Weert (Limburgs: Wieërt) is a city in the Dutch province of Limburg and the urban core of the eponymous municipality. The municipality of Weert borders Noord-Brabant and Belgium, coming from the north it becomes clear why the city is promoting itself as 'the gateway to Limburg'. Furthermore, the city is located near the Peel and the Zuid-Willemsvaart. Weert was granted city rights in 1414 and has just over 50,000 inhabitants in January 2020.
Summary of history
Name and origin
The name 'Weert' already indicates how the place originated. 'Weert' is identical to land: a piece of land, located near or in the middle of waters and marshes, in other words a dike piece of land. It is quite understandable that the place received this name when one considers that at that time this region was surrounded in the north, east and south by vast Peel lakes and marshes, which used to cover a much larger area than today. Between these uninhabitable wildernesses was a high and dry island and this is where Weert originated. The whole area was divided into two parts: the higher part "Overweert" (now Weert) and the lower part Nederweert. People have lived in the vicinity of Weert since prehistoric times. This is evident from finds from the Stone Age and the presence of the remains of a large urn field from the late Bronze Age on the Boshoverheide. This urn field has been made accessible by means of a paved footpath. Traces of occupation from the Iron Age and Roman times have also been found.
The place originated at a junction of roads in the heath and peat area on the border of Brabant and Limburg on the edge of the Peel.
The Lords of Horne
Weert is mentioned for the first time in a charter from 1062. In 1306, the chapter of Saint Servatius transferred all rights it held in Weert to the lords of Horne. Since then they exercised authority in the land of Weert, which was never formally part of the glory (later county) Horn, but was an outside loan from the duchy of Guelders. From 1455 the counts of Horne lived in Weert, where count Jacob I van Horne had a new castle built, the Nijenborgh. This castle was destroyed in 1702 during the War of the Spanish Succession. The most famous Count of Horne is Philip of Montmorency, better known as Philip of Horne, who was beheaded in Brussels in 1568 along with Count Lamoraal of Egmont. His tombstone can still be seen in the inner city Martin's Church, although research shows that it is not certain whether he (except for the tin can with his heart) is really buried there. In 2020, a tomb was found at Kasteel De Aldenborgh where Philips may have been buried. A local comprehensive school and a street bear his name. In 2018, a 'Count of Horne Year' was organized in Weert to commemorate (together with the 'Egmont Year' in Zottegem, Oud-Beijerland and Egmond (Mons)) the 450th anniversary of the execution by Alva on the Grand Place in Brussels. Commemorative ceremonies and wreaths were placed in Brussels and Weert on 5 June 2018. A new logo was designed ('Weert Van Hornestad'), a 'Graaf van Hornemusical' was performed, Van Horne murals were applied and an equestrian statue of Philips van Horne will be placed in the forecourt of Kasteel Nijenborgh.
Between 1450 and 1550 an economic boom came to fruition under the
protection of the Count of Horne Weert. The cloth industry in
particular was very important to the Weerter economy. Saint Martin's
Church was also built during this time. After the death of Philip of
Montmorency, as last count of Horn, the protection of Weert by the
lords of Horne ceased. This caused the city to fall into disrepair.
Only after the construction of the Zuid-Willemsvaart in 1825 and the
Iron Rhine in 1879 did the economy flourish again. In the 19th
century, the water board Het Land van Weert was established to curb
the flooding in the area.
After the First World War, the industrialization of the city started. Industry slowly became more important than agriculture and so Weert became an industrial city. Today, the city can still be partly characterized as such.
World War II in Weert
Weert was part of the Peel-Raamstelling. The Peel-Raamstelling
was a line of defense. That is why soldiers were also sent to Weert.
However, the Peel-Raamstelling was not built to defeat the Germans,
but to stop the Germans for so long that the French troops could
advance to the Netherlands. Machine guns were placed and casemates
built all along the Peel-Raamstelling. These were the main means of
defense. In Weert, these defenses were often located along the
Zuid-Willemsvaart (especially near bridges). This position started
in the north at the small river the Raam near Grave. In the southern
part it lay along the Noordervaart and the Zuid-Willemsvaart. The
position ended at the zinc factory and the Ringselven in
Budel-Dorplein. This means that between the line and the Belgian
border, about eight kilometers remained undefended. The part from
Budel to Sluis 13 was called the Vak Weert. Many soldiers did not
have this line. Only three battalions, a few thousand men, defended
the Vak Weert from Dorplein to Sluis 13. From south to north these
are the 2nd battalion 41st Regiment Infanterie, the 4th border
battalion and, at Nederweert to Sluis 13, the 1st battalion 30e
Regiment Infanterie. From this it could be concluded that there
might be a fight in Weert. That is why Weert had prepared a
large-scale evacuation. The preparations for the evacuation were
very good. Everyone was assigned an evacuation address. They were
not allowed to go there on their own, but they had to go in a group,
which was safer. To ensure that everything went well within such a
group, they had also appointed head and auxiliary leaders. The
residents also received a booklet with regulations (rules) in
advance, which clearly stated what was and was not allowed. The
residents also received a kind of identity card stating to which
group they belonged. It also stated what they had to take with them,
so that neither too much nor too little was taken. To ensure that
the payload of trucks and cars was used properly, cars and trucks
were recovered. This was also done because elderly people and the
sick could be evacuated quickly and properly.
The residents of Weert were well informed about the evacuation and the war to come. This was done by distributing posters and letters throughout Weert. As a result, everyone was informed of the coming evacuation.
The evacuation itself did not go well. When German planes flew over at 3:00 am from 9 to 10 May, it was known that the war was very close. When Fortanier (commander Vak Weert) heard that the Maaslinie (close to Roermond) had been disbanded, he had the bridges of Weert blown up. But the evacuation had not yet started. As a result, people could no longer cross the bridges to their evacuation destination. That is why many people went on their own to Altweerterheide and Tungelroy in particular. But when it became dangerous in Altweerterheide because of cannons, many left for Tungelroy. The evacuation went well in the sense that there were no deaths. The only deaths were among those who ventured too far into the war zone.
In any case, the evacuation was really necessary. There were some fights in Weert. 7 civilians were killed because they ventured too far into the war zone. If the inhabitants of Weert had stayed, there could have been many more.