Tournament at the Sand, present Grote Markt
The oldest mentioning of Haarlem
dates from the 10th century. The name comes from "Haarlo-heim", which means 'place,
on sand covered with trees, higher than the others'. An 10th century source mentions
"ene viertal boerdereien zeijden ene beecke" (Middel Dutch for "Four farms besides
a brook") in a place referred to as "Harulahem". The brook was "De Beek", a stream
dug from the peat grounds west of the river Spaarne as a drainage canal. Over the
centuries the Beek was turned into an underground canal, as the city grew larger
and the space was needed for construction. Over time it began to silt up and in the
19th century it was filled in. The location of the village was a good one: by the
river Spaarne, and by a major road going south to north. By the 12th century it was
a fortified town, and Haarlem became the residence of the Counts of Holland.
1219 the knights of Haarlem were laureled by Count Willem I, because they had conquered
the Egyptian port of Damietta (or Damiate in Dutch, present-day Dimyat) in the 5th
crusade. Haarlem received the right to bear the Count's sword and cross in its coat
of arms. On November 23, 1245 Count Willem II granted Haarlem city rights. This implied
a number of privileges, among which the right for the sheriff and magistrates to
administer justice, instead of the Count. This allowed for a quicker and more efficient
judiciary system, more suited to the needs of the growing city.
After a siege by the Kennemer people in 1270 a defensive wall was built around the
city. Most likely this was an earthen wall, with wooden gates. Originally the city
started out between Spaarne, Oudegracht, Ridderstraat, Bakenessergracht and Naussaustraat.
In the 14th century the city expanded, and the Burgwalbuurt, Bakenes and the area
around the Oudegracht became part of the city. The old defenses proved not to be
sufficiently strong for the expanded city, and at the end of the 14th century a 16½-metre
high wall was built, complete with a 15-metre wide canal circling the city.
In 1304 the Flemish threatened the city, but they were defeated by Witte van Haemstede
All the city's buildings were made of wood, and fire was a great risk. In 1328 nearly
the whole city burnt down. The Sint-Bavokerk was severely damaged, and rebuilding
it would take more than 150 years. Again on June 12, 1347 there was a fire in the
city. A third large fire, in 1351, destroyed many buildings including the Count's
castle and the city hall. The Count did not need a castle in Haarlem anymore, because
his castle in Den Haag had taken over all functions. The Count donated the ground
to the city and later a new city hall was built there. The shape of the old city
was square -- this was inspired by the shape of ancient Jerusalem. After every fire
the city was rebuilt quickly, an indication of the wealth of the city in those years.
The Black Death came to the city in 1381. According to an estimate by a n priest
from Leiden the disease killed 5,000 people, about half the population at that time.
City Hall of Haarlem on the Grote Markt. It was built in the 14th century replacing
the Count's castle, after it partially burnt down. The remainders were given to the
In the 14th century Haarlem was a major city. It was the second largest city in historical
Holland after Dordrecht and before Delft, Leiden, Amsterdam, Gouda and Rotterdam.
In 1429 the city gained the right to collect tolls, including ships passing the city
on the Spaarne river. At the end of the Middle Ages Haarlem was a flourishing city
with a large textile industry, shipyards and beer breweries.
Around 1428 the city was put under siege by the army of Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut.
Haarlem had taken side with the Cods in the Hook and Cod wars, and thus against Jacoba
of Bavaria. The entire Haarlemmerhout Iwood was burnt down by the enemy.
Siege of Haarlem
Map of Haarlem around 1550 and a painting of the fighting women of Haarlem during
The city is completely surrounded by a city wall and defensive moat. In the south-west
of the city bleaching grounds can be seen. Notice the near-square shape of the city:
this was based on the ancient plan of Jerusalem]]
When the city of Brielle was conquered by the Geuzen revolutionary army, the municipality
of Haarlem started supporting the Geuzen. King Philip II of Spain was not pleased,
and sent an army north under the command of Don Fadrique (Don Frederick in Dutch),
son of the Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba. On November 17, 1572 all
citizens of the city of Zutphen were murdered by the Spanish army, and on December
1 the city of Naarden suffered the same fate.
On December 11, 1572 the Spanish army put Haarlem under siege. The city's defences
were commanded by city-governor Wigbolt Ripperda. Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer,
a very powerful woman, helped defend the city.
During the first two months of the siege, the situation was in balance. The Spanish
army was digging tunnels to reach the city walls and blow them up. The defenders
dug tunnels to blow up the Spanish tunnels. The situation became worse for Haarlem
on March 29, 1573. The Amsterdam army, faithful to the Spanish king, controlled Haarlemmermeer
lake, effectively blocking Haarlem from the outside world. Hunger in the city grew,
and the situation became so tense that on May 27 many (Spanish-loyal) prisoners were
taken from the prison and murdered.
Two city gates, the Kruispoort and the Janspoort collapsed during the fighting.
In the beginning of July the Prince of Orange assembled an army of 5,000 soldiers
near Leiden to free Haarlem. The Spanish trapped them at the Manpad and defeated
the army. After seven months the city surrendered on July 13, 1573. Many soldiers
of the army that defended the city were slaughtered; many of them were drowned in
the Spaarne river. Governor Ripperda and his lieutenant were beheaded. The citizens
were allowed to buy freedom for themselves and the city for 240,000 guilders and
the city was required to host a Spanish garrison. Don Fadrique thanked God for his
victory in the Sint-Bavo Church.
The city suffered a big fire in the night from October 22 to October 23, 1576. The
fire started in brewery het Ankertje, near the weighhouse at the Spaarne, which was
used by German mercenaries as a guarding place. When they were warming themselves
at a fire it got out of control. The fire was spotted by farmers, who sailed their
ships on the river. However, the soldiers turned down all help, saying that they
would put out the fire themselves. This failed, and the fire destroyed almost 500
buildings, among them St-Gangolf's church and St-Elisabeth's hospital. Most of the
mercenaries were later arrested, and one of them was hanged on the Grote Markt in
front of a large audience. Maps from that era clearly show the damage done by the
fire: a wide strip through the city was destroyed.
The combined result of the siege and the fire was that about a third of the city
De Amsterdamse Poort is one of the few visible traces left of the old city wall.
Linen and silk
The Spanish left in 1577 and under the Agreement of Veere, Protestants and Catholics
were given equal rights. A large influx of Flemish and French immigrants who were
fleeing the Spanish occupation of their own cities made the city prosper again. The
new citizens had a lot of expertise in linen and silk trading, and the city's population
grew from 18,000 in 1573 to around 40,000 in 1622. At one point, in 1621, over 50%
of the population was Flemish-born. Haarlem's linen became world famous and the city
flourished, just like the rest of the country: the Golden Age in the United Provinces
The Grote Markt in 1696, painting by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde
In 1632 a tow canal between Haarlem and Amsterdam, the Haarlemmertrekvaart was opened,
the first tow canal in the country. The empty areas in the city caused by the fire
of 1576 were filled with new houses and buildings. Even outside the city wall buildings
were constructed -- in 1643 about 400 houses were counted outside the wall. Having
buildings outside the city walls was not a desirable situation to the city administration.
Not only because these buildings would be vulnerable in case of an attack on the
city, but also because there was less control over taxes and city regulations outside
the walls. Therefore a major project was initiated in 1671: expanding the city northwards.
Two new canals were dug, and a new defensive wall was constructed (the current Staten
en Prinsenbolwerk). Two old city gates, the Janspoort and Kruispoort, were demolished.
The idea that a city had to be square-shaped was left behind.
Haarlem's cultural life also prospered, with famous painters like Frans Hals and
Jacob van Ruisdael, the architect Lieven de Key and Jan Steen who made many paintings
in Haarlem. On the Grote Markt, the central market square, there's a statue of Laurens
Janszoon Coster who is allegedly the inventor of the printing press (however, most
scholars agree that the scarce evidence seems to point to Johann Gutenberg as the
first European inventor). In 1628 a chemist in Haarlem goes broke, and decides to
join the VOC to sail to the East. His name, Jeronimus Cornelisz, will always be connected
with the Batavia ship.
Beer brewing was a very important industry in Haarlem. Until the 16th century the
water for the beer was taken from the canals in the city. These were, through the
Spaarne and the IJ, connected to seawater. However, the water in the canals was getting
more and more polluted, and no longer suitable for brewing beer. A place 1,5 kilometers
south-west of the city was then used to take fresh water in. However, the quality
of that water was not high enough either. From the 17th century a canal (Santvaert)
was used to transport water from the dunes to the city. The water was transported
in barrels on ships. The location where the water was taken is called the Brouwerskolkje,
and the canal to there still exists, and is now called the Brewers' Canal (Brouwersgracht).
Haarlem was a major beer producer in the Netherlands. The majority of the beer it
produced was consumed in Noord-Holland. During the Spanish siege there were about
50 brewing companies in the city; while 45 years later in 1620 the city numbered
in the vicinity of 100 breweries.
There was another epidemic of the Black Death in 1657, which took a heavy toll in
the 6 months it ravaged the city.
From the end of the 17th century the economic situation in the city turned sour,
for a long time. In 1752 there were only seven beer breweries left, and in 1820 no
breweries were registered in the city anymore. In the 1990s the Stichting Haarlems
Biergenootschap revived some of the old recipes under the new Jopen beer brand, that
is marketed as a "Haarlem bier".
In the 1630s, Haarlem was (and still is) a major trading centre for tulips, and it
was the epicenter during tulip mania, when outrageous prices were paid for tulip
bulbs. From the time that the Leiden-Haarlem canal Leidsevaart opened in 1656, it
became popular to ride from Rotterdam to Amsterdam by passenger boat rather than
coach. The canals were dug for passenger service only, and were comfortable though
slow. The towpath led these passengers through the bulb fields south of Haarlem.
Haarlem was an important stopover for passengers from the last half of the 17th century
and through the 18th century until the building of the first rail tracks along the
routes of former passenger canal systems. As Haarlem slowly expanded southwards,
so did the bulb fields, and even today rail travelers between Rotterdam and Amsterdam
will see beautiful blooming bulb fields on the stretch between Leiden and Haarlem
in the Spring.
As the center of trade gravitated towards Amsterdam, Haarlem declined in the 18th
century. The Golden age had created a large upper middle class of merchants and well-to-do
small business owners. With the dependability of the barge traffic, many people had
business addresses in Amsterdam and weekend homes in Haarlem. Haarlem as a bedroom
community started as a result of the dense population of Amsterdam causing the canals
to stink in the summer. Many well-to-do gentlemen moved their families to summer
homes in the Spring and commuted between addresses. Popular places for summer homes
were along the Spaarne in southern Haarlem. Pieter Teyler and Henry Hope built summer
homes there, as well as many Amsterdam merchants and councilmen. In the 18th century
Haarlem became the seat of a suffragan diocese of the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht.
This building was used as palace for King Louis Napoleon during the French rule,
now it is used as govermentseat of the province of Noord Holland (North Holland).
Haarlem is the captital of this province
At the end of the 18th century a number of anti-Orange commissions were founded.
On January 18, 1795 the "Staatse" army was defeated near Woerden. During the night
preceding the 19th, the same night that stadtholder William V of Orange fled the
country, the various commissions gathered and implemented a revolution. The commissions
changed the city's administrators in a bloodless revolution, and the next morning
the city was 'liberated' of the tyranny of the House of Orange. The revolution was
peaceful and the Orange-loyal people were not harmed. The Batavian Republic was then
The French army entered the liberated city two days later, on the January 20. An
army of 1,500 soldiers was provided with food and clothing by the citizens. The new
national government was strongly centralized, and the role of the cities was reduced
in the national debate.
The Batavian Republic had signed a mutual defense pact with France, and was thus
automatically in war with England. The strong English presence at sea severely reduced
the trading opportunities, and the Dutch economy suffered.
The textile industry, which had always been an important pillar of Haarlem's economy,
was in a bad shape at the beginning of the 19th century. Strong international competition,
and revolutionary new production methods based on steam engines by then in use in
England, dealt a death blow to Haarlem's industry.
In 1815 the city's population was about 17,000 people, a large percentage of whom
were poor. The foundation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in that year gave
many hope. Many believed that under a new government the economy would mend again,
and that export-oriented economic activities such as the textile industry would recover.
However, this hoped turned out to be idle -- the Dutch economy remained stuck. The
Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (NHM or Dutch Trade Company) was founded by King
Willem I to create employment opportunities.
In Haarlem, then one of the cities in the western part of the Netherlands with the
worst economical situation, cotton factories were created under the NHM-program.
These cotton factories produced goods for the Dutch East Indies, and because the
Dutch government levied heavy taxes on foreign cotton producers this was a good market
for the NHM-factories. The programme started in the 1830s, but never managed to substantially
reduce the unemployment in the city. The American Civil War in the 1860s reduced
the import of raw cotton significantly, and in 1872 the protectionistic measures
for the East Indian market were removed.
In the beginning of the 19th century the defense walls had lost their function, and
architect Zocher Jr. planned a park on the location of the former defense line. The
city walls and gates were demolished.
Haarlem became the provincial capital of Noord Holland province in the early 19th
In the mid 19th century the city's economy slowly started to improve. New factories
were opened, and a number of large companies were founded in Haarlem. In 1911 Anthony
Fokker showed his plane, de Spin to the audience in Haarlem by flying around the
Sint-Bavokerk on Queen's Day.
Remake of the first locomotive in Holland, named de Arend (the Eagle) Haarlem-Amsterdam
In 1814 George Stephenson designed the first locomotive. The government of the Netherlands
was relatively slow to catch up, even though the King feared competition from newly
established Belgium if they would construct a train track between Antwerp and other
cities. Dutch parliament baulked at the high level of investment needed, but a group
of private investors started the Hollandsche IJzeren Spoorweg Maatschappij on June
1, 1836. It took three years to build the first track, between Haarlem and Amsterdam.
The track was right next to the old tow canal, and the ground there was wet and muddy.
On September 20, 1839 the first train service in the Netherlands started. The train
had a speed of about 40 kilometers per hour. The train service gave the economy of
Haarlem a strong boost. Instead of more than 2 hours, Amsterdam was now only 30 minutes
away. The tow boats were quickly taken out of service for passengers.
The creating of new land in the Haarlemmermeer made that the city could no longer
refresh the water in its canals using the Spaarne. The new industry made the water
quality even worse, and in 1859 de Oude Gracht, a canal, was filled in to create
a new street.
In 1878 a horse tram started servicing passenger from the railway station to Haarlemmerhout
woodland park, and in 1899 the first Dutch electric tram ran in Haarlem. From 1879
the population of the city almost doubled in thirty years, from 36,976 to 69,410
in 1909. Not only did the population grow, but the city was expanding rapidly too.
The Leidsebuurt district was incorporated into Haarlem in the 1880s. A small part
of (the now defunct) municipality of Schoten was incorporated in 1884 because the
council of Haarlem wanted to have the hospital (het dolhuys) inside the municipal
borders. This hospital was situated at "het bolwerk" on Schoten's territory.
Gaper on the front of "Van der Pigge", a chemist's that declined to move for Vroom
& Dreesmann's new department store in the 1932.
In the beginning of the 20th century the city expanded north. As early as 1905 an
official plan was presented by the Haarlem municipality for expansion. However, the
surrounding municipalities did not agree, and it would take 25 years to come to an
agreement. On May 1, 1927 the municipality of Schoten became part of Haarlem, as
well as part of Spaarndam, Bloemendaal and Heemstede. The population increased at
once with 31,184 citizens.
In 1908 a renewed railway station was openend. The station was elevated, so traffic
in the city was no longer hampered by railway crossings.
Later the expansion of the city went southwards (Schalkwijk) and eastwards (Waarderpolder).
In 1932 Vroom & Dreesmann, a Dutch retailer built a department store at Verwulft.
Many buildings were demolished, except one small chemist's shop on the corner: "Van
der Pigge", which is now encapsulated by the V&D building.
The city went through rough times during the Great Depression of 1930s.
During World War II Hannie Schaft worked for a Dutch resistance group. From September
17 to September 21, 1944, parts of Haarlem-Noord (above Jan Gijzenvaart) were evacuated
by the Germans to make place for a defensive line. The stadium of HFC Haarlem, the
soccer club, was demolished. Hundreds of people had to leave their houses and were
forced to stay with other citizens.
From September 22 there was gas available only two hours per day. Electricity stopped
on October 9. The German occupiers built a thick, black wall through the Haarlemmerhout
(in the south of the city), as well as at the Jan Gijzenvaart in the evacuated area.
The wall was called Mauer-muur and was meant to help defend the city.
In 1944 the family of Corrie ten Boom was arrested by the Nazis; they had been hiding
Jews and Dutch resistance workers from the German occupier throughout the war.
After the war much of the large industry moved out of the city, such as the banknote
printing firm of Joh. Enschedé.
In 1963 a large number of houses was built in Schalkwijk.