Wilhelminaoord, Netherlands, Europe
Year1821latitude: 52° 51'
longitude: 6° 10'
Initiator(s)Maatschappij van Weldadigheid
Planning organization
Nationality initiator(s)Netherlands
Designer(s) / Architect(s)
Design organization
Inhabitants900 (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

Pastor's house and church
source: https://www.geheugenvandr enthe.nl/page/10940/maats chappij-van-weldadigheid

source: https://www.geheugenvandr enthe.nl/page/10940/maats chappij-van-weldadigheid

Typical streetscape of Wilhelminaoord with colonist's housing
source: https://www.geheugenvandr enthe.nl/page/10940/maats chappij-van-weldadigheid

Plan of Willemsoord, Frederiksoord, Wilhelminaoord and colony VII, after 1850
source: Plattegrond Maatschappij van Weldadigheid in de tweede helft van de 19e eeuw: Willemsoord, Frederiksoord, Wilhelminaoord

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 or Wortel) 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.


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