Colonies of Benevolence in the Netherlands added as a World Heritage Site (finally!)

This transnational heritage site includes the 200-year-old settlements in Frederiksoord, Wilhelminaoord, and Veenhuizen in Drenthe, and the Belgian colony in Wortel.

The NOS reports that the Colonies of Benevolence have made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list after a failed attempt in 2018. They were originally set up in 1818 as a project to combat poverty among the population.

The colonies were established during the period of “The United Kingdom of the Netherlands” when Belgium was still part of the country. As a result, they are a transnational cultural heritage site — the first in the country.

Beginning of the Dutch welfare state

According to Cees Bijl, a deputy from Drenthe, “The colonies were a social experiment in poverty alleviation.”

Poverty-stricken families, beggars, and homeless people from the cities could go and work in one of the Colonies. Here, they were given their own homes and a section of land so that they could learn to support themselves. Additionally, their children were forced to go to school.

This project was a unique initiative in Europe and seen as the beginning of the Dutch welfare state, as the government tried to improve life for the poorest on a large scale.

However, the colonies weren’t very successful. The intention was to make the project profitable but this fell flat on its face — wat jammer!

Up there with the Amsterdam canals

The Colonies of Benevolence are the 11th Dutch site on the World Heritage List — this flat little country was interesting back in the day!

READ MORE | 10 World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands: the best monuments of Holland

If you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, take note that the UNESCO list also includes treasures such as the canal belt of Amsterdam, and the colourful historic city centre of Curacao — so this is the real deal.

What will this listing mean for the colonies?

While being labelled as a World Heritage Site is unlikely to bring in more money, the honorary title is expected to attract more tourists. In preparation, museum texts in the colonies have already been translated into English, among other things.

Limes too? (No, not the fruit)

A second Dutch nomination may be listed on Wednesday — the Netherlands is on fire! The Dutch-German entry of the Limes, the former northern border of the Roman Empire that ran through these countries is expected to be approved as well.

What are your thoughts on this new addition to the World Heritage list? Will you be visiting the Colonies of Benevolence? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Robert EA Harvey/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0


Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
An avid tea drinker, Jen was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She moved to Utrecht in 2017 to pursue her history degree. She loves people-watching, canoeing the Utrecht canals, and observing how the Dutch come alive in summer. Having been traumatised by a Dutch circle party, Jen wants to help equip other internationals with tips and tricks to survive and thrive in this wonderful flat country.

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