An ode to the Haubarg by the green Eiderstedter Nachtigall
Haubargs. Cathedral-like farmsteads with hipped-shaped roofs up to twenty meters high that were, and are, icons of peninsula Eiderstedt in Nordfriesland. Not only do Haubargs represent the ultimate accumulation of the friesische Großhäuser building tradition, these great farms mark the end of that tradition as well. A building tradition typical for the marshlands along the southern coastal area of the North Sea, between Amsterdam and Husum, that existed from the mid sixteenth until the nineteenth century. Haubargs, and the wealth associated with them, captured the imagination to such extent that jealous neighbours gossiped about the area: “in Eiderstedt gibt es mehr silber als eisen” (‘on Eiderstedt there is more silver than iron’), and; “menneskene ikke har andet at gøre her end at æde og sove” (‘people here have nothing better to do than to eat and to sleep’). Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side. And, indeed, grass is both literally and metaphorically the foundation of the once proud high-born Haubargs.
In this post we will look into the history the Haubargs. How and why these “floating farmsteads” emerged on the wet, clayey marshlands of Eiderstedt. This post, therefore, is a history of Eiderstedt and of the Eiderfriesen ‘Eider-Frisians’ too. And, it is a familiar history of gras, cows, milk, butter and cheese. Of Holländereien in Nordfriesland.
The Haubarg, and the building tradition it belongs too, is also a tangible part of the common cultural history of the peoples living on the shores of the southern North Sea coast. Stretching from Noord Holland in the Netherlands to Nordfriesland in Germany, and even a tip of southwest Jutland in Denmark. But also, on the Wilster- and Krempermarsches at the lower reaches of the river Elbe. With the Wadden Sea, its barrier islands and the vast tidal marshlands, being the connecting factor of this water culture. In short, it is the story of the Frisia Coast Trail.
1. What is a Haubarg?
A Haubarg belongs to the family of Frisian gulf farmhouses or Gulfhäusern, and the aisled Gulfscheune ‘gulf grange’ in German language or Friese schuur ‘Frisian grange’ in Dutch language. Frisian gulf farmhouses, and thus Haubargs, are characterized by their low exterior walls and high-hipped roofs, constructed on bents with (very) tall vertical posts, and a wide-meshed internal scaffolding (Gräntzer 2002, Andersen & Julebæk 2022). Besides the Haubarg, other proud relatives belonging to the family of the Frisian gulf farmhouse are the stolp ifarmsteads n Noord Holland above the river IJ up to the Wadden Sea island Texel, the stjelp or stelp and kop-hals-romp farmsteads in Friesland, and the Ostfriesenhaus or Oldambtster farmsteads in Groningen, Ostfriesland and in Butjadingen.
Haubargs on peninsula Eiderstedt in Nordfriesland
Quintessential of these Frisian gulf farmhouses is the gulf, also known as goul, guoll, goil, golf or Gulf, gulv, gol or golle in the different coastal speeches between Flanders and Jutland. But also called a Barg, Fack, Stohl or Vierkant in Germany (Vollmer, et al 2001, Wigman-Kern 2004). The Old-Norwegian word golv means floor.
A gulf is the name for the wooden square construction created by two bents. A bent consists of two (tall) vertical posts and a horizontal tie beam connecting the two posts. Not for nothing the word bent stems from the verb ‘to bind’. When two bents are connected from the top with each other through an also horizontal beam - a beam called draaghout ‘support timber’ or gebintplaat in Dutch language - the space within this square is called the gulf. It is the centre or heart of the farmstead and traditionally used for the storage of hay. On Eiderstedt, this central square of the Haubargs is called the Vierkant. Identical to the stolp farmsteads in Noord Holland, especially in the region of Westfriesland, where the term vierkant is used as well, meaning ‘square’ in modern Dutch language. That for both Haubarg and stolp farmsteads the term vierkant is being used, is no coincidence as we will see later in this post. A Haubarg, and any Frisian gulf farmhouse for that matter, could be enlarged by placing more bents after each other, creating an ever more rectangular elongated layout.
Here and there on the web you can read that the construction of Frisian gulf farmhouses is storm-surge-resistant. Suggesting that when a great flood would submerge the land and cause the exterior walls to collapse, the rest of the entire construction, including the roof, would remain standing. Honestly, we humble hikers haven not found scientific support for this appealing theory. The fact that a significant part of the structure of stjelps did rest on the exterior walls in order to spread the weight evenly (Borghaerts 2021), as we shall see further below this post, argues against this theory. But we stand corrected.
By far most Haubargs were to be found on Eiderstedt. About four hundred of these structures once existed. Today, only an estimated seventy of them have survived of which the majority is in a worrisome state. Unfortunately, these last though Mohicans are still not protected as cultural heritage by the government of Schleswig-Holstein. The same, by the way, is the case with their cousins the stolp and stjelp/stelp farmsteads in respectively Noord Holland and Friesland (Schilstra, et al 2004, Breteler 2020). Maintenance of a Haubarg is expensive. Only think of all the wood and the enormous thatched roof that needs to be renewed every fifty years or so. Besides poor maintenance, the occasional thunderstrike or fire otherwise brings down the number of remaining Haubargs ever still. “Der Hauberg stirbt! Die Bauernhäuser sterben!” (‘The Hauberg dies! The Farmer houses die!’) as pastor Rudolf Muuß (1892-1972) from region Dithmarschen wrote in 1929 already. Pastor Rudolf Muuß did great work documenting the Haubergs in the beginning of the twentieth century.
Note that farmsteads hit by thunder are a pretty common phenomenon on the flat and barren (former) marshlands. It even inspired a group of farmers of the village of Achlum in Friesland two centuries ago to set up one of the oldest and nowadays biggest insurance companies in the world: Achmea. Read our post “I did not have financial relation with that village!” for more information.
Outside Eiderstedt, only a few Haubargs can be found. That is on island Nordstrand, also in Nordfriesland, and south of Eiderstedt in the Saxon region Dithmarschen. One remarkable and dislocated Haubarg stood in the most southwestern corner of Jutland, built as late as in 1914. A time when Haubargs were already an outdated concept for more than half a century. It was the Danish-Frisian nationalist Cornelius Petersen (1882-1935), born on Eiderstedt but raised at Klangsbøl, who bought the farmstead Vester Anflod near the village of Møgeltønder and had it replaced by a brand new Haubarg. Cornelius Petersen was leader of – and where have we heard this more recently? – the movement Bondens Selvstyre ‘farmers self-governance’, who were striving for autonomy of the region after the model of the medieval farmer’s republics (Knottnerus 2008). In 1950, the Haubarg Vester Anflod burned down.
Concerning the etymology of the word haubarg, your first thought might be that the word stems from the Dutch word hooiberg meaning ‘haystack’. It would nicely fit, since the gulf or the vierkant is also the space where the hay was stacked. More probably is that the element hau is related to the Dutch huif, the Mid Frisian hou(we) and the German Haube, meaning something like ‘roof/cover’. Also related, is the Old High German word hûba, meaning ‘bent upwards’. The element barg is related to the Dutch verb ‘(op)bergen’ or ‘berging’, meaning respectively ‘to stow/to store’ and ‘storage’. Compare also the Germanic verb bergan for ‘to stow’ (Wigman-Kern 2005, Knottnerus 2008). Hence, the word haubarg translates into something like ‘covered storage’. The oldest attestations of the word haubarg are howbarch, houwbarch and hauberch, and all date from the first decennium of the seventeenth century. Also, the word hawbergk is mentioned as an old variant by pastor Rudolf Muuß (1929).
2. Where lie the roots of the Haubarg?
If you want to understand the material culture of the Haubarg you must understand some of the early modern history of the coastal zone of the southern North Sea. How men, land and water interacted with each other for centuries. How people were able, through innovations, to manage water, drain the land better, and even to (re)conquer land from lakes and the sea. Although this history of water dates back at least two and a half millennia, we begin our story of the Haubarg at the start of the sixteenth century. And the location where this story begins, is in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, commonly the Dutch Republic.
In the course of the High Middle Ages, the marshlands along the Wadden Sea, but also those in Flanders and Zeeland, were protected by high dikes and land was embanked and taken from the sea. The Catholic Church, especially abbeys and monasteries, played a pivotal role in this development. Notably the monks of the Cistercian Order were skilled in building dikes, irrigation systems and sluices (Rooijendijk 2011). Their works were a boost for animal farming and crop farming, since the sea did not flood the land anymore. Dairy production was an important economic activity already in the Late Middle Ages.
The church, together with centrally-led feudal organization of land and labour, also brought innovations in relation to the construction of large buildings. Of course, this concerned the construction of churches, but also of great, aisled barns. Constructions that are, in fact, related to each other. Around 1550, the first aisled monastic granges or Klosterscheunen ‘cloister granges’ were introduced in Flanders. From there they spread north along the southern North Sea coast, although these granges already existed in wider Western Europe from the twelfth century (Knottnerus 2008).
Prototype of the gulf grange is the Klosterschuene of Ter Doest Abbey near the city of Bruges in Flanders. It is an amazing fifty meters long and thirty meters high, and dates from around 1250. It has, however, no fully hipped-roof and the living part is not integrated in the structure. Hence not a real Frisian gulf farmhouse yet. The oldest Gulfscheune ‘gulf grange’ can be found in the village of Woquard in the region of Krummhörn in Ostfriesland, built in 1579.
gulf grange Ter Doest Abbey, Brugge in Flanders
And because the marshlands were freed from regular flooding thanks to dikes, living on the artificial settlement mounds known as terps was not necessary anymore. Settlements and farms were established throughout the landscape from then on. A process that started from the eleventh century onwards. Also, with the growing knowledge of building dikes it even became possible to secure so-called uytlant or Utland ‘out-land’ (i.e. tidal marshland) from the sea. An early famous example is reclamation of the Middelzee, a former sea inlet in Friesland, in the years 1505 and 1600. Today, it is known as region ‘t Bildt. Read also our post Bil. A wasteland of non-integrated migrants for more.
Until the late sixteenth century, Frisian longhouses were the traditional farmhouses, although longhouses have been built until the early seventeenth century. Longhouses or Langhäusern, also called oude Friese boerenhuis (‘old Frisian farmhouse’) or vakkenhuis (‘bay house’) in Dutch and Fachhallenhäusern in German, were farms where living quarters and stables were under the same roof. These longhouses or byre dwellings could be found along the North Sea coastal zone of the Netherlands and Germany.
There is only very limited knowledge of how these Frisian longhouses exactly looked like, which varieties there were, and how the spaces and functions were organized (Borghaerts 2021). The reason for this knowledge gap is obvious. Nearly no longhouse has stood the test of time. Neither has there been written about it much. Either they have been replaced by or partly incorporated into the new generation farmsteads, or they have fallen into decline without leaving a trace. Longhouses were after all mostly made of wood, loam, and straw. Later in time, and only if one had the means, walls and gables were made of brickwork. And often only of the living house part. So, we must settle with a few bits and pieces to reconstruct the appearance and usage of longhouses. When looking at Friesland, of the estimated 14.000 longhouses that once existed, only one specimen has survived in complete condition. This is the longhouse in the tiny village of Wartena, which can be visited during summer at the charming local Warten museum.
The construction of a Frisian longhouse consisted of several bents placed after each other supporting the roof. These bents were of the so-called dekbalkgebint ‘roof-beam bent’ type, opposite to the ankerbalkgebint ‘anchor-beam bent’ or ‘tie-beam truss’ type The difference between the two is that with the roof-beam bent, the horizontal beam is placed on top of the two vertical posts, whilst with the anchor-beam bent the horizontal beam is placed between the vertical posts and fixed with a mortise and tenon joint. The Frisian roof-beam bent has the advantage of overhanging towards the outer sides, thus creating a wider roof and bigger volume of the building. Also, the roof-beam bent is more stormproof. Not an unnecessary luxury on the flat, barren lands along the windy North Sea coast. From the top of the vertical posts, the roof was extended to both outer sides. Thereby creating a classic three-aisled barn: two outer aisles and one central aisle. Very similar to the concept of medieval three-aisled churches (see earlier the Ter Doest Abbey). The space between each bent in the two outer aisles is called a bay or vak or Fack. Reckon the distance between two bents was about 2 to 2.5 meters, which is relatively short and considered typical Frisian. Just enough to stall two cows.
Typical for the Frisian longhouse was that cows were placed with their heads towards both exterior walls, with in the middle the walkway and the manure gutter or grup. Through the gutter the manure could be carried off easily and, most importantly, this setup kept the cows and their udders clean, avoiding contamination of the milk. This was opposite to the more inland deep litter barns, regionally called a potstal, whereby the manure was not carried off but was mixed with straw and other organic material like leaves, sods etc., which formed an excellent fertilizer for the land. So, cows stood and lay on there own manure, constantly supplemented with more straw and organic material. Even during summer, cows were stalled during the night for collecting manure (Wigman-Kern 2004). Especially on poorer soils, fertilizer was essential and therefore outweighed the benefit of having clean cows and clean udders. Deep litter barns were already practiced in the wider region 3,000 years ago; the so-called Celtic field landscape (Arnoldussen 2018). Read our post The Killing Fields, of the Celts. On the terp landscape of the (former) marshlands, the habitat of the Frisian longhouses, there was not much need for fertilization. The clay soil and regular flooding by the sea provided fertile soil anyway. Instead, dung was dried and used as fuel for heating, called Ditten in North-Frisian language (Nicolay 2015). With the invention of artificial fertilizers, deep litter barns became abundant.
Hay was not stacked inside the barn of the longhouse but next to it in a haystack with vertical adjustable roof. The four or five posts of the haystack were simply placed into the ground. Through a side door in the barn, hay could be distributed over the animals. Harvest was also stored in separate granaries.
Furthermore, the Frisian longhouse comprised three parts: binnenhuis (‘inner house’), middenhuis (‘middle house’) and buitenhuis (‘outer house’), all attached to each other lengthwise. At the front was the binnenhuis which was the living house part, also called foarein, voorend or voorhuis. The lower middenhuis behind it was used for different functions, like cooking and dairy production. It is also where a sweet water well was located. Sometimes an expansion was attached to the middenhuis to create a cooler space to produce butter and cheese: the melkkamer ‘milk room’. Another option was a melkkelder ‘milk cellar’, either below the binnenhuis or the middenhuis. Lastly, the buitenhuis or barn. To this day, the barn area of farmsteads is called bûthús in Mid-Frisian language. Like the middenhuis, the roof of the buitenhuis was lower than that of the binnenhuis.
A final remark, there are indications that the Frisian longhouses, at least in Friesland, were painted in the color oxblood red (Borghaerts 2021).
Water management improvement and bigger farmsteads
After the hard labor of the tawny monks building dikes and sluices during the High Middle Ages, halfway the sixteenth century another important innovation took place, namely of mills. Bigger and more efficient wind- and watermills were built. Making it possible to manage water levels better, and thus improving the yield of grass. High grass yields in turn make it possible to feed more cows per square meter. This means you need bigger stables and bigger storage for hay to feed the livestock during wintertime. Indeed, intensive farming had commenced, and in the twentieth century the Netherlands would become the country with the most livestock and poultry (and dung…) per square meter in the world. Anyway, the traditional small and low Frisian longhouse was no longer functional. An ever longer stable with several haystacks to accommodate more livestock would have become too impractical and cost intensive.
Due to better land drainage with more powerful mills, advanced irrigation canals, sluices, dikes, bridges etc., it also became possible to reclaim ever greater lakes and land from the sea. Think only of the realization of the Beemster-polder in Noord Holland in 1612. Note that the traditional word for ‘polder’ in the different speeches along the southern coastal zone of the North Sea is koog, kog, kaag, kuch or koch, although no longer common parlance and mainly traceable in toponyms. Polders, whether reclaimed from lakes or the sea, often turned out to be very fertile. Hence, generating high grass and crops yields. With a booming Dutch Republic during the Golden Age, filled with scientific innovations and rich businessmen always looking for an investment opportunity, draining lakes and embanking land from the sea became economically lucrative. From Zeeland all the way to peninsula Eiderstedt and island Nordstrand, Dutch investors engaged in such enterprises.
With these innovations in land cultivation, as said, the low and narrow Frisian longhouse no longer sufficed. It is from the sixteenth century onward that in Noord Holland the stolp ‘cloche’ farmhouse or Stülphäusern developed, part of the Frisian gulf farmhouse tradition. At first, the stolp was used for mixed farming. From around 1800, farmers in Noord Holland switched to predominantly husbandry. To milk, butter and cheese production (Bos 2010).
The core of the stolp structure was the berg or vierkant; the square formed with two bents (of the roof-beam bent type) connected to each other. And it is where the hay was stacked. The two bents with four tall posts supported most of the weight of the roof, and the low walls only did so limitedly. Surrounding the vierkant, the other functions of the farm were organized. Like the house and living part, cow stables, storage of seed and harvest, storage of wagons and other equipment, and the threshing floor called the dars. In German language known as Dreshtenne, or on Eiderstedt as the Loh or Loo. The dars of stolps in the region of Westfriesland was accessible for horse and wagon through large grange doors called darsdeuren ‘threshing-floor doors’ facing the road. If only they had asked for a patent for this early drive-thru concept MacDonald’s would not have had a change. Non-Westfriesian stolps, however, mostly had the dars doors in the back of the farm. Facing the fields and ditches because all transport, of hay, milk, cows, dung etc., went over water with small boats. Think of the melkschuiten ‘milk barges’ in regions Waterland and Zaanstreek.
In contrast to Friesland, stolps had no milk cellar. Fresh milk was transported over water to the towns and, of course, to Amsterdam. Also, in Noord Holland they had a different way of producing cheese at warmer temperatures, so no milk cellar was needed. The result was a fatter and less preservable cheese compared to the low-fat cheese produced under cooler conditions in cellars in Friesland.
So, with the new stolp everything was organized under one roof, including the haystack. A hipped roof in the shape of a pyramid, up to seventeen meters high. Thanks to its hipped roof shape, low walls, and the roof-beam-bent timber construction, these spacious farms could resist heavy storms nevertheless. The design of these farm granges was fully dictated by cost efficiency. Realizing as much space as possible with a minimum of (expensive) building materials. Placing everything under one roof was already cheaper in relation to building materials, but it was less labor intensive to operate as well. Additionally, the use of wood, which was very expensive too, was kept to a minimum through this smart construction. Timber, especially the strong durable timber needed for the supporting posts and beams, became scarcer through time and had to be bought and shipped all the way from Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltics, Ukraine and Russia (Borghaerts 2021). Only the supporting elements were carried out in oak or high-quality pine. The rest of the roof was carried out in cheap and light spruce wood. Besides cost-effectiveness, this also kept the structure as light as possible.
One of the oldest stolps in the region of Westfriesland can be found in the village of Blokker and is named De Barmhartige Samaritaan ‘the good Samaritan’. It was built in 1659. Another oldy, and only recently (2019) discovered, is located in the nearby village of Oosterblokker. Dendrologic research of the oak posts proved the stolp was built in 1592.
Maybe, when these modernistic farms were first introduced, people thought these ugly factories ruined the landscape. To this day, however, the pyramid roofs are iconic for the landscape of Noord Holland north of the river IJ. More and more private effort is put into their conservation. Who knows, one day we will think the same of modern cubicle stalls, pig barns and slender windmills. Truly iconic and worth preserving! For now, still about 5,000 stolps can be found in Noord Holland, of which 1,600 in the region of Westfriesland. But numbers do decrease.
A typical feature of the stolp is the clock gable, often decorated with fancy plaques and balustrades. Furthermore, the front door called statiedeur, which was only used during specific occasions like marriage and death, was sometimes heavily embellished too. The ornate gables and doors were an expression of wealth and status.
Yet another defining aspect of the stolp, and the Frisian gulf farmhouses in general, is that timber constructions remained the basis for building (farm)houses. Whilst more inland brickwork had replaced most of the timber during the Middle Ages. The technique of brick making was re-introduced in the region in the twelfth century already. However, building heavy stone structures on clay soil is difficult. Laying a sound foundation to support stone walls is only possible to a limited extent. If you dig too deep, the clay soil becomes too wet and the structure starts to shift over time. So, you must stick to the dryer, more solid surface. In Friesland, foundations on average were only half a meter deep. Also, the vertical posts supporting the roof stood on a stone foundation called a klip or poer which were no more than half a meter deep dug into the ground. As a result, timber remained exceptionally long the base of building farmhouses along the southern coast of the North Sea.
When building farmsteads on clay soil, the trick was to divide the weight of the roof as evenly as possible over the tall vertical posts and low walls. Like spreading your body weight when lying on a too thin layer of ice in winter. For centuries, foundations were the biggest challenge when building farmsteads in Friesland. Some experts, with visual language, speak of the ‘floating farms’ of Friesland (Borghaerts 2021). Clever readers might oppose: “What about all the stone Romanesque churches and (bell) towers in Friesland, Groningen and Ostfriesland?” The answer is: “Can you provide one example where the walls have not cracked, or where the bell or church tower is not leaning?” Indeed, they all are.
stjelp at Cornjum and kop-hals-romp at Kimswerd in Friesland
Besides Noord Holland, in Friesland, Groningen, Ostfriesland and Butjadingen the gulf grange with high-hipped roof was introduced around 1600 as well. Replacing the traditional Frisian longhouses and barns (Vollmer, et al 2001). Compared to Noord Holland, there was a need for bigger stalls for cows and for greater storage of hay. The four-post-square wooden frame construction in these areas is the same as the stolp in Noord Holland. But instead of two bents, now three or sometimes four bents were placed in a row and connected with each other through a draaghout beam. Often including an overhang on the last bent. All this, creating a rectangular elongated floorplan.
At first, these big granges were built over the buitenhuis or barn part of the Frisian longhouse. The binnenhuis and middenhuis were not incorporated into the grange, resulting in the so-called kop-hals-romp ‘head-neck-rump’ farm. With some imagination you can see turtles in them. You can find these farmsteads in Friesland and the western part of Groningen. Concerning Friesland, from the nineteenth century, when a new farm was built, the living quarters and milk production spaces were always integrated under the same roof of the grange as well. These types of farmhouses are called a stjelp in Mid-Frisian language, or stelp in Dutch language The ridge of kop-hals-romp and stjelp farmsteads is generally between fourteen to seventeen meters high.
Hay season on the grasslands - On the greide, the grassland region in province Friesland, where dairy and cattle breeding were dominant, the grass needed to be harvested in the summer. In June and July seasonal workers from northern Germany came to the Netherlands to mow and hay. It was called ungetiid 'restless time' by the farmers.They were called hannekemaaiers. Hanneke is short for Johannes 'John'. This because hannekemaaiers traditionally were hired on the 24th of June, the feast day of Saint John. In the north of the Netherlands these seasonal workers from northern Germany were also called poepen which is a corruption of the German word for 'dolls' namely Puppen. The workers were housed in the grange and slept in the hay, called a poeppennest. (After Waling Dykstra)
In Groningen and Ostfriesland the Frisian gulf farmhouse underwent a somewhat different development during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These farmhouses, the Oldambtster farmhouse or Ostfriesenhaus/Gulfhof, are characterized by the enlarged house part with grain-lofts. The house part is the same height as the grange, but the grange is wider than the house part (Vollmer, et al 2001).
Oldambtster farmhouse at Nieuw Scheemda in Groningen and Ostfriesenhaus in Holtgast in Ostfriesland
In 1745, the cattle plague hit the region of the southern North Sea coast badly. It had a lasting effect on agriculture in the region. After massive die-off of cattle, many farmers in Groningen and Ostfriesland switched to crop farming, especially grain. This also led to adjustments to their farms, like the grain-lofts, no windows in the exterior stable walls, massive grange doors etc.. Additionally, especially in the northeast of Groningen and in the Dollart bay region, both in the Netherlands and Germany, much land was reclaimed from the Wadden Sea during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Land ideal for cultivating grain and other crops. At the same time grain prices rose due to growing populations, and these farmers became very wealthy. Not without reason nickname of the area is the Graanrepubliek ‘grain republic’. To store the enormous harvests, often two big gulf granges were built against one another. Or, the other option, the grange was extended. Up to seventy meters long!
When hiking the Frisia Coast Trail in the Reiderland area of Groningen in the month of July, you will be able to witness these elongated giants with their bright-orange tiled roofs, surrounded by firing fields of yellowy-gold wheat.
3. Short overview of the history of peninsula Eiderstedt
Now the reader knows that the Haubarg is a close relative of the Frisian gulf farmhouse. Moreover, its direct ancestor is the stolp in Noord Holland, including the region of Westfriesland. Now it is almost time to tell the story of how the Haubarg ended up on Eiderstedt. But before we do that, we ask a little more of the reader's patience, because a short overview of the history of the green peninsula is needed to understand the development of the Haubarg.
lighthouse on the tidal marshland at Westerhever, Eiderstedt
During the Late Middle Ages, the peninsula did not exist. Instead, there were three (groups of) islands. These were Eiderstedt, Everschop and Utholm, later also known as the Dreilande ‘three-lands’. Between the first and the fifth centuries, the area was populated but abandoned in the fifth century.
During the eighth century, the area was re-populated. Repopulated by Frisians, mainly originating from Ostfriesland. These first Eiderfriesen settled on the riverbanks of the river Eider, for example near the villages of Elisenhof, Olversum and Welt. The tidal marshlands of Osterhever, Westerhever, Utholm, and near Poppenbüll were populated in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. During the Early Middle Ages, each of the three islands Eiderstedt, Everschop and Utholm represented an administrative entity named a Herde or Harde, meaning ‘the hundred’. Compare the Old English hird or fyrd, and the Scandinavia hæraþ or hérað. In West Frisia the hundred was called cogge or coghe. A Harde had its own thing or ding assembly, and it was obligated to deliver to its overlord a boat with oarsmen annex armed warriors in times of war. In Nordfriesland several toponyms with the element harde still can be found, like Wiedingharde, Bökingharde, Karrharde, Westerharde (island Föhr), and Goesharde. For more about the early-medieval harde and cogge conscription, check our post A Frontier known as Watery Mess: the Coast of Flanders.
As everywhere on the marshlands of Nordfriesland, many terps, known as Warfts, can be found on Eiderstedt too. Existing Warfts were desirable place to build a Haubarg. Two types of cultural landscapes may be distinguished on Eiderstedt. Lengthways the peninsula, more ore less between the villages of Ording in the west and Garding in the east, runs a elevated Nehrung or sandspit. North of the sandspit, with the island groups of Everschop and Utholm, the landscape is of origin part of the Hallig-island culture. The soil consists of clay on peat, like much of the Halligs does. The Warfts or terps on this part of the peninsula are also of the Hallig type with their sweet water reservoirs. The terps are high and surrounded by low dikes. South of the sandspit, there is no peat.
reclamation between ca. 1500 and 1937 by Dirk Meier
Despite the Saint Marcellus’s flood, also called the Grote Mandrenke ‘great drowning of men’, of 1362 had devastated much of the landscape in Nordfriesland, modest land reclamation did take place in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Some islands of the island groups Utholm and Everschop were unified during this period. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, land reclamation took flight. In the year 1613, after extensive and systematic land reclamation through dike building, construction of drainage systems etc., the three islands Eiderstedt, Everschop and Utholm were finally united into what is now peninsula Eiderstedt. Numerous polders or Köge were created in the proces.
The koog toponym can be found everywhere on the peninsula. To list a few: Freesenkoog, Sieversfleetherkoog, Altaugustenkoog, Wilhelminenkoog, Norderheverkoog, Tümlauer-Koog, Adolfskoog, Finkhaushaligkoog, Heverkoog, Sankt Johanniskoog, Marschkoog, Brunottenkoog, Meggenkoog, Christian-Albrechts-Koog, Sophien-Magdalenen-Koog, Wasserkoog, Norderfriedrichskoog, Grothusenkoog, Obbenskoog, and Osterkoog.
And who were those people responsible for achieving such a huge embankment project? Creating a genuine peninsula out of islands? Where did they come from? The answer: from the Dutch Republic. More specifically, they were investors, skilled workers, religious refugees in search of religious freedom, and other immigrants from especially Noord Holland and the region of Westfriesland. And with them came the Haubarg.
4. Arrival of the Holländer and the Haubarg
From the start of the sixteenth century, immigrants from the Low Countries settled on the marshlands of the Wadden Sea coast in Schleswig-Holstein. They were tenant families from Holland and the region of Westfriesland. But many Anabaptists and protestants too, in search of a freer and/or a better life. Including many Mennonites who established themselves on Eiderstedt too. For the coastal people in the Republic, the Utlande ‘marshlands’ of Nordfriesland and Dithmarschen were a familiar habitat. If you knew how to drain and cultivate them, it was very fertile and productive land (Steensen 2008, Knottnerus 2008). The immigrants brought with them their house-building techniques and tradition, woodworking and dike constructing skills, and, last but not least, their know-how of dairying.
Between 1544 and 1721, the Utlande or Uhtlande ‘marshlands’ of Nordfriesland belonged to dukes of Holstein-Gottorf of the House of Oldenburg. It is when more and more people from the Dutch Republic worked and settled on Eiderstedt. Duke Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp (1526-1586) actively recruited skilled workers from the Republic in order to cultivate the fertile marshland and increase yields and revenues. It was, for example, the Dutchman Arent Cornelisz. who in 1553 and 1554 already oversaw the construction of the sluice in the river Wiedau or Vidå (meaning 'widow') at the town of Tønder near the modern border of Germany and Denmark. Dutch skilled workers were also hired to embank the Bottschlotter lake near the village of Fahretoft (Steensen 2008).
In the newly embanked Freesenkoog ‘Frisians-polder’ at Koldenbüttel, possibly the first Haubargs were erected in 1611 (Vollmer, et al 2001, Knottnerus 2008). A year later, duke John Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp (1575-1616) had another five Haubargs built in the new polder Altaugustenkoog. Old Haubargs are Jans in Westerhever, Maack in Oldenswort and Hamkens in Tating. Another old Haubarg, named Rode Leeuw ‘red lion’ near the village of Kotzenbüll, known today as Rothelau, was built in 1653 by Adriaen Albertsz. Hauwert from the town of Medemblik in the region of Westfriesland. Haubarg Rothelau has been built over a former Frisian longhouse (Fischer 2022). The Rothelau has been conserved and relocated to Frilandsmuseet ‘the free-land museum’ at Kongens Lyngby in Denmark, north of Copenhagen. Here it carries the name Røde Løve. By 1650, the construction of Haubargs was common and had replaced much of the traditional Frisian longhouses (Vollmer, et al 2001).
Ties with the Republic kept growing stronger. In 1621, duke Frederick III of Holstein-Gottorp (1597-1659) founded the town of Friedrichstadt in the marshes near the confluence of the rivers Eider and Treene. The town should give a boost to land cultivation and sea trade. To make this a success, duke Frederick attracted skilled workers and investors from the Republic. As a result, Friedrichstadt was built by the Dutch, recognizable by its canals and houses with stepped gables to this day. Furthermore, the duke made Johan de Haen from the town of Alkmaar in Noord Holland Staatsrat ‘state council’. Also from Alkmaar, the Anabaptist Willem van der Hove, and an acquaintance of the duke, was entrusted by the duke to stimulate Dutch merchants to invest capital in the region. Cornelis Jansz. Allerts from the village of Graft in Noord Holland financed the embankment of the island Pellworm in Nordfriesland (Schilstra, et al 2004).
An important Dutch investor in Nordfriesland, including the peninsula, was Jan Claesz. Rolwaghen (c. 1563-c.1623). He was active in reclamation and cultivation projects in the southwest of Friesland, in the east of Groningen, in Ostfriesland and in Schleswig-Holstein. Jan Claesz. Rolwaghen is possibly also responsible for having the first Haubarg built on Eiderstedt in the Freesenkoog polder in 1611, mentioned earlier. Others say it is not clear when and where the first Haubarg was built (Fischer 2022). Another, evocative personality, who worked on land reclamation and cultivation schemes in among others Nordfriesland, was Jan Adriaensz. Leeghwater (1575-1650) from the village De Rijp in Noord Holland. An internationally renowned engineer. He was responsible for the reclamation of the lakes Meggersee and Börmersee, and for the construction of the dam through open sea in the Dagebüller bay (Steensen 2008). The name Leeghwater is actually a nickname he got meaning 'empty-water' in Dutch.
With great the influx of migrants, know-how on land reclamation and dairy production, and capital from the Republic, Eiderstedt was completely transformed. Transformed from an archipelago into an peninsula that was protected by modern, solid and straight dikes. A nearly treeless landscape, since every square meter of land represented money. Trees were considered a waste (Fischer 2022). The polders were drained with topnotch watermills, ditches, canals and sluices. And, everything supported by a brand-new town built on Dutch footing: Friedrichstadt.
With money from investors from the Republic, and under the authority of the duke, so-called Holländereien ‘Holland-farms’ were set up. These were the Haubargs with a certain amount of land. Unit of measurement of land was expressed in Demat, a word which stems from Old-Frisian language Deimeth meaning ‘day-measure’. One Demat was the amount of land that could be mowed with a scythe in a day and measures 5,650 square meters. Between thirty and fifty Demat were needed for one Haubarg to operate. But there were also Haubargs with hundred Demat (Fischer 2022). Haubaurgs could replace existing Frisian longhouses, and were placed on a terp or Warft. This could be an existing Warft, or a new mound was raised for the purpose. Haubargs and land were rented to tenant-farmers. The land was owned by the duke. So, most of the earnings went to the investors and the dukes. Only later came Haubarg under private ownership. Known Haubarg families, many with clear Dutch heritage, are: the Tetens, the Hamkens, the Cornils, the Pauls, the Dirks, the Sieverts, the Eggers, the Alberts, the Ovens, the Lühr etc..
As explained earlier, the Haubarg was an upgraded version of the stolp in Noord Holland. The four-post-square wooden frame was the center of the structure and, just like with the stolp, this construct was called the Vierkant. Surrounding the Vierkant the Döns ‘living quarters’, the boos ‘stalls for cows’, and the Loo ‘threshing floor’ were organized. The stalls for horses was called the peerboos. The part of the building where the living quarters were, was called the Vorhus or Vorderfront ‘front house’. The rest of the building, the farm, was called the Achterdiele ‘back parts’. Like the stolp, but bigger, the exterior wall of the living quarters was beautified with pointed gables.
Of course, the Haubarg was much bigger than the original, the stolp. It had more than the two bents with four vertical posts of the stolp. Often three or four bents. The vertical posts of the bents could be twelve meters high. Interestingly, the Haubargs did not have the typical Frisian roof-beam bent construction, but the less storm proof anchor-beam bent instead. As to why, we have no idea. A Haubarg could be seventeen to twenty meters high and cover 1,100 square meters (Fischer 2022).
The Haubargs, and Holländereien they were part of, were very profitable between 1550 and 1750. In years during the seventeenth century, three million pounds of cheese was being exported from the harbours of Tönning and Husum (Steensen 2008). Like everywhere else, cattle plague hit Eiderstedt in 1745 too. Later, in 1890, foot and mouth disease followed. It made farmers switch to Fettgrasung ‘cattle fattening’. Young oxen from Jutland were driven over the old Ochsenwegen ‘oxen drovers’ to Eiderstedt where they grazed on the extensive grasslands. After the oxen were fat, the animals were exported to among others England. By the way, the Ochsenwegen existed for a long time already, and the Nordfriesen provided cities like Amsterdam, Hamburg and Bremen with beef for centuries.
With dairy production no longer being the main economic activity on the peninsula, and no need to stall much cattle during winter, the big granges of the Haubargs no longer had a function. Maintenance of the Haubarg became too expensive, and therefore many were torn down (Vollmer, et al 2001).
It must have been a fascinating and impressive site in especially the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Peninsula Eiderstedt was a flat, treeless landscape with its endless grasslands and ditches. Although dikes already protected the peninsula most of the time, Haubargs were built on existing or newly raised Warfts or terps, because the sea still found its way into the land during storm floods. Like isolated castles, these colossal farmsteads on Warfts towered and floated above the empty landscape.
Literally, a landscape of milk, cheese and butter. With cows and horses dotted everywhere in the fields. Where the sound of the green Eiderstedter Nachtigall ‘Eiderstedt Nightingale’, i.e. frog, was omnipresent. The frogs in the polder ditches and canals that sung and paid tribute to the once proud Haubargs.
Note 1 – The song of the Eiderstedter Nachtigall is in Platt language. The Eiderfriesen, after the economic transition from the sixteenth century onward, stopped speaking Frisian and shifted to Platt and German.
Note 2 - Below a short movie of the Haubarg Rothelau in Frilandsmuseet in Denmark:
Note 3 – For more early modern history on the common culture of the southern North Sea coast, whether is concerns piracy, sailors and prostitutes, or whale hunting, check or posts Yet Another Wayward Archipelago, Harbours, Hookers, Heroines and Women in Masquerade, and Happy Hunting Grounds in the Arctic.
Note 4 – With all the milk, butter and cheese, hiking the section of the Frisia Coast Trail that leads through the peninsula, it is as close as it gets to hiking the Milky Way.
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