Beverwijk? A nice town between Alkmaar and Haarlem. Protected by the dunes and just a stone's throw from the Tata Steel (previously Hoogovens). The town is well known (in the Netherlands at least) for its large oriental and flea market, the Bazaar, as well as for its furniture store boulevard and perhaps also for its specialized burns treatment centre.
About this page
This is what most outsiders know about Beverwijk. But Beverwijk is much more than that. So this publication gives us a real opportunity to boast about the lesser-known aspects of our town. We can tell you all about the beautiful countryside, our industrial activity, the dunes, the sea, the wide beaches and our pleasant seaside resort. Not forgetting the many special buildings and parks, and some historical facts. And the Beverwijkers themselves. Who are they, where did they come from, how do they feel about their town?
We won't try to hide the other side of the coin either. Because, like all towns and cities in the Randstad (A densely populated area in the western part of the Netherlands between the cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam), Beverwijk has had to cope with problems surrounding infrastructure, space and employment. And culture is not always what we would like it to be.
So why is Beverwijk so special? Because it is neither a village nor a big city? Because it has such a multicultural population? Because the beach is nearby - and Amsterdam too? Because the Bintangs, the first real pop group in the Netherlands, were from Beverwijk?! Or simply because the people who live here are so direct? Talking about the Beverwijk manner is no easy matter. When you first meet them, it may be useful for you to know that most Beverwijkers are very down-to-earth and quite blunt. Sometimes they are so frank that outsiders and people who come to live here find them extremely forthright or even downright rude. We hope that this information will inspire you to form your own opinion about Beverwijkers and the town of Beverwijk.
Does Beverwijk have anything to do with beavers?
The idea that Beverwijk (The word 'Beverwijk' literally means 'beaver area') got its name from the fact that many beavers used to live here is perhaps a nice one, but is not very likely. No remains of beavers' bones have ever been found at archaeological excavations. There are many theories about the origins of the name and detailed historical studies are still being carried out. Beverwijk definitely has a connection with the name Agatha. You are forever coming across different versions of that name. In the middle of town you will immediately notice the Aagtendorp housing development, with its unusual design and use of colour. Sint Aagtendijk - an 800-year-old dyke – leads from the town centre to the residential areas Zwaansmeer and Oosterwijk. Between the fields and meadows of the Wijkermeerpolder is the military fort Sint Aagtendijk, part of a circular line of defence that was built in the 19th century to protect Amsterdam. And, of course, the Agathakerk church in the Breestraat, whose dome is a distinct part of the Beverwijk skyline. Aagtendorp, Aagtenhal, Agathakerk, Sint Aagtendijk fort, Sint Aagtendijk - it must be more than coincidence.
A much-supported theory, although not proven, is that a certain St. Agatha can give us an explanation for the name Beverwijk. In the early Middle Ages (1063) there was a church, or perhaps a chapel, in this area called the Agathenkiricha. This church or chapel was named after St. Agatha. Despite the Roman ban on Christianity, a girl called Agatha had stuck to her beliefs and was therefore put to death in the year 281. For this steadfastness the Catholic Church declared her to be a saint. The village around the church was later given her name. After 1250, the Sint Aghetendorpe village also became known as Bedevaartwijk (literally: the pilgrimage area). It appears that the chapel that was built to honour Agatha attracted many pilgrims. Perhaps they came to visit the weekly market which had been held in Beverwijk since 1276, when Count Floris V granted the town the right to hold the market. Beverwijk's favourable location (on a waterway, on the coast and with a direct link to Haarlem) was one of the reasons for its economic growth. The town expanded and grew and was enfranchised (Given the right to be represented in Parliament) in 1298 by Count Jan I. In 1276 the name Bedevaartwijk had already started to be changed to Beverwijk.
Beverwijk is a bit of each
Beverwijk is not a town, Beverwijk is not a village, a French traveller in 1827 wrote during his journey through our municipality. He obviously thought it was a bit of each. The Frenchman extolled the virtues of this 'village town'. Indeed, the people who lived here had the benefits of a town at their disposal: the hustle and bustle of the weekly market and the annual fair with its vegetables, fruit and fish. Plus the many flourishing trades which made the town a prosperous one. And on top of all that, the Beverwijker could still enjoy the pleasant side of village life: tranquillity and rural charm.
Beverwijk has two features which are unmistakably 'Wijks'. Without these two Beverwijk would not be Beverwijk: the Wijkertoren tower and the Breestraat shopping street. The impressive tower of the Grote Kerk church in the Kerkstraat is the town's landmark. Sentimental Beverwijkers say that they cannot stay away from the Wijkertoren for too long. The Wijkertoren belongs to the Netherlands Reformed church. This church was built between 1592 and 1648 on the remaining walls of an even older (and at that time Roman Catholic) church. The remains – which are visible even now -were all that were left after a battle in Beverwijk. During the revolt of the Netherlands (A period of 80 years (1568-1648) during which the Netherlands fought for independence from Spanish rule.), in 1576 to be precise, the church was completely destroyed by the Spanish. An army led by Duke Emanuel Philibert of Savoy (?) also caused havoc. The whole of Beverwijk lay in ruins - apart from nine houses and the tower.
Some twenty years later the Beverwijkers decided to make a fresh start on the church and began rebuilding the nave and the south aisle. The authorities put taxes on beer drinking, land sale and being too late for church to pay for the remaining building work. In 1648 the church was completed. As you enter the Grote Kerk, you walk over the gravestones of Beverwijkers who were buried here centuries ago. Emblems and other symbols on the stones, such as trowels and windmills, point to the origins and occupations of those who died. It was customary to pile up the dead, three in one grave. If it was a family grave, then the family name would be on the gravestone. You could also buy one part of a grave, in which case you were allowed to use a third of the gravestone. By the way, only people from rich and aristocratic families living in the area - and later from Amsterdam regents' families who had their summer homes here - were buried indoors. The Beverwijk poor were buried outside. In the 1980's several graves were emptied. Very special gravestones were kept and have been given a new resting place. More information by Graveyard Duinrust.
The wide Breestraat street came into being in the 13th century when there was a need for a place to hold a weekly market and an annual fair. The weekly market (Wednesdays) has now returned to the Breestraat, after years at other locations. And when Beverwijk's mainstreet was given a facelift in 2001, it was kept as wide as possible. Up until the 1970s, huge elms adorned the shopping street, but the dreaded Dutch elm disease destroyed many of these trees. The last elms were taken out during the 2001 facelift. They are to be replaced by lime trees, so that in a couple of years' time the Breestraat will be restored to its former leafy glory. In a 1902 guide to Beverwijk and surrounding area, the author Chr. Sepp said that a stroll down the Breestraat "(...) was made most pleasurable by the smart shops and elegant houses lining the street." Today, 99% of the houses have disappeared, but there are more shops than ever. With its wide range of goods on offer and its weekly market, Beverwijk is gradually fulfilling a regional role. Since 1980 the Breestraat is once again hosting short-distance trotting races(Racing for trotting horses pulling a two-wheeled vehicle and driver) during the festivalweek in August.
Today you could perhaps say the same about Beverwijk. 'Being a bit of each' certainly has its advantages. Beverwijk is still characterized by its busy economic activity. That makes the town everything but a dormitory town. Here where working lives and personal lives are so closely entwined, there is always something going on. The Corus steelworks, the harbour surrounded by a number of medium-sized enterprises, Stork Alpha Engineering and the machine lubricant manufacturer Beverol Nederland are undeniably an important part of life in Beverwijk and the Beverwijk skyline. Apart from this economic activity, the town also has many public facilities such as a large public library, the Breestraat shopping street (which was recently given a facelift), a cinema, many social and sportsclubs, the Kennemer Theatre (previously called De Slof), a swimming pool and numerous restaurants and bars. Yet ten minutes from the centre of Beverwijk, you are out in the country. The municipality is in the middle of the Randstad (A densely populated area in the western part of the Netherlands between the cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam), but has space and fresh air. In the Beverwijk polders, between the last remaining Beverwijk crops, in the vast dune reserve and, of course, on the beach. Twenty minutes by bike and the sea is right there in front of you.
The fact that Beverwijk was a mainly Catholic town until the end of the 1950s is clearly visible in the town's architecture. For example, the former teacher training college on Baanstraat (1906), the Agathakerk church on Breestraat (1924) - which were both designed by the same architect - the Onze Lieve Vrouw van Goede Raadkerk church (1915), the Agtendorp housing development (1920) and the former Heilig Hart school (1929). At the turn of the 20th century, Beverwijk was livened up by students from the teacher training college. The 'Society for the Advancement of Special Education in the Diocese of Haarlem' was looking for a new location to replace the inadequate building used for the teacher training college in Hoorn (A town on the edge of the IJsselmeer lake, part of what used to be the Zuider Zee, an inlet of the North Sea). Beverwijk was chosen. The Board of Governors said that it was 'healthy' here and 'virtue would be in less danger'. In 1905, the Society bought one hectare of land to have a teacher training college built, together with a chapel and a home for the college principal. The Amsterdam architect J.J.M. Moolenschot was commissioned to design the buildings. The land forms a triangle between the streets Baanstraat, Romerkerkweg and Kees Delfsweg. This triangle became a bastion of Catholic education. Not only was a teacher training college built, but later also a boarding school, nursery school, junior school and senior school. The teacher trainees came from all over the province of Noord-Holland. Six boarding houses were built on the Romerkerkweg and six other houses on the Kees Delfsweg. In 1968 times changed for the educational triangle after a protest sit-in. The old teacher training college was given a new name. Its trainees became fully-fledged students. And in 1970 the boarding school was closed. The teacher training college merged with another college and moved in 1984 - as student numbers declined - to Bergen, a town further north along the coast. Today the old, still very special, building is used to house young people.
Proud of its growth
In 1940 the whole municipality had 22,000 inhabitants. In 1966 that number had almost doubled to 42,281! After the Second World War, the council had been under great pressure to build many homes in a short time. This sudden expansion is reflected in the streets around the Kuenenplein square, and in the residential areas Oosterwijk, Zwaansmeer and Meerestein. Also in the oldest blocks of flats in Beverwijk: in Oostertuinen, on the Plantage and in the streets around Oranjestraat. It was mostly bright modern flats and small houses that were constructed very rapidly in these areas to provide homes for workers coming to live in Beverwijk.
Wijkerbaan was meant to become the second centre of Beverwijk. In the euphoria of 1960's expansion, Beverwijk council decided to build another town centre. As well as the centuries-old Breestraat, they wanted to have a brand new modern 'city centre'. The location: Wijkerbaan. And obviously the new town hall had to be located in the new town centre. This functional 13-storey building, designed by the architect Harry Nefkens, is one of the tallest buildings in the town. A ceramic tableau by Pieter Schoenmakers symbolizing the life cycle hangs above the President Kennedyplein square entrance. By the way, the Wijkerbaan street has never managed to surpass the Breestraat. The 'Bree', the old mainstreet, remains the undisputed town centre. After the Plantage and Wijkerbaan areas had been built, the surrounding residential areas were built. Filmmaterial and booklets from that time are quite disarming, with their optimistic outlook on the world and the future. Endless space, no traffic problems, ever-growing employment and enviable optimism.
In the 1980's it was the old centre's turn for full-scale renovation. Social democratic ideals of building affordable homes were reflected in this phase of urban renewal. Wasteland and old dilapidated homes and buildings around the Wijkertoren disappeared. They were replaced by very simply designed housing, no higher than four storeys. Much was demolished: houses, a nursery school, the Kennemer engineering works, a home for the elderly on the Peperstraat, and housing on the Peperstraat, Koningstraat and Patersweg. The whole area around the Grote Kerk church changed drastically. New smallscale residential areas sprung up all over the town centre. And if you compare this urban renewal to what was built in the 1960s, you'll notice that the 1980s developments are much more colourful and varied. Some buildings were saved from demolition in the 1980s. They were put to a different use. The interior of the old teacher training college, for example, underwent a spectacular metamorphosis. The old classrooms were turned into homes. The same goes for the former Heilig Hart school on the Galgenweg.
If you would like to find out more about the history of housing in this area, there is a extensive collection of cards, illustrations and photos available at the Beverwijkse Museum Kennemerland, the Stichting Prentenkabinet Midden-Kennemerland (a local art collection) or the municipal archives.
More of Beverwijk
If you like cycling, then you will love the Wijkermeerpolderroute. Along the old seadyke to the village of Assendelft and then back along the Communicatieweg or alongside the Northseacanal. On the way you will see many interesting parts of our military history: the remains of the old firing line 'the Amsterdam Defence Line'. This 135 km circular line of defence around the capital consists of 42 forts, batteries, rampart lines and powder magazines. When it had been completed (1920), the introduction of fighter planes instantly made the firing line obsolete. In 1988 the province of Noord-Holland gave the Amsterdam Defence Line national heritage status. In 1995 it was even included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Defence Line section in the Wijkermeerpolder includes four forts and a part of the fortified dyke from Beverwijk to the village of Krommenie. The forts are Sint Aagtendijk, Veldhuis, de Eersteling and Zuidwijkermeer.
On summer Sundays, the Veldhuis fort is open to the public. The Aircraft Recovery Group Trust has setup a permanent exhibition in the former powder magazines and soldiers' quarters. The Stichting Noordhollands Landschap (provincial landscape trust) looks after the Veldhuisfort and the fortified dyke from the town of Heemskerk to Krommenie. The dyke now attracts as many visitors as the forts. This is as much to do with the grebes and tufted ducks swimming around in the moats as the wild flowers growing there. The relatively new Wijkermeerpolder (the first preparations were made in 1856 and the land was ready for use in 1877) is 700 hectares. It extends from Beverwijk to Assendelft, from the North Sea Canal to the village of Nauerna. Most of the Wijkermeerpolder is part of the municipality of Zaanstad. If you are curious to know how far the waves of the IJ (the former Zuiderzee) and the Wijkermeer lake came, all you need to do is drive along the winding dykes Noorder IJdijk and Zeedijk. This gives you a good idea of the rugged edge of the old Wijkermeer shoreline. The Wijkermeer lake gradually silted up in the 17th and 18th century. Only if there was a really bad storm did the water come right up to the top of the Breestraat. The last time that the people who lived at the De Meer harbour or in the Breestraat had to rush up to their attics to escape the rising water was in 1865. In previous years this had happened every winter. From the 17th century Beverwijk did all it could to keep the waterway into the harbour open. After all, there was no faster or cheaper way of transporting vegetables, fish, cloth, oil and other products than over the Wijkermeer lake.
It turned out to be an impossible task. They could not stop the silting and that made life hard for the Beverwijk tradesmen. A new waterway to Amsterdam (the North Sea Canal) was not built for another 100 years. The lake was finally impoldered in 1873, at the same time as work started on the North Sea Canal. The canal was completed in 1876 and the regional economy began to flourish once more. The polder provided 700 hectares of fertile land. Up until now most of the Wijkermeer polder has been used for livestock and arable farming. Potatoes, beets and cereals are the crops produced. But as employment, the need for homes and recreation demand more space, it looks like agriculture is beginning to take second place. There is now a large industrial area on the edge of the Wijkermeer polder. Several of the many business enterprises and companies in Beverwijk are situated around the Pijp harbour. The harbour buildings see increasing activity each year, particularly in potato import and export, for which it is one of the largest ports in the Netherlands.
Protected by the dunes
Nature is often hard to find in the Netherlands, but it is there for the Beverwijkers to see in the dunes. Although the authorities looking after the dune area (the provincial water company Noord-Holland, PWN) let it 'run wild', they do keep a close watch on the flora and fauna. They also have to take certain measures for water abstraction. The dunes and the dune landscape are so special and irreplaceable that it has been designated a protected area. For cyclists, ramblers, naturelovers and people looking for a quiet spot, the dunes are perfect. Admission tickets are available at all entrances, including those in Wijk aan Zee and Heemskerk.
Leaders in HolticultureI
If Beverwijk had not once been famous for its top-quality vegetables and flower bulbs, then we would not have said so much about them in this booklet. Our fertile sandy soil was, and is still today, particularly suitable for growing smaller vegetable varieties (?). And, of course, for growing strawberries.
The Amsterdam regents' families who spent their summers here were the Beverwijk farmers' best customers. These 'Wijker market gardeners' suddenly had a marketplace right near their homes. The rich city dwellers obviously had to eat while they were here and eat well they did, as the produce from the land was mouth-watering, fresh and of excellent quality. Exactly to their discerning taste.
Beverwijk became well known for those strawberries. At the beginning of the 20th century, millions of kilos went off to Germany and England. It was at that time that the first Beverwijk auctions were set up. The small town became the centre of the surrounding agricultural area. Most of the strawberries sold at the Beverwijk auctions were grown in Heemskerk and Wijk aan Zee. Beverwijkers worked long and hard to earn their living. They brought their produce by horse or dog carts to the auctions at De Meer. There it was transferred to ships or trains heading for places like Amsterdam. Some of them sold their own vegetables in the town. Farmers, clogs and strawberries were a familiar sight in Beverwijk in those days.Beverwijk remained a rural town up until the Second World War. Even though industrial activities had expanded and many of the people living in Beverwijk no longer farmed, the municipality still had strong ties with the agricultural sector. One of the main reasons for this was the vegetable and flower auction, which was still in use in the industrial area up until the 1980s.
As Beverwijk became more densely populated and the auction hall closed down, the town lost much of its old agricultural character. Gradually it all disappeared - the fields with lettuce, endive and spinach; the beds of irises and gladioli; the rows of strawberries. 'De Tuinder', a statue of a farmer near the Wijkerbaan, reminds us of the time when horticulture was flourishing.
Today you will find just a few horticultural enterprises on the western edge of Beverwijk. They look very different to how they used to, as a result of mechanization in the sector, but here and there you will still see the characteristic beech hedges that acted as field boundaries and sheltered the crops from the wind.
The real Beverwijker
The real Wijker has lived in Beverwijk all his (or her) life. His father or grandfather earned his living here from horticulture, growing fresh red Amazones - the regional strawberry variety and the pride of Beverwijk - cherries, French beans and spinach, as well as irises and gladioli. Always top quality. Or his grandfather made cigars at Majoor in the Koningstraat, while grandmother sorted beans and peas at the canning factory. Wijkers sold their own vegetables on the Amsterdam canals, boarding a ship in the Pijp harbour and sailing to the capital. Later they could sell their produce closer to home at the Beverwijk vegetable and flower auctions on the Meerplein.
After the war the Beverwijker had to make his living as best he could. He gave up his difficult and uncertain farmer's way of life to go and work at the Hoogovens steelworks (now Corus). This company has been inextricably bound up with Beverwijk since 1918. The Beverwijker settled for a permanent job at the steelworks with paid holidays. Or he got a job at the Kennemer engineering works (which moved from the Koningsstraat to an industrial area in 1995), or at Van Hattem's Havenwerken (harbour activities), Beijnis Spoorwagon (railway vehicles) or Sihi-Maters pumps. In the 1930's the Beverwijker came from all parts of the country. He came here with his wife from other Dutch provinces - Brabant, Friesland, Drenthe, Groningen - because in Beverwijk there were plenty of factories to work in. He started a family here, and introduced his own traditions and culture. Or he came from a 'big city' - Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Haarlem - to set up his own business in Beverwijk.
In the 1960's the Beverwijker came from Spain and Italy. He came at the invitation of Hoogovens and Van Gelder Papier (a paper manufacturer) who were in need of staff. He came here just after the new arrivals from Friesland and Drenthe, leaving his wife and children behind, who often came much later. At first he was not provided with a home, but lived on the ship Arosa Sun in the Spui harbour or in the Eurocasa ( A special camp built to house Hoogovens workers) on the Spoorsingel road. Beverwijkers also come from Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles, Indonesia, Morocco, Ethiopia and Turkey. All in all, Beverwijk is a melting pot, each group making a vital contribution to the Beverwijk culture. Work - the reason why all these people came here originally - is reflected in the character of the town: pragmatic and professional. And in the character of most Beverwijkers you will meet: down-to-earth and direct, no-frills, no nonsense. But also slightly sentimental. After all, who could manage without that Wijkertoren tower?
Old manors, new parks
In Beverwijk you can go for a walk in a green, open space right in the middle of town. It has three parks and gardens, each with its own atmosphere and history. There is also the privately-owned manor Akerendam.
Couples can get married in romantic surroundings every day of the week at the old manor Huize Scheijbeeck. Its pleasant gardens are ideal for gentle strolls. Along the birds in the aviary, crossing the little bridge over the brook with its crystal-clear water that comes from the dunes, past the field with sheep, horses and geese. Between 1991 and 1996 the gardens were gradually given a complete facelift. The rose garden was restored to its former glory and the ancient wall with its gate leading onto the Beeckzanglaan was completely rebuilt. In the 17th century, several rich Amsterdam regents decided to have country houses built in Beverwijk or Velsen to 'amuse themselves and relieve themselves of the daily pressure of cares and difficulties' during the summer. The area was a wonderful place to be. The Wijkermeer shoreline was perfect for pleasant walks and the dunes were an ideal hunting ground. It was just a two-hour boat ride from Amsterdam to Beverwijk.
The Amsterdammer Laurens Baeck settled in the mid 17th century at Scheijbeeck manor. This wealthy confectioner loved poetry, writing it himself and also acting as a patron of the arts. The poet and playwright Vondel was therefore welcome to stay at Scheijbeeck when he was forced to go into hiding to prevent being tried for lese-majesty, insulting a monarch. In his poem "Beecksangh' Vondel described Baeck's daughter as a Wijker beet and the manor as a 'sage's summer house of delight'.
Walking along Akerendam manor late at night, you'll hear the wind whistling in the trees. You will hear the branches groaning. But perhaps it is the sound of the lovers who died so young and are buried under the Akerendam lime trees? Or so the legend goes. Two men stabbed each other to death during a fight in the dunes. The women who loved them found them there and took their own lives in desperation.
In 1637 the Amsterdam shipbuilder Jan Bikker bought a piece of land in Beverwijk and had Akerendam built, including beautiful gardens with orchards, vegetable patches, a summer house and a dovecote. Bikker is famous for buying an island in Amsterdam and establishing a new district. He built shipyards, warehouses and homes there. It is still known as Bickerseiland.
About 100 years later the Pels brothers, merchants from Amsterdam, became the owners of Akerendam. They paid 30,000 guilders for it. (To compare: a skilled apprentice would earn five guilders a week at that time for working six long days.) The relatively modest gardens were re-landscaped according to 18th-century fashion. They were made more elaborate and elegant with very high neatly trimmed hedges, ponds, straight paths and cages with wild animals. The summer house near the street was built around 1800 by the then owner Blois van Treslong. It was to give 'the old, the weak and the young' a place to rest after a walk.
The most recent restoration took place in 1946. The last owner, Mrs Sluyterman van Loo, wanted Akerendam to become a home for elderly ladies. The house is still in private hands. Once a year, the gardens may be viewed as part of a national heritage sites open day.
Westerhout Park is well worth a visit in the spring. The grounds of this former country house are then ablaze with flowers. The old wood is a safe breeding ground for the tawny owl, stock dove and great spotted woodpecker. Several years ago the council adopted an ecological programme for park management. Since that time Highland cattle have been grazing on Westerhout land. The manor was built in 1625. At the beginning of the 19th century the house was demolished and replaced with a new one. Later still the new manor house was converted into a music school (Stedelijke Muziekschool).
This budding young park filled with saplings is in the centre of Beverwijk, among the 1970s housing developments. During a breathing space in the intense building activity, an area of 10 hectares was not built on. It was used for horticulture until the 1990s, as well as for playing fields and car parks. As early as 1964, the council had plans for a city park there. Financial setbacks (losing provincial subsidies) and other priorities caused a delay. An initiative by people living in the area to speed up implementation of the park plans, led to the setting up of Vereniging Groene Long Beverwijk (a society for the 'lungs' of Beverwijk). This resolute group gave the council plans vigour and momentum. In the spring of 1995, her Majesty Queen Beatrix officially opened Overbos. The landscape architect Ank Bleeker was responsible for the design.
The seaside resort Wijk aan Zee
What is it that sets Wijk aan Zee apart? Literally, distance, as although the seaside resort comes under the municipality of Beverwijk, it is actually four kilometres away. And figuratively, its more than 2000 inhabitants who have their own particular outlook on life. What make it special are often very little things, because, apart from the beach and the dunes, nothing in Wijk aan Zee is big. It is in the air, the spirit of the people who live there, the small buildings, the hospitality, the tranquillity, but also the liveliness. Above all, it is the modesty. Although that does not mean that the inhabitants just sit around quietly enjoying their village. They can be as active and inventive as they need be. The beautiful village inspires the people living there to take innovative action to defend their surroundings at all costs from sludge/silt (?) dumping plans and power stations. For example, in 1999 Wijk aan Zee proclaimed itself Cultural Village of Europe and organized, together with ten other European villages, a series of cultural events.
A special part of this was a sculpture exhibition 'Een Zee van Staal' (a sea of steel) which was opened by her Majesty Queen Beatrix. Eleven sculptors from 11 different European countries made 11 steel sculptures. Corus provided the artists with steel, a place to work and technical support. Wijk aan Zee offered the artists hospitality. And the place itself - the Rolandsduin dune - put the sculptures in an impressive perspective of dunes, sea and industry.
Being at the seaside made the early inhabitants susceptible to piracy. Up until the mid 19th century, Wijk aan Zee was a typical fishing village, completely dependent on all that smelt of shells and fish. At first that made them their fortune, but it did not prove to be enough to avert threats from the outside world. The fact that Wijk aan Zee did not have its own harbour made life difficult for the village. Ships became bigger and they could not be pulled up onto the beach as had been done in the past. They could not compete with other places where there were harbours. The cargo trade which had once made the people from Wijk aan Zee so prosperous gradually died a death. And that had its consequences.
By 1811 the shrinking population was so poor that people were forced to make their way across the sand to Beverwijk each day to beg. Wijk aan Zee was not only on the edge of the Netherlands but also on the edge of what we would now call bankruptcy.
The opening of the first Badhotel on the Zwaansstraat (1881) was an eye-opener for many: gradually the inhabitants started to earn their living by welcoming seaside guests. They were mostly people from Amsterdam who came there with their families. Shortage of space was easily resolved by the would-be hoteliers by building conservatories onto the front of their houses which could serve as guest bedrooms.
Most of the seaside inhabitants still earn their living from tourism. It's hardly surprising: the pressures of daily life are soon forgotten after spending a few moments gazing at the sea, a quarter of an hour kicking shells around, surfing the waves, drinking an aperitif at the beach bar or doing some fishing from the pier.
Coat of arms of Beverwijk
The coat of arms of "Beverwijk" consists of a shield that is held by two small naked boys. On either side the boys are holding up a white-lined cloak bordered with gold fringes and covered by an azure-coloured canopy.
In the shield four small lions are depicted, which come from the coat of arms belonging to Mr. Jan van Beaumont, bailiff to the Blois and Wijk districts.From the 14th till the18th century Beverwijk was the judicial centre for these two regions.The head of the shield with its three silver lilies side by side reminds us of "Old Beverwijk."
The oldest known seal depicting the three lilies dates back to 1318. The lily plays an important role in the heraldry of "Kennemerland." The coat of arms has often been changed. The addition of the canopy with the naked boys dates back to 1601. A seal from 1426 shows the three lilies. In 1989 the present house-style was developed for the municipality. The new logo is a stylistic reproduction of the coat of arms.
A final word The charm of Beverwijk
Ever heard anyone singing the praises of this town? Probably not. It is not the kind of place people usually get poetic about. Beverwijk is solid and forceful, certainly not cute and lovable. People here are very straightforward, as is the town itself. No boasting, no mysteries: Beverwijk is an open book. And that – ultimately – is its charm.