WATER, part 2

Water = Politics

Up till the 17th century, all ships from the south with merchandise for the Nordic countries had to pass the lock of Gouda. And of course they had to pay taxes, as the old toll-house proves.

But not only public finance prospered. By delaying the passage of ships for several days, shippers were forced to spend their time shopping around. The nowadays pipe museum is established in a building that was originally a shop for groceries, coffee, tea and oriental spices (the latter not so much used for cooking as for health purposes). Later on, the selling of tobacco was predominant. The Blackamoor at the door shows the supposed relation between smoking habits and the people of the Moorish countries.

Local ministers judged the use of tobacco as Devil's work as medical docters and Americans do today. Before that, there were similar complaints about the use of coffee and tea. What will be the opinion about drugs in the 21st century?
So the shops in those early days flourished. And not only the shops. In the pubs one could drink the so called 'Kuytbier', a beer from a local brewery that was famous in many countries of Europe. The taste of the beer was very good, because the pure water of the river Hollandse IJssel was used for brewing it. The good quality of the water was of great importance. Due to the sea-tide, twice a day the water of the canals was streaming out, and twice a day fresh water was streaming in. This really made a difference for the hygienics in town. The water was so good that laundry was brought by ship from other towns, like Leyden and Delft, to be washed in Gouda.
So Gouda's economy flourished, mainly because of the monopolistic position they had for the passing of ships on the north-south route. But the free market forces changed all this: In the 16th century the town of Delft started constructing a lock at Leidschendam, some 20 miles from Gouda. Complaints to the Prince of Holland didn't work out, so Gouda hired some platoons to demolish the construction works.
Some years later, Rotterdam arranged a possibility to haul ships over the local dam. Gouda took action by demolishing the works. Rotterdam reacted in fury. Ships were sent out, and ships, houses and goods were confiscated. It took a long time and many law suits, but in the end Gouda had to accept its loss of monopoly.
How important water was in politics appears from this rustic little 17th century lock north of gouda.

In the 16th century Gouda wanted the possibility for ships to bring in peat (in Dutch: turf) and buttermilk (used as pig's wash) from the surroundings inside the city walls. To that purpose, a lock had to be built. But the neighboring village of Reeuwijk objected. They were afraid that due to this new lock the water level in the polder would increase. So the city of Gouda was asked to pay for the construction of a mill, to pump the superfluous water out of the polder. It took nearly 30 (!) years and it needed the commitment of quite a lot of parties to come to a solution. Gouda didn't wait that long. They started digging the 'Karnemelksloot' (buttermilk canal) long before the lock was finished, although the canal wasn't connected with other waterways yet. This canal as well as its name still exist.

And for those who are interested in local politics: Gouda hasn't changed a bit since then. The beltway around Gouda is partly constructed on Reeuwijks territory and nevertheless Gouda started construction works in a way that was in open conflict with the agreements made so far.

Homepage next page