Zutphen, Netherlands


Zutphen (Low Saxon: Zutfent) is a city in the Dutch province of Gelderland, located on the river IJssel. It is the capital of the municipality of Zutphen and has 39,440 inhabitants (2020).

The history of Zutphen spans more than 1700 years. At that time Zutphen has grown from a Germanic settlement via an important center of power around 1000 and a successful trading city around 1300 to a medium-sized city today. The city was granted city rights at the end of the 12th century and joined the Hanseatic League. The coat of arms of Zutphen still bears the symbols of a Hanseatic city.

In 2005 the former neighboring municipality of Warnsveld merged with Zutphen.



Zutphen originated in Roman times as a Germanic settlement on a complex of river dunes. The settlement of the Frankish tribe of the Chamaven had probably been fortified from the start: two parallel, 5 meters wide and two meters deep V-shaped canals cut off a strategic tip of the river dune at the mouth of the Berkel in the IJssel. The place has been continuously inhabited for more than 1700 years and is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. The name Zutphen originated from Zuid-venne, a river dune complex in the middle of marshy pastures. The settlement continued to exist in the early Middle Ages on the current 's-Gravenhof, in contrast to many other places of residence during the migration period. After the incorporation of the IJssel region into the Frankish Empire around 800, Zutphen became an administrative center of the counts of Hamaland.



In the late 9th century, Zutphen was destroyed by Viking attacks, after which at the end of that century a round ring wall was built with a 20 meter wide U-shaped moat. The markets Groenmarkt, Houtmarkt and Zaadmarkt are still part of that former ring wall and canal. In the middle of the 11th century, Zutphen became a royal residence for some time and a palace was built there. Shortly before that a church chapter had been founded. The oldest Romanesque construction phase of the collegiate church, the current St. Walburgis Church was consecrated in 1105. Since 1046, the bishop of Utrecht was ruler of the Zutphen county and the burg. In the course of the late 11th century and early 12th century, the counts of Zutphen managed to gain more and more power. Among the counts of Gelderland, the count's city, which had come into Gelder hands since 1138 through marriage, quickly became larger and more important economically.

Count Hendrik I of Guelders and Zutphen (1138-1181) had a new settlement of merchants and craftsmen outside the ring wall built of its own wall. The rampart contained two tuff gates and seven or eight towers of the same type of stone brought from Germany. That gave the city the allure of the episcopal cities of Deventer and Utrecht. In this urban area the count established his own court, which was given to the Dominicans in 1293.


Hanseatic city

This location was well known for the merchants, and Zutphen grew rapidly and became one of the Hanseatic cities. Between 1191 and 1196, Zutphen was granted city rights by Count Otto van Gelre (1181-1207). Many Gelderland cities (including Arnhem, Doesburg, Doetinchem, Harderwijk, Lochem and Hattem) derived their later city rights from those of Zutphen. The city was walled in the 13th century and expanded with the Nieuwstad founded by the count in the 13th century. Large city fires took place in Zutphen in 1284 and 1336. As a result, the rich city rapidly 'petrified'. Houses were built in brick with urban subsidies. Dozens of houses date from basement to roof from the 14th century. Zutphen's golden age was the 14th century. Zutphen became the capital of the County of Zutphen. The city took part in the Baltic Sea trade, was a member of the Hanseatic League from the 13th century and had trading factories on the Sound in Skanör on the southwestern tip of Schonen and Dragør on the island of Amager. The city was very active in Rhine trade thanks to various toll freedoms. Around 1300, Zutphen merchants were responsible for about a quarter of the value of merchandise that passed through Lobith's Rhine estuary.



Zutphen has had the municipal currency right for several hundred years, but active minting is only available in four coin periods: 1478-1480, 1582-1583, 1604-1605 and 1687-1692. In earlier periods, the counts of Zutphen were also minted by the counts of Zutphen (Hendrik I (circa 1150-1181) and Otto I (1182-1207)), and later by the Dukes of Gelre (1499) and the province (1582-1583).


Eighty Years' War

The 16th century brought difficult times for Zutphen with the emergence of other cities and the Eighty Years' War with the Spaniards. After the turbulent Wars of Gelderland in the first decades of the 16th century, the fortifications of Zutphen were modernized, but to no avail. On June 10, 1572, the city was occupied by Count Willem IV van den Bergh, a brother-in-law of William of Orange. Van den Bergh expelled the Spaniards, who, however, on November 17, 1572, recaptured the city under Don Frederik, the son of the Duke of Alva, and executed hundreds of inhabitants: the 'Massacre of Zutphen'.


Years of varying occupation and sieges followed. At a Battle of Zutphen, especially known in England, in 1586 a statesman, poet and confidant of Elisabeth I: Sir Philip Sidney, was killed. Between 1582 and 1591 most of the population left or was murdered. In 1591 the city was recaptured by Maurice of Nassau, during the Siege of Zutphen. This began a long period of Zutphen as a garrison and fortified town. In 1672 (disaster year) Zutphen was conquered by the French army. The Walburgiskerk was redesigned for Catholic worship, but was returned to the Protestants after the departure of the French.


Fortified city

Shortly after 1700 the fortress of Zutphen was expanded to a design by Menno van Coehoorn and at the end of the 18th century expanded with the lines of Het Wambuis and Hooff. A new belt of lunettes and horns was added to keep the enemy guns even further from the city. For hundreds of years, Zutphen was wedged in its fortifications. The population grew steadily from 7,500 in 1795 to over 15,000 in 1860 on just 47 acres of land within the walls. The space growth only started again in 1874 when the fortress of Zutphen was lifted, and the walls around the city could be removed. Some parts of the fortifications are still visible, such as the Bourgonjebolwerk on the IJsselkade, also known as 'de Bult van Ketjen'. The growth of Zutphen lagged behind the national trend due to water problems (Baaksche Overlaat) and limited industrialization. It was not until the 1930s that the population of 20,000 was passed.



In World War II, the city was badly hit by at least three bombings and two weeks of fighting in 1945. More than 100 civilians lost their lives in the bombing of 14 October 1944 alone. Of the nearly 500 Jewish residents, less than 50 returned after the liberation. After the war, everything was dominated by reconstruction, restoration and industrialization.

Today, many traces of the medieval heyday of the city can be found in the center of Zutphen, such as the enclosure wall: the Drogenapstoren from 1444, the Bourgonjetoren from 1457, the Powder Tower from the early 14th century, the Spanjaardspoort (a Barbican front gate of the old Nieuwstad gate from 1537) and various wall towers on Bornhovestraat and Armenhage (13th century). In addition, there are also large pieces of city wall to be found, including a piece near the Drogenapstoren, and a piece near the Berkelpoort from the early 14th century with the remains of two wall towers. The medieval city center of Zutphen houses a large number of brick houses from the late Middle Ages behind the mostly younger facades. Many dozens even date to the roof construction before 1400. There are three medieval churches (see below) and the remains of various monasteries and hospitals.

The Wijnhuisfonds was founded in 1927 and has since bought and restored more than 80 often neglected buildings. Restored buildings are rented out; the proceeds will be used to restore other buildings. As of 1 January 2013, NV Stadsherstel merged with the Wijnhuisfonds, so that there is now one organization that is engaged in the restoration of old buildings in Zutphen.




Zutphen is located in the northeast of the province of Gelderland. The city is located on the river IJssel (mainly on the eastern side) at the mouth of the Berkel. Usually, Zutphen is still considered part of the Achterhoek region, just like the "gate". Yet Zutphen is the historic capital of the County, which after all refers to the County of Zutphen. As such, the city, along with Nijmegen and Arnhem, was one of the three capitals of Gelderland until 1795. Emotionally, the old relationship between the capital and the hinterland has been diluted and Doetinchem has taken over that role.

Nearby places are Apeldoorn, Arnhem, Deventer, Doesburg, Doetinchem, Lochem and Brummen.