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Historic rural manors highlighted in popular scene route

Overijssel showcases its treasures

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Castles and havezaten, upper scale and fortified manors, can be found especially in the eastern part of the Netherlands, surrounded by centuries-old farmstead and scenic wood stands.These monumental buildings require deep pockets to preserve and maintain, so it is not surprising at all that their owners open them to the public as part of a reclassification to obtain tax relief. Often, only a part of the huge buildings remain off limits as a private residence.

Castles can be found in most regions of the country. Havezaten are largely restricted to the provinces of Drenthe, Overijsel and Gelderland, where there are dozens of such estates, whose beautiful gardens, wood stands and farms are a delight to tourists.

Havezaten are solid, brick-built, fortified manors and are frequently surrounded by moats. In the 15th and 16th centuries, their owners had certain seigniorial privileges, such as hunting and milling rights, and the right of jurisdiction on their territory. Some lords of the manor also had the right to appoint their own bailiffs and even had control over ecclesiastical appointments.

Rights of Havezate

The right of havezate meant that the owner could be elevated to nobility, which in turn entitled them to a seat in the States of Overijssel (before 1795 the provincial government and full partner in the United Republic) and could qualify as a delegate to the States General. The political organization of the republic changed completely in 1795, when democratic principles were deemed to be incompatible with seigniorial rights, from then on outmoded.

The evolution in governance was so drastic that Overijssel’s nobility lost much of its income along with their privileges. This caused ripple effects even decades later when as time went on, many a local lord was forced to demolish his crumbling ancestral home, simply because he lacked the means to maintain his estate and its buildings.


In the 13th century, the Zutphen county was home to 40 havezaten, Overijssel around 120 and Drenthe close to 20. The havezate has also variants: in Utrechts they were called Ridderhofstad, in Friesland stins and in Groningen borg. Tourism conscious Overijssel has turned its havezaten legacy into a popular 300-kilometers havezatenroute for history minded visitors, which runs from Steenwijk to Oldenzaal.

Of the 137 castles that Overijssel once boasted, only a few have escaped both the wave of 19th-century demolitions and the ravages of time. Many havezaten are still privately occupied but allow the public (limited or seasonal) access to their gardens, some only on special days. It is up to the visitor to agree with the claim that Overijssel, with the rustic charm of its country estates, is the best landscaped part of the country.

The Havezatepad route is just one of 60 such walking routes that take participants through very interesting parts of the country. Some are very long (Pieterspad), other routes cover just local walking trails. The Havezatepad, covering about 300 kilometres within Overijssel, will show walkers that the Netherlands has plenty of open space with a variety of landscapes along the way and many samples of a long history.

The Havezatepad starts at Steenwijk and passes through Vollenhove, Zwartsluis, Zwolle, Ommen, Rijssen, Delden, Enschede and ends at Oldenzaal. The following places have been picked at random.

Twickel Castle, biggest estate of all Twickel Castle, near Delden, is the largest private estate in all of the Netherlands. In the Spring, numerous rhododendrons add a gorgeous array of pink, lilac and white colours to this immense domain. The gardens are open from mid-May to mid-October. The 4000-hectare estate has no fewer than 200 farmhouses, mostly no longer used for farming, recognizable on account of their characteristic black and white shutters. Between 1357 and 1953, the estate was owned by the Van Twickelo, Van Raesfelt, Van Wassenaer Obdam and Van Heeckeren van Wassenaer families. The current resident is a distant relative of the last owner, a keen experimental gardener who cultivated alpine plants, perennials, bulbs, and biennials. Since her death, Twickel has been owned by a foundation.

De Eese, the oldest

De Eese is possibly the oldest havezate in Overijssel. It gets its name from ‘ehze’, old local coinage for woodland, which is traceable in various place names as well. Burial mounds and megalithic tombs testify to ‘thousands of years of human habitation.’ Located on a circular mound just north of Steenwijk, De Eese is recorded as a havezate as early as 1371, but already in 1263 a certain Hendrik van de Eese lived there in a brick dwelling surrounded by farm buildings. The present building, encircled by a moat, dates from the early 1600s and was built with the bricks from the earlier dwelling, which burnt down in 1619. The havezate itself is closed to the public, but the woodland around it can be visited at will.

Het Weldam, a grand garden design

The estate’s 60 farms distinguish themselves with black and yellow window shutters, which could be shut at night as a privacy and a security measure. The colour pattern shows that the farms belong to the estate, near Markelo. At the centre of the 1675-hectare estate the Weldam castle is situated. The castle’s current exterior dates from the 17th century, but the original one goes back to the 1390s. Some of the farms continue to be operated by tenants; most have now a residential function. Weldam Castle possesses one of the best-preserved gardens of its kind in the Netherlands - a combination of sophisticated design and careful maintenance. The castle gardens are open to the public for an admittance fee. Six sign-posted walks lead visitors from the castle through the estate.

Singraven, havezate and mill

They have always belonged together; the Singraven manor and the giant water mill form the face of the estate, near Denekamp. In the 17th century, old masters such as Jacob van Ruysdael and Meindert Hobbema repeatedly painted the mill, which is first mentioned in records dating back to 1448. The painters placed the mill in an Arcadian landscape setting of leafy trees and the meandering river Dinkel. Unusual for a havezate, Singraven is built with sandbricks, quarried in nearby Bentheim, in Germany. The house and its outbuildings are open to the public. Lucky visitors may try to catch a glimpse of the Singraven ghost. According to local legend, a nun was walled up alive in the days when the havezate was a convent. Since then, her ghost is said to haunt the manor.

Eerde, from robber barons to boy scouts

In earlier centuries, the domain of the lords of Eerde Castle, near Ommen, ran from the River Vecht to the River Regge: 1500 hectares in all. These days, visitors can join various trips exploring both the estate itself and the surrounding countryside, starting at the park. The place has not always been as peaceful as it is today. The present house - built in 1715 in the style of Louis XIV - replaced a building that was known as Eerde since 1227. In 1380, the descendants of the castle’s original lord incurred the wrath of Overijssel’s lord, who besieged and destroyed the castle. The building met the same fate in 1521. Two centuries later, the present building was completed. At the beginning of the 20th century, the owner - impressed by Baden-Powell and his book “Scouting for Boys” - gave the scout movement permission to use part of the land. Scout camps still regularly take place there. Since 1934, an international Quaker school calls Castle Eerde home.

Herinckhave, a phoenix/strong>

It took five years, from 1973 to 1978, to restore the Herinckhave havezate near Fleringen. The effort was well worth it. The ruins of Herinckhave, devastated by a fire in 1959, have been rebuilt into a robust manor, flanked by two outbuildings. The manor is completely enveloped by trees and invisible from the road. The estate has a beautiful old wood stand and a water mill, which dates from 1512, a century after the first havezate was built. Herinckhave’s present design dates from the 18th century. In 1769, the owner was given the right to celebrate mass on his property. One of the two outbuildings still houses a small chapel.

Brecklenkamp, Louise’s ghost

“White witches” are a not common sight in the eastern Netherlands, for it is the local parlance for patches of low-lying fog. There are many centuries-old folk tales about spirits who cannot rest and who walk abroad on misty nights. Brecklenkamp House, near Denekamp, reportedly has such a ghost. Its owner, Louise Zeegers, had always wanted to end her days on the estate. Unfortunately, she died unexpectedly on a trip to The Hague in 1900. Although she is buried at the grounds, they say her spirit never found rest. The house, which dates from the 17th century, always had a reputation for being haunted. By the early 20th century the decaying building had become even more sinister, a home to owls and rats. The building was restored in the 1940s. There are pleasant ghost-free walks nearby, which pass along an old water mill, restored cottages and a tea house.

In addition to numerous walkingroutes, Dutch groups, led by the automobile club ANWB, have still more routes for bicyclists. Others have organized canal and waterway routes. Aided by guides for walking and bicycling, people also can design their own route by car.