Heusden, Netherlands


Heusden is a restored fortified town in the Dutch municipality of Heusden (province of North Brabant), located on the Maas and Bergsche Maas. It has approximately 1,320 inhabitants (2020). In 1968 the old-style restoration of the fortified town of Heusden started. This large-scale restoration project ran for 40 years. Heusden is the capital of the Land van Heusden. Nearest cities are Waalwijk to the southwest of Heusden and 's-Hertogenbosch to the east. Heusden is nicknamed 'Galeriestad', 'Vestingstad' and 'Maasstad'.



The name Heusden possibly means house in the dunes and probably refers to a castle that dominated the (then) Maas and that was situated on a river dune.



The first mention of Heusden dates back to 722, as Hunsata Super fluvium Mosam. In 839 the place is said to have been destroyed by the Normans. This probably did not concern the city of Heusden as we know it in 2020, which is of a later date. It could be a place that corresponds to the current Oudheusden, which was located on the former course of the Maas.

Heusden Castle dates from the 12th century. The current town of Heusden developed in the vicinity of this castle. In the year 1157 there was already talk of a conflict about the possession of the chapel between the abbot of Saint Truiden and a templar. In the year 1210, mention was subsequently made of a church. Heusden was situated on the strategic border between the Duchy of Brabant, the County of Holland and the Duchy of Gelre, while the County of Cleves also initially held rights there. As a result, Heusden's political situation was unclear. For example, Heusden was taken by Duke John I of Brabant in 1279 and this is considered the beginning of the Brabant influence, although there have been skirmishes between the three power blocks before.

It is not clear when the place was granted city rights. Various sources mention years such as 1231, between 1290 and 1296, and 1318. Jan van Wijnvliet, viscount van Heusden renovated and strengthened the castle in the years 1338-1339 with a wall. In 1340, Wijnric van Oyen was appointed by Jan van Wijnvliet as drossard of the Land van Heusden. In 1357, the Land van Heusden was sold to the County of Holland and thus became Dutch. The reason for the sale lay in the fact that the Count of Holland would take sides with a Brabant candidate in a succession issue.

Several disasters have occurred in Heusden. In 1569 the city was besieged by the Spaniards and completely destroyed. The city was hit by the plague several times. During the great fire in 1572, almost the entire city was reduced to ashes. Nothing was left of the beautiful town hall. In 1680 the castle and surrounding houses were destroyed when lightning struck the powder tower.

At the end of the 16th century Jacob Kemp designed a modern wall according to the old Dutch fortification system. The medieval walls had four city gates: the Wijkse Poort, the Bossche Poort, the Oudheusdense Poort and the Veerpoort. When the walls were demolished, in need of the earthen fortifications, the Bossche Poort disappeared and the Herptse Poort was built. The Wijkse Poort was moved and later expanded to its current form. The count de Mirabeau pointed out Heusden's patriotic attitude and included the town in his plan of attack. Cornelis Krayenhoff would also move up via Heusden in 1794.

The last tragic event took place towards the end of the Second World War. While the Allies advanced, the Germans sought refuge behind a new line, the Bergsche Maas. They had the highest points in the fortress, the town hall and two church towers, blown up. The Germans did the same elsewhere, to prevent the advancing Allies from using tall buildings as lookouts.

The Heusden town hall was generally seen as the most beautiful town hall in the Netherlands. During the Allied shelling, many residents of Heusden hid in the large basement of the town hall. Some of it stayed in the basement during the unannounced blow up. In the night of 4 to 5 November 1944, the tower of the town hall was blown up, but the entire town hall collapsed and 134 men, women and children were killed. At the time, this was ten percent of the total population. Less than four hours later, the Scottish tanks and Polish divisions entered Heusden. The perpetrators of the attack were never found, and Heusden lost part of its inhabitants and a historic building.




In 1581, on behalf of William of Orange, the modernization of the fortifications of Heusden began under the leadership of Jacob Kemp. Fortress builder Adriaen Anthonisz also played a role in this. The harbor and castle thus came to lie within the walls. The fortress was constructed according to the Old Dutch fortress system. Further improvements took place between 1613 and 1620. The Wiel, a lake created in 1679, was now also situated within the walls. Thus the reputation of an impregnable fortress was upheld. During the Eighty Years' War, Heusden played an important role as a bridgehead for the Staatsen. From 1700 - 1730 the fortress was adapted to the New Dutch Fortress System, whereby the horn works were demolished.


When the Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded, the fortress, which was part of the Zuiderwaterlinie, no longer had any function. In 1821 the town lost its fortress status and in 1879 also its garrison. The defenses were neglected and their erosion was often questioned. However, this did not happen, which gradually saw its monumental value. Eventually it was decided to proceed with restoration.

For some time it was unclear to what time period the fortifications had to be restored. It was eventually decided that the restoration should take place as the fortifications lay according to Joan Blaeu's map from 1646, in accordance with the design of Jacob Kemp, including the sometimes clumsy layouts. After the restoration of 1978, Heusden has nine bastions, six ravelins, a protective island and a wet moat. On some bastions stand mills and towers. In 1980 Heusden won the Urbes Nostrae Prize for its fortress restoration, the highest European prize in the field of restoration.


Other sights

The town in its entirety is worth seeing and historic, despite the fact that it suffered severe destruction on the eve of the liberation in November 1944. From 1968 a major restoration plan was started. The city center with its surroundings is a protected cityscape.

The street plan dates back to the Middle Ages: A main street (Waterpoort-Hoogstraat-Botermarkt-Breestraat) and two parallel streets: De Putterstraat and Ridderstraat-Vismarkt-Stadshaven. These are connected by a number of cross streets.

Remains of the Castle Heusden, rebuilt in 1987, but in a way that is nowadays considered less responsible.
Great or Saint Catherine's Church, the central Protestant church in Gothic style,
Sint-Catharinakerk, the Catholic church from 1950 in the style of the Bossche School,
Reformed church at Gasthuisstraat 3, from 1865 and renovated in 2000. The building has a swiveled-in molding facade.
Lutheran church, at 25 Putterstraat, from 1951.
De Drie Hoefijzers, in the Zustersteeg, named after the former brewery "De Drie Hoefijzers", which was located here from 1810 - 1920. The Saint Catherine's Convent was located here since 1482 - 1588. In 1637 its chapel was restored and made suitable for the Walloon Church and the English Church, for mercenary soldiers from the countries concerned. After this it became a Latin school and eventually a brewery. Now houses have been built in it.
The Vismarkt, the central square in Heusden, is slightly higher than the surrounding streets. There are many historic buildings to be found.
The Visbank is a building from 1796, consisting of an open gallery with twelve Doric columns, with two side wings. A plaque reads: Anno Secundo Libertatis Batavae, the second year of the Batavian Republic. Incidentally, Heusden was the first place in the Netherlands to have a Patriotic city council. The Fish Bank formed the link between the Vismarkt and the Harbor.
The cast iron city pump from 1850 was manufactured by the Prince of Orange foundry in The Hague.
Three standerd mills, close together on the northern ramparts: Molen I, Molen II, and Molen III. These mills were built from 1971 - 1975. Mill I used material from a demolition mill from Lommel.
The Wijkse Poort is the - reconstructed - city gate with a view of the marina. This used to give access to the road to Wijk. After 1904 one has to pass the Bergsche Maas via a bridge. There is a boundary marker at this gate.
The Veerpoort or Waterpoort led from the 14th century to the ferry that provided the connection with Nederhemert. The current gate is a reconstruction based on the original foundations still present.
The Herptse gate is a reconstruction of the plan of this gate on the old foundations.
The Commiezenhuis originally dates from 1648 and was located on the south side of the harbor. During the French period, the committees (customs) were housed here who had to collect tolls, excise duties and import duties. It disappeared in 1904 and was later reconstructed in a slightly modified form.
The Schuttersdoelen at Putterstraat 42A-B, where the Collegie of old archers of the arch of Sint-Joris in Heusden used to be housed. In 1905 it became a patronage building. The original gable stone with Saint George and the Dragon was put back in a later restoration.


The late Gothic Town Hall of Heusden was built in 1461, rebuilt in 1588 after the city fire of 1572, enlarged in 1635 and almost completely renovated in 1876. It was considered one of the most beautiful Gothic town halls in the Netherlands. The Germans blew up its tower on the night of 4 to 5 November 1944, killing 134 people. The town hall was not rebuilt in its old form. The new town hall is from 1956 in the style of the Bossche School. It is now a visitor center and includes a model of Heusden and a guild room.
The Post Office at Botermarkt 2 was built in 1893 in neo-Gothic style. It has a stepped gable and a tower-shaped half-timbered extension.
The Stadshaven was established during the construction of the fortifications after 1580. In 1904, when the Bergsche Maas was dug, the harbor was filled in, but in the 70s of the 20th century it was restored to its old form.
The Demer is the city canal of Heusden. It was built in 1384 by Count Albrecht of Bavaria and connected to the Meuse. In the bend is the Pigeon Tower, a remnant of the medieval fortification of 1355, rebuilt in 1984.


Historic residential houses

Heusden has over 120 entries in the national monument register, see the list of national monuments in Heusden (location). Many registrations concern residential houses, home workshops, sidewalk posts and the like. Most of the houses date from after the conversion into a fortified city. Of the many houses we mention:

Various houses with a Dordrecht facade, such as Putterstraat 1a (1621), Oudheusdensestraat 15 (1619), Ridderstraat 7 (early 17th century), Ridderstraat 23 (1605). Breestraat 13 has a Gelderland façade and dates from 1629. A similar façade can also be found at Hoogstraat 4. Putterstraat 14 is a large house with stepped gables (1597).

17th-century facing bricks can be found at Breestraat 25 ("In 't Paradijs", depicting Adam and Eve), and Herptsestraat 30 (in the side wall: "Nackt I was born, nor did ick gain more than lose") .

At Wijksestraat 38 you will find a house in (Rococo) Louis XV style and at Pelsestraat 15 a facade in Empire style.



Museum for the Land van Heusden and Altena, in the Gouverneurshuis.
Gardens and parks
Heemtuin "De Meulenwerf" is located on the Molenstraat. It contains native plants and crops and is freely accessible.
Nature and landscape
The city of Heusden is situated on the Bergsche Maas, and on the other side of it the Heusdens Canal rises, which leads to the Afgedamde Maas.

The fortifications with their many water features form a biotope for aquatic life. The fortifications are accessible.

In the area of ​​Heusden, walks have been plotted that also visit the town.