Valkenswaard, Netherlands


Valkenswaard (Brabants: Valkeswird) is a village located in the Kempen region, province of North Brabant. It is the capital of the eponymous municipality. As of January 1, 2020, this core had 31,193 inhabitants.



The name Valkenswaard
The name Valkenswaard appears for the first time in the archives in 1702, then still written with "dt" at the end. Before this period, Valkenswaard was known under the name Weerd. Although in the period from 1600 to 1700 the name Verckensweerde also appears in the archives, it has never been an official name for Valkenswaard. The prefix Vercken- was introduced firstly to indicate the difference with the larger Limburg town of Weert and secondly because at that time the pig market in Valkenswaard was the most important in the region. Due to the influential falconers in the village, the prefix Vercken - changed to Valken -. The name Weerd appears for the first time in the archive in 1446. Before this period the village was mentioned under the name Wedert. The name Wedert goes back in the archives to 1292. Only the first vague mentions of the village at the beginning of the 13th century refer to Wederde.

The name Valkenswaard has made a real "make-over" from Wedert to Weerd to Valkenswaard in a period of 400 years. We can therefore say that "host" comes from Weerd, which in turn comes from Wedert. The name Wedert is a combination of wedeme and earth. Wedeme is a good or heme given to the church, a donation to a monastery or church. Earth is a common term for "gemy soil" which means community. Wede-earth would therefore mean good (read: earth or common land to the monastery of Echternach) be given. This is in line with the history of Valkenswaard, which until a few centuries ago was under the administration of the Abbey of Echternach, in contrast to the peripheral municipalities that were directly under the administration of the Duke of Brabant.

Carnival name
During Carnival time, Valkenswaard is referred to as Striepersgat. This name comes from the word striepen, which means the removal of the midrib of a tobacco leaf, which is part of the production of cigars and recalls the extensive cigar industry that Valkenswaard has known.




Various archaeological finds have been made in the area where Valkenswaard is now located. Especially along the Dommel and Tongelreep, this concerned objects from the Mesolithic, which date from 6000 BC. to 5000 BC. This mainly concerned flint tools. Few finds are known in this area from periods after this time.


Bronze Age and Iron Age

The urnfield culture, which arose after 900 BC, in which the farmers were already plowing and fertilizing their land, has had a great influence. Remains of settlements as well as urn fields have been found. An urn field at Sportpark Den Dries, the former Geenhovense Heide, has been declared a national monument. Part of it has not yet been excavated.


Roman time

The area where Valkenswaard is now located was made from the 1st century BC. until the 5th century AD. part of the Roman Empire. Only two Roman coin finds, one in Borkel and Schaft of an aureus of Emperor Nero and another in an urn that is said to have come from the Gegraaf, have revealed the Valkenswaard soil so far. Since it came into private hands, there is no trace of a Roman jug that was once found on the Leenderweg.


Early Middle Ages

After the Franks took over this area from the Romans, the first source is the Liber aureus from 1191 from the Abbey of Echternach. It states that in 704 Aengibaldus, presumably a Frankish nobleman, transferred property to Willibrord, who was a missionary in the area around Waalre. Since the Liber Aureus was considered to consist of copied documents dating back hundreds of years and aimed at substantiating the abbey's land claims, it is not unlikely that it was forgeries.


Middle Ages

The current residential center of Valkenswaard originated from various small reclamations from the 12th century consisting of the Cromstraet, Geenhoven, Zeelberg and Venbergen. The various watermills in this area, such as the Venbergse Watermill, allowed the reclamations to quickly develop into hamlets. In the 13th and 14th century, these hamlets expanded with other peripheral reclamations such as the Delishurk, De Brand, De Hagen, Zandberg and Nuland.


The first major landowners were the lords of Herlaar, who probably obtained goods in Valkenswaard from the beginning of the 13th century. They played an important role between the advancing Duke of Brabant and the Count of Gelre, who both claimed areas in what is now North Brabant. In this period, the then still powerful local lords had to partially relinquish their power to the duke or count. In contrast, the duke and count gave many goods as gifts to abbeys and monasteries that they often founded themselves. Valkenswaard then belonged to the Heerlijkheid Waalre, Valkenswaard and Aalst.

After the death of the last lord from the family of Herlaar, the rights of the manor fell into the hands of Gerard van Loon. In 1314 he sold the Heerlijkheid Herlaar and with it the monastic rights of Echternach in Waalre and Valkenswaard to Gerard I van Horne. In 1321 large parts of Valkenswaard came into the hands of the Abbey of Echternach because Gerard I van Horne had to admit, on the basis of “the forgery of Echternach”, that he held areas in Waderle Wedert and Aalst on loan from the abbey. In 1326 the abbey issued the first vague boundary determination of the areas it had claimed in Valkenswaard. However, in addition, many goods and land remained the property of local lords, monasteries and the Duke of Brabant. The Venbergse Watermill remained partly in the possession of the Duke until the 14th century.

At the beginning of the 14th century, there was already talk of the parish of Wedert. The parish of Wedert is mentioned in an issue letter of the Abbey of Echternach from 1326. However, because the village of Waalre experienced a faster growth of prosperity during this time, it could afford a stone church building. As a result, the power shifted to Waalre and it is incorrectly assumed that Valkenswaard originated from Waalre, partly due to the fact that all written documents and protocols that have been preserved date from the period in which Waalre realized this faster growth.

The first mention of a church was in 1321. This church probably stood on the spot on the Cromstraet where the rectory of Valkenswaard stood until the 19th century. However, Valkenswaard had to wait until 1500 before its first stone church building was a fact. This building was located at the Rosheuvel, on the Kerkwech, which led to Geenhoven. This church was only demolished in 1860. Today the silhouette is visible in the old cemetery.

There was also talk of a joint alderman's bank that was probably established at the beginning of the 14th century. The oldest mention until now dates from 1343 when Jhan de Moleneer van Venberghen hands over all his possessions from the Venbergse Watermill to Postel Abbey for the aldermen of Waalre and Valkenswaard.


New livelihoods

Den Dorpe van Wedert, however, was a hamlet that around 1500 comprised a triangular Plaetse and the hamlet of Cromstraet. Due to its favorable location at a junction of roads, it was able to develop somewhat faster than the neighboring hamlets. In the first half of the 15th century this manifested itself in contact with merchants from Lommel, Neerpelt and Achel, as a result of which a lively market developed in Wedert.

Incidentally, an almost continuous series of wars began around this time. In 1481, Wedert suffered badly from the undisciplined mercenary troops of Maximilian of Austria, against which the inhabitants of the region revolted, resulting in 250 casualties among them. In the early 16th century, the Guelders troops wreaked havoc in Kempenland and Wedert had his share of that as well. The local population also actively revolted against these troops. During these times the annual fair also came to a standstill. On the poor sandy soils around Valkenswaard, most of the tenant farmers had a meager existence. This situation was aggravated when foreign or State troops turned the village into a feeding place during one of the many campaigns that ravaged Brabant during and after the Eighty Years' War, demanded billeting and large-scale looting.

However, new activities emerged. In 1536, the first mention was made of Ketelbueters, ie kettle burners or copper teuts.


Moreover, in 1556, for the first time in documents mention is made of catching falcons. It is conceivable that these activities were stimulated by the immigration of people from Turnhout and Arendonk, where falconry had existed since the 10th century. Only after 1600 the profession of Valconier was explicitly mentioned in documents. It consisted of training falcons. The larger birds of prey were caught in Denmark, Iceland and Norway. Peregrine falcons could be caught on the Leenderheide, which was on the migration route of these birds. The falconers were wealthy and influential people who lived in the royal courts, but they undoubtedly also brought prosperity to the village, as far as there was peace. Falconry reached its peak from 1650-1750, but it also survived for a long time. The last falconer was Karel Mollen, who died in 1935.



A series of wars followed, starting with the Guelders wars, in the context of which Maarten van Rossum plundered many villages in the Meierij in 1543, and during which Valkenswaard could not escape a fire estimate. In 1551 Huibrecht van der Clusen became lord of Waalre, Valkenswaard and Aalst, and the arrival of this family brought with it a period of relatively good relations with the lord.

However, the Eighty Years' War had begun, which brought visits from Spanish and later also State troops and their allies, who all wanted to be cared for and sometimes misbehaved. The misery started in 1573 with Spanish riders from Eindhoven and did not stop after that.

Notorious was also a troop that was stationed in Hamont and moved along the main road towards Valkenswaard. From 1599 this was troubled by this and they even built a redoubt on the Kromstraat where the population could get to safety. The Twelve Year Truce brought some solace, but when that was over the trouble started again. A redoubt was built south of the Venbergse Watermill to protect the population against the Dutch troops. The fall of 's-Hertogenbosch at the siege in 1629 heralded a time of religious freedom, for which the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands issued strict edicts, such as the retorsion plaque. In 1653 a preacher, Johannes Alstorphius, arrived. In 1656, the border church on the territory of Achel was consecrated, called Het Weerderhuys. Unjustly high taxes were also levied, because since 1648 the Meierij belonged to the Generality countries. Yet the economy was not at a standstill. The pig markets continued and there were wealthy people, including of course the falconers, but also innkeepers and merchants. These maintained international relations with courts across Europe. They were often aldermen and other officials, and were also able to lend money. Poor people sometimes had to resort to home weaving. The social differences were very large. The rich falconers employed servants of their company who went to Iceland and Scandinavia to catch falcons, which were then trained in Valkenswaard. The falconers had contacts with the courts all over Europe. The heyday of the Valkenswaard falconry was between 1650 and 1750. However, trade was and remained mainly oriented to the area south of Valkenswaard: Hamont, Neerpelt and further. An important bee market was reported in 1765, and beekeeping would continue to be of great importance into the 20th century.

Meanwhile, new threats of war came. The French troops advanced in late 1672 and continued to be a threat long afterward. They often demanded money, food and shelter, and so did the Staatse troops who had to 'protect' the population against the French. Then in 1701 came the War of the Spanish Succession with again numerous troops. Valkenswaard was also on a number of strategic roads. In 1740 the War of the Austrian Succession broke out, and in 1747 there was again danger for all kinds of troops, who also spread typhoid fever. The troops demanding money and food brought Valkenswaard to bankruptcy and several families emigrated in 1750 to Germany or North Holland. Something similar happened in 1766, when new pro-state troops demanded billeting. Time also brought insecurity, tensions between Catholics and Protestants, and between Protestants themselves. Moreover, a French invasion was imminent, and the government feared the activities of the Patriots, and new troops would arrive.


In 1754, the custom of holding congregation meetings in inns came to an end. A raedt or gemeijntehuijs was built. In 1789 the construction of the road between Liège and 's-Hertogenbosch was started, which was projected straight through Valkenswaard, for which the then technocrats wanted to pave the market square and wipe out all the old bulging trees. However, this was considered too expensive. Nevertheless, the French, hoped for by the Patriots, could easily advance by this route, upon which the population regained freedom of religion but at the same time was again forced to supply the considerable army. It only continued in 1795. In 1799 Batavian troops came again from the north.

In an administrative sense, the arrival of the French led to the possibility for Valkenswaard to become independent from Waalre. This led to conflicts with Mr. Poulus Repelaar, as he was prevented from leasing the weigh house and appointing a secretary. In 1795 the Municipality of Valkenswaard was established, which was dismissed in 1798 and immediately afterwards confirmed in his position. The Catholics got the neglected church back, but at the same time they had a barn church on the Kromstraat, so that a dispute arose as to which church would be used now. Ultimately, the barn church was sold in 1807 and the old church renovated.

Thanks to Louis Napoleon, the Protestants also got a new church, which was completed in 1812 and replaced in 1890 by the still existing Reformed church on the Markt.



The very impoverished place had to blossom again in the 19th century. Improvement of the farming population through the establishment of agricultural organizations played a role in this. In addition, industrialization began. In 1840 there were already brickyards that used Brabant clay as a raw material. In 1880 there were eight such companies, employing a total of 26 people. These have all disappeared. In 1840 there were also fourteen tanneries, then the most important branch of industry. The longest existing tannery was that of Jaspers. This industry was found until well into the 20th century, and the shoe industry also developed on this basis. In 1880 there were more than twenty of them. Some grew into real factories, such as Steam shoe factory 'De Valk' by J. van de Besselaar, and Steam shoe factory 'De Komeet' by the Gebroeders Bots, from 1911, which at least still produced in 1976. There was also talk of Jacq's glue factory. Kanen on the Rapelenburg, which in 1867 had ten employees and the glue factory of the Gebr. Maas (from 1850 to 1963), who produced glue on the tip of the Waalreseweg and the Dijkstraat for 100 years and moved to the Schaapsloop in 1950. In 1889, this glue factory, led by Matheus Maas, had twelve employees. In 1890 there were 19 weaving mills based on cottage industry. There were also two breweries. In 1894 the Royal Steam Dairy Factory 'Hollandia' was built, a butter factory.

However, the great wave of industrialization took place from 1864, when the cigar industry emerged. With capital from falconry, a company was set up, based on the tobacco factory but soon switched to the manufacture of cigars. More of this followed and a large part of the rapidly growing population of Valkenswaard would soon find work in this industry. However, many of the smaller factories in Valkenswaard would not survive the Second World War: on September 17, 1944, at the start of Operation Market Garden, they were hit by an artillery and air bombardment by the advancing British troops. Only two larger factories remained, which would form the core of the Valkenswaard economy for a few more decades. It was not until 1990 that the last production company, Hofnar, closed its doors, while Willem II formed the basis for the current headquarters of Swedish Match Cigars.

In 1878 a new town hall was built and the old one was demolished. In 1928 a town hall was built again for the now much larger town. This was expanded in 1934, with the merger with Dommelen en Borkel en Schaft, and again in 1976.

Naturally, new industrial activity developed in Valkenswaard, of which the companies of the VDL Groep form an important part. VDL Bova (start of bus construction in 1930) and VDL Berkhof (founded in 1970) are builders of buses and coaches. These two companies have been operating under the joint name VDL Bus & Coach since 2011. Another large company, MCB, also came to Valkenswaard in 1970. A large warehouse for metal products was built here, while MCB's head office was also moved to Valkenswaard in 1986.


In 1934 the municipality of Valkenswaard was expanded with the area of ​​Dommelen and Borkel and Schaft. A new town hall was also built at the time.

In 1959 a factory was established in Brabantia, a company whose (former) headquarters are in neighboring Aalst.

The population of Valkenswaard continued to grow, and the influence of Eindhoven did not go unnoticed. There is an intensive shuttle traffic between the two places. Nowadays, expansion takes place mainly on the territory of the annexed Dommelen.



Church buildings
The Weerderhuys on the Markt was a Reformed church from 1890-1969. It was built on the site of an older church from 1809. The Protestant congregation dates from 1648. The building was bought by the municipality of Valkenswaard in 1969 and has served as a wedding hall since 1973. A remarkable feature of the building is the fact that it was built as a Protestant hall church, but in an unusual neo-Gothic style for the Protestant tradition. The current name refers to the former border church in Achel.
The Ontmoetingskerk is a modern Protestant church from 1962. It was designed by Wouter Ingwersen and expanded in 1974. She has an organ from 1965 that comes from the Reformed Petrakerk in Leiden, was built by the firm Leeflang and was placed in the Ontmoetingskerk in 1992. The church still has some historical ecclesiastical vessels, including a communion cup from before 1648, by the first minister brought from Deventer, and a communion cup from 1755.
Sint-Nicolaaskerk This neo-gothic church on the Markt originally dates from 1860 but became too small due to the rapid population growth and was therefore demolished in 1927, except for the tower. The renovated church was inaugurated in 1929. The master builder was Jan Stuyt. The church contains beautiful stained glass windows by Luc. van Hoek, while in the Maria Chapel there are windows by Jos Leurs from 1992. The church tower shows a very characteristic silhouette. In this tower hangs a carillon from 1959, cast by Klokkengieterij Eijsbouts.
The Saint Anthony of Paduakerk, on the Eindhovenseweg, is Valkenswaard's second parish, which was founded in 1919. The church was completed in 1921.
The Mariakerk, on the Warande, is a brick parish church from 1953. It has a somewhat strict architecture. The Mariaparochie was founded in 1951 as the third parish in Valkenswaard.
The old cemetery is located on Kerkhofstraat, on the site of the former Gothic church, but it was demolished in 1860. The outline of the church has been made visible in the pavement. Numerous notables lie here, such as the last falconer, Karel Mollen, and numerous families of cigar manufacturers. The oldest grave monument is from 1847. There is a Calvary from 1932, designed by Antoon Bogers, and there are a number of beautiful trees.