A fast tour through the history of Gorinchem

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This is the oldest shape of Gorinchem in the early middle ages.

The town walls existed of earth  with wooden palisades.

Het wapen van de van Arkels
Between  1247 and 1267 Gorinchem and surroundings became the property of the lords of Arkel.
In 1267 they started to build a big castle on the east side of Gorinchem, close to the river Merwede.
The lords of Arkel were big strong build people for their time.

The story goo's, that Jan I of Arkel, called "The strong one" lifted himself and his horse off the ground by pulling with his arms on the wooden beams in the town gates.

The picture on the left shows the coat of arms of the lords of Arkel.

Jan van Arkel (De Sterke) trekt zich met paard en al op
De plattegrond van Gorinchem in de middeleeuwen, met stenen stadsmuren voorzien van 7 poorten en 23 torens

In the 14th century the lords of Arkel  fortified Gorinchem with brick town walls, towers and town gate buildings.
In 1382 Gorinchem was officially grounded as a town, what meant that the town could have its own government, law, taxes and money.
This is the layout of Gorinchem in the middle ages, with the town walls of stone, equipped with 7 gates and 23 towers. However, this layout is of a later date and the Van Arkel castle is already demolished to the ground.
The later
built castle The Blue Tower "Kasteel de Blauwe Toren" is shown as part of the town walls, left under.

Kopergravure impressie met de stenen stadsmuren.

This is an engraving of 1580, looking at Gorinchem from the south, this engraving gives an impression of the middle ages town walls.

Floris V, graaf van Holland, van 1256 tot 1296
Floris V, count of Holland ruled Holland at the time that the lords of Arkel became in possession of Gorinchem and surrounding country.

In that time it was custom to formally give possessions to the count, which in return was lend out by the count to the lords.

The count also would give the lords then certain privileges, such as the right to collect taxes and toll in within the lend property.
Also the lords men got toll freedom for a certain area.

The lords of Arkel became very important knights in the council of the count.
Their position improved up to 1354, then lord Jan van Arkel came into conflict with Albrecht van Beijeren, the brother of then count Willem V, who was taking power after count Willem V lost his mind.

Division was growing in the council, two party's of lords arose, the "Hoeken" and the "Kabeljauwen".

Willem van Arkel is gesneuveld tijdens de gevechten in de Revetsteeg
The strong independent lords, the Kabeljauwen like Jan van Arkel challenged the authority of Albrecht van Beieren and the group of lords supporting him, the Hoeken. This escalated in a series of small wars, during which on each sides castles and towns were concurred and burned down.
In 1401 an army of joint forces of the count of Holland and the bishop of Utrecht together with British and German mercenary troops advanced on Jan van Arkels territory. This big army was defeated by Jan van Arkel and his troops in a field battle at the village Noordeloos.

After that Jan van Arkels troops retreated into Gorinchem.
The retreated other force however
regrouped and besieged Gorinchem for a long period, which ended in a treaty between both party's.
In 1412 Gorinchem got into the hands of count Willem VI, in 1417 Willem van Arkel tried to get Gorinchem back, he and his troops succeeded in getting into the town, but during fierce
fighting in the streets Willem van Arkel was killed. This ended the period of the lords of Arkel.
Een vrij accuraat schilderij van Gorinchem gezien vanuit het oosten in 1568

Gorinchem, now a town of Holland being ruled by Philips of Bourgondië and later Karel de Stoute, prospered on trading and commerce.

There were of course minor difficulties such as the war of Bourgondië against Gelre, the St. Elizabeth flood 1421, competition with Dordrecht (then the most important town in Holland), flooding in 1434, the plague in 1435 and 1438, shooting and burning parts of the town by troops of Gelre in 1479 and 1480, floods in 1530 and 1532. This drawing is made standing on the spot were once the castle of Jan van Arkel was.
Zinneprent op het verbond der edelen met de bedeltas in het midden
In this time, the only religious believe was the Catholic church, however half the 16 Th century new interpretations of the religion were spreading, started by the reformer Luther, later called the Protestant believe.
Catholic Philips II, now lord of the Netherlands (now Holland and Belgium), took off to Spain to become king of Spain. He left Magaretha van Parma to rule the Netherlands. Suppression of the other believes started and also taxes were raised.

Some members of the government, including the prince of Orange, were against the raising of the taxes and the suppression of the other believes.
Alva's bloedraad
They offered a letter of appeal to Margaretha of Parma, on that occasion they were called beggars (gueux in French). This name they took later on to call themselves and all other freedom fighters against Spain. On the above picture you see their symbol, the beggars bag.

Fearing an uprising, Philips II send the duke of Alva with an Army.
Alva then installed the Blood Council who pursued any one who was suspected of having a different believe then Catholic or did not pay the high taxes. The Blood Council beheaded, hanged, burned or buried alive a great number of people.

This started the 80 years freedom war of Holland against Spain.

De martelaren van Gorinchem worden opgehangen in Den Briel
In 1572 prince Willem van Oranje advanced with an army from the east into Holland, at the same time the Gueux advanced from the west with a fleet on the rivers.
They captured first Den Briel and then Dordrecht and appeared on 25 June for Gorinchem.
After short deliberation the town took the side of the prince of Orange.

The Catholic soldiers and clergymen had fled into castle The Blue Tower, but after two days they had to surrender.
The clergymen were taken to the first captured town Den Briel and all hanged, against the orders of the prince of Oranje.

They became known as the martyrs of Gorinchem. 

De nieuwe vestingwerken, gereedgekomen in 1600
This is the layout of Gorinchem with the new finished town walls in the year 1600.
When the town choose the side of the Prince of Orange in the year 1572, during the 80 years war against Spain, they started to replace the stone walls by earth walls, because the stone walls could not withstand the much improved guns at that time.

The earth walls were shaped like a dike of about 6 m high with a upright front of brick wall, about 4 m high, on the outside.
On the inner sides these walls were sloping with paths going up and running also on top, to get big guns up pulled by horses.
Gorinchem met de nieuwe vestingwerken, gezien vanuit het zuiden

View from the south on Gorinchem with the new town walls.

The walls are made according the latest Italian fortification designs, adapted to the Dutch environment.

The new town walls have 11 bastions on shooting distance from each other, to enable cross fire support to each other at all times. They look thoroughly magnificent.
Het vluchten van de patriotten links en het intrekken van de Pruisen rechts. In the second half of the 18 th century prince Willem V was in power, he was a weak ruler, causing corruption in the country.

The number of patriots had grown and were strongly represented in many town councils.

In 1787 patriots refused passage to Willems wife Wilhelmina van Pruisen.
She called her brother, the king of Prussia for help.

Prussian troops invaded the country and on 5 September they started a siege on Gorinchem, after the Prussians were firing
their guns upon the town for 12 days, the patriots surrendered.
On the picture you see on the right (east) the Prussians moving into Gorinchem and the patriots fleeing on the left (west).
De kanonnen van de Pruisen raken een kruitopslag bij de Pelmolen After the French revolution, the French declared war to Holland, they invaded Holland and prince William V fled to England.

Now the patriots came in power and Holland became a republic, but more or less ruled by the French. Later on Napoleon annexed Holland and it became a part of France. After the failure of Napoleons campaign in Russia, he also had to retreat from Holland.

Napoleon had earlier called Gorinchem the key to Holland and now Gorinchem was appointed by Napoleon as to be the fortress to cover the retreat route to the south.
De restanten van de Pelmolen na het beleg On 6 December 1813 Prussian troops were surrounding the town and on 22 January 1814 they started firing upon the town with many guns.

On 4 February the 3500 French and patriot defenders surrendered.
The Prussian guns destroyed 77% of the houses in Gorinchem.

On the pictures you see the explosion and destruction of a mill after a Prussian gun firing from the south side of the river, hit stored gunpowder next to the mill.
(engraving in copper plate).
Gezicht op de stad vanuit het zuiden in 1849, met scheepvaart op de rivier met o.a. stoomschepen
This view on Gorinchem from 1849 shows already some steamships.
After the French time Gorinchem saw no major fighting during diverse conflicts, wealth was slowly growing.
Situated as south east point of the Dutch Water Line defense system, Gorinchem was of great military importance for Holland. Gorinchem got a permanently army garrison and a navy detachment in town.
De beetwortelsuikerfabriek aan de Linge. During the industrial revolution starting in 1870, industry was growing outside the town walls, moats and the military determined firing fields surrounding the town.

One of the first big companies evolving in 1871 was the sugar factory.
The factory is shown on this picture, it made sugar out of sugar beets, grown by farmers in the surrounding country.

Other industries evolving were shipbuilding, iron casting, steel construction, beer brewery and fishing.

In 1925 the steel construction company "De Vries Robbé" (partly shown on this picture), evolved to become the biggest industry of Gorinchem.

In 1956, "D
e Vries Robbe" was the biggest steel construction company in the Netherlands and its construction sites covered about 20% of the build up area of Gorinchem.
De groeifasen van Gorinchem This picture shows the growth of Gorinchem during and after the industrial revolution. Red is the old town, blue are the rivers, canal and moats.

Light green is the area covered by De Vries Robbé, orange are the housing quarters build for the labourers before the second world war, yellow build up housing till 1960, rose is build up till 1980 and purple is built up till now. Dark green is the industrial and commerce area covered up till now.

After a period of economic recession, De Vries Robbé after becoming part of several other companies went bankrupt in 1976. Unemployment raised to 20%.
gorplat4.jpg (23776 bytes) This was a shock for the workers, who took great pride in the many unique big steel construction projects in the Netherlands and abroad accomplished by
De Vries Robbé.

It was also a shock to Gorinchem, now so many of its inhabitants lost their job,
it would take more than 10 years, before the unemployment rate went back to normal.

This is today's shape of the old town part of Gorinchem, as you can see on
the left side, the channel has chopped off a piece of the town walls, but most
of the town walls from 1600 are in more or less original shape.

gorwap.jpg (25446 bytes) This is the coat of arms of Gorinchem, the text says:

Strong ones create strong ones.


This ends this history page.

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