One hundred and sixty years ago the Southern Sea still reigned in the North Dutch polder. Reclaiming of the land only began in the mid-nineteenth century. Dikes were built, mainly by hand, by ‘polder boys’, who traveled from one job to the next. The new polder was named after King William II’s wife, Queen Anna Paulowna. In the summer of 1846 the dikes around the polder were completed, and 34 labourer’s cottages were built. As the first inhabitants of these cottages came from the province of Gelderland, the area was named the Gelderse neighbourhood.
Times were rough for the first inhabitants. The polder was still mostly barren, with little vegetation because of the brackish soil. Many people were disappointed with their new life on the sand plains. Seven families left before the end of the year. The others would have liked to join them, but didn’t have enough money for the journey.
The following winter was especially hard. The inhabitants were isolated and couldn’t pay the rent. They lived off a meagre harvest of potatoes, oats, barley and rye. Only when they discovered that sheep liked the coastal vegetation in the polder, their circumstances improved somewhat. It wasn’t until 1910, when the farmers started growing flower bulbs, that their lives took a turn for the better.
Back to yore
In 2002 the foundation Ons Erfgoed was established that aimed to preserve the last cottage on a fitting location. The Gelderse huisje can be admired on Landgoed Hoenderdaell and takes visitors back to the days of yore.