It went well with the fat bull with the perfect outdoor setting

There are still a few here and there in the river landscape south of Amsterdam: country estates founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. Several centuries ago there were large numbers with names such as Twistrust, Tulpenburg, Zorgvliet, Zonnendaal and Red Horse. There was even Rome on Jane. Between 1640 and 1840 there were no less than 163, discovered by landscape architect Gerrit van Ostrom.

If you look closely, you’ll see that Buitenplaats is a collective name for somewhat different accommodations. Some were mansions of (usually) Amsterdam owners, with a large roof terrace or tower overlooking the countryside. The other “outdoors” were no more than one or a few decorated rooms in an existing farmhouse. The landlord and farmer, who rented the land opposite, sometimes lived under the same roof, although the living quarters were usually strictly separated.

The country estate had names like Twistrust, Zorgvliet, Tulpenburg and Red Horse

The area along the Amstel, Jane, Angstiel, and some other small rivers was a popular rural estate of urban sub-peak for merchants, manufacturers, and tenants. The richest residents of Amsterdam preferred to establish or buy real estate elsewhere, in the area of ​​the sand dunes or the Vecht district. There were a thousand country estates in the entire remote area.

In 1742, the year the incomes and fortunes of the wealthy of Amsterdam were recorded, François van Harenkarsel was one of the wealthiest owners of country estates along Amstel. He had an annual income of 24,000 guilders, five servants, a chariot, and four horses. His “very modest Klarenbeek” was located in Amsteldijk, and is now used as a care farm. According to the French philosopher Diderot, who wandered in Holland at the end of the eighteenth century and wrote about it, only 7,000 guilders per year was enough to lead a good life.

agricultural roots

Most of the estates also had a farm. This was often a key part of that, says van Ostrom, who has tried to figure out how farming fits into the countryside. According to him, the agricultural roots of rural property had not been systematically investigated before. The combination of the benefit of farming and the pleasure of rural life made the country estate popular.

Rural district of Wester-Amstel in Amstelveen. A picture from a book (mid-last century).
North Holland Province Atlas Collection
House in Wester-Amstel Country Estate in Amstelveen. Compared to the situation around 1950 (see reverse), there are now fewer trees and an asphalt road.
Simon Linkins pictures
House on a country estate in Wester-Amstel in Amstelveen in the 1950’s and now.

Farmers had to pay rent, and at times supplied products such as cheese and butter. Local food items were in demand, including as gifts. The relationship between landlord and tenant was essentially a commercial one: the farmer was the master of his field, and the owner of his country estate. The tenant definitely does not belong to the owner’s staff.

In general, the townspeople viewed the peasants with a mixture of admiration and awe. On the one hand there was the idea of ​​\u200b\u200bthe “noble peasant”, and on the other hand, farmers were considered “peasants” and backward. Legal scholar Simon van Leeuwen believed that the “cow farmers” from Amstland were “the dumbest and most rude kind of people” in the republic.

There may have been intimate relationships as well, most likely sporadically. For example, country estate owner Theodoros de Jong has had a relationship with divorced farmer Gretje Jansey van Schaik for years. He appointed an illiterate Gretty to oversee the farm with a generous salary. She did not hold this position for long, but the accompanying salary did. Sometimes it was a marriage between a country estate owner and a farmer’s wife.

The townspeople looked at the peasants with a mixture of admiration and awe

Economic benefit?

There has been much debate among historians about the motives for establishing state estates. Were they just there for fun or are they also economically beneficial? The lease brought at least some income to the owner, but often not enough to cover all costs. Sometimes the rent is not increased for a long time, perhaps because it was not easy to find a good tenant. Buitens was also not very interesting as an investment object. It was regularly sold at a loss.

Some of the country’s landlords were also agricultural entrepreneurs themselves. The fattening of imported bulls was especially popular. Every year, thousands of these emaciated animals are collected from Denmark, in particular, to grow in the juicy meadows of Amstelland into powerful bulls intended for slaughter. For the townspeople, oxen herding was more of a hobby than a business model. Based on the few remaining detailed calculations, Van Oosterom concludes that money will often have to be added.

a Island In the field of rural real estate in Wester-Amstel.
Simon Linkins pictures
part of the garden On the Wester-Amstel Country Estate in Amstelveen.
Simon Linkins pictures
Island Within the rural district of Wester-Amstel in Amstelveen and part of garden

Bulls also had another purpose: they were a living decoration of the landscape. The sight of these beasts or cattle was common. They then formed part of a staged environment, which also included the house itself, planted trees, gardens with stone or wooden domes, ponds and the like. A beautiful view of the meadows was part of that. A number of those domes have been preserved, with panoramic views of the road and river.

Show must be preserved

According to Van Ostrom, it was largely about rural property owners. They went to their dachas to enjoy, and profited a little from the rent and from the produce of their land. But above all, they were able to prove that they were in control of the land and that they were able to improve nature. For example by showing those fatted bulls. One of the Buitens was even called Beef Joy.

Rural district of Wester-Amstel in Amstelveen. A picture from a book (mid-last century).
North Holland Province Atlas Collection
A garden in the district Wester-Amstel In Amstelveen, one of the few country estates preserved around Amsterdam.
Simon Linkins pictures
Wester-Amstel estate in Amstelveen (photo from the book (mid-last century)) and the garden on the estate of Wester-Amstel in Amstelveen, one of the few preserved country estates around Amsterdam.

There was no room in that picture-perfect picture of crowded farms and haystacks: they were hidden behind fences and rolls of trees as much as possible. The importance of mastering the environment is evidenced by the fact that many owners have also purchased the land corresponding to their country property, with the aim of preserving the view.

The motives of the property owners may not have been very different from those of the current property owners, although their accommodations are more modest. Utility and pleasure go hand in hand with dedicated gardeners. They also practice farming as a hobby, although they do not keep bulls.

Van Oosterom’s book, based on the thesis for which he received his PhD from the University of Groningen on Thursday, contains a wealth of information about rural estates in Amstelland. This is presented very systematically in a book that is somewhat academic but very beautifully executed. This gives the reader a glimpse into the sometimes lavish country estate fronts of Amstelland, Amsterdam. Good to keep in mind while cycling around Ronde Hoep or while riding along Gein to Abcoude.

Pictures Simon Linskins

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