuizen,_Noordenv eld

Aerial overview

In 1818, three years after the Napoleontic wars, the Netherlands was impoverished as never before: one third of the population lived off charity. The cities and the countryside dealt with poverty, crime, vagrants and beggars. To ease the poverty, a system of free and unfree colonies was initiated by the elite.

Cheap, undeveloped land (marshes or heathland) was bought outside of the Randstad where the main cities are, in poor provinces like Drenthe, Overijssel, Friesland and the Kempen. General Johannes van den Bosch, with a mandate from king Willem I, started the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid (Society of Benevolence) and built the first colony Frederiksoord in 1818. After this first one, more were to follow: Veenhuizen, Ommerschans, Willemsoord, Wilhelminaoord and Boschoord. In what is nowadays Belgium, two more colonies were built: Wortel and Merksplas.

The idea and goal of the colonies was to eradicate poverty by giving the urban proletariat from the cities a chance to improve their lives by working in the colonies: they developed the land, made it suitable for agriculture and could earn a decent living. Meanwhile the cities freed themselves of criminals and paupers.

There was a difference between free colonies (like Fredriksoord, Willemsoord) where the colonists were selected before being admitted to the colony and unfree colonies (like Veenhuizen or Ommerschans) where beggars, criminals, vagrants and unwanted people were forced to move to and forced to work and subject to a repressive regime.

Veenhuizen was the largest of all colonies. It was an unfree colony; in 1823, the Society of Benevolence built three large asylums meant for orphans, beggars and vagrants. They were sent from the cities to the colony and guarded 24/7. The orphans were housed in two of the three asylums, 80 children per hall. In the daytime they had school in the morning and work in the afternoon; sleeping was done in the same hall, in hammocks, which were tied to the ceiling during the day.

Until 1981, Veenhuizen was a closed settlement, only accessible to detainees, the guards and their families. Nowadays, there are still 1000 detainees. The second asylum now houses the Prison Museum.

The design of the colonies followed a mathematical lay-out with long straight streets. The asylums were large square building complexes with an inner courtyard. Workspaces, mills, schools, a church and guard's housing completed the settlement. Nowadays, Veenhuizen houses more than 100 listed monuments.


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