Saturday 18 March 2017

17th century oak from Harderwijk

A view of the city Harderwijk around 1600. Two sea-bridges stretch into the Zuiderzee, the left one leads to the Vischpoort.

Until the 20th century, the city of Harderwijk, located in the middle of the Netherlands, was directly connected to the sea; moreover, during middle ages and and renaissance the sea (Zuiderzee) came directly to the city walls. Not surprisingly, Harderwijk was an important trade town in these days and a member of the Hanze League. Many remains from this past can still be found in the city today, and even more still remains hidden underground.   

A map of Harderwijk by Frederik de Wit, 1698, from the 'Theatrum ichnographicum omnium urbium et præcipuorum oppidorum Belgicarum XVII Provinciarum peraccurate delineatarum', Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Hague, the Netherlands, digital edition free access.

Instead of a harbour, Harderwijk had two mooring dams or sea-bridges for the ships, the 'Grote Brug' and the 'Lage Brug'. Larger ships could not be moored at these sea-bridges as the water was too shallow. They had to anchor further away, and the goods needed to be transported by smaller ships to the city. As the current city council had some plans to change the site of the old city waterfront, the firm Econsultancy became involved to do some archaeological research at the site of the old sea-bridge/dam (de Lage brug - the low bridge) at the Vischpoort [Fishgate]. Previous archaeological digs also had reported a suspected wreck at the site. Work started in in October 2016.

 A detail of the previous map with the Fish gate (and the fish-market behind it) and the sea-bridge (called Laage Brugge).

Part of the wall of the sea-bridge, numbers are added to the individual wooden pieces. 
Photo copyright Archeologie Noord-Veluwe.

Left: the complete 'punter' excavated. Right: part of the 'punter' with three bollards of the sea-bridge. Photos copyright Archeologie Noord-Veluwe.

Indeed, a wreck of a small ship could be found.  Likely, this was a boat (called a 'punter') that was used to haul the goods from larger ships to the harbour. The sea-bridge itself was an artificially constructed dam, consisting of two rows of  wooden bollards, driven deep into the bottom of the sea, covered with planks at the sides and filled rubble and more randomly places stakes. The (remains of the) bollards were between 40 cm and 2.5 metres long. The ends that were driven into the ground were pointed or wedged and sometimes reinforced by nailed iron plating.  The wooden posts were mostly oak or pine, either squared or round, and measured around 20-25 cm. They have been dendrologically dated to the early 17th century. The width of the sea-bridge was around 3 metres, the Hoge brug had a length of 100 metres, the Lage brug was somewhat shorter. Some engravings of the city of Harderwijk of the 17th century also shows a small crane on the sea-bridge, useful for hauling the goods from the boats.

A 16th century engraving of the sea bridges at Harderwijk; the Hoge Brug (right) has a small crane visible.

Salvaging one of the 17th century mooring posts. Photo copyright Archeologie Noord Veluwe.

After the archaeologic research was finished, the city council had no interest to preserve the wooden bollards of the sea-bridge that had been dug up. And to be honest, they just look like tree stems and are only of interest because the structure they form; as individual pieces they are not special to the general public. So the bollards were cut up into smaller pieces by chainsaw and transported to the grounds of Econsultency in Doetinchem, their final destination probably being someone's hearth. However, we got notice of them and could salvage some pieces that could be useful for us.

Some excavated and cut-up parts of the sea-bridge at the grounds of Econsultancy.

 A few 17th century bollard pieces in my car.

We now have five 1.8 metre pieces of a 17th century oak tree standing in our shed, each weighing between 80 to 100 kilos, waiting to be sawn into boards. The centuries old bollards were remarkably good; only the outer few centimetres have deteriorated during their sea-bridge service and stay in the ground. It would be quite interesting for us to make some historical furniture from this historical (more) correct oak.

Left: the metal covered point of the bollard. Right: four of the bollard pieces, the archaeological ID number is still attached to one piece.


1 comment:

  1. Wow, congratulations! What a lucky haul. I find myself a bit envious. I think i would have been more greedy and tried to get more, but it is good that at least not all of it will become firewood! I look forward to seeing what you will make of it.