On July 26, the Unesco World Heritage Committee placed the Colonies of Benevolence on the World Heritage List. Flanders and the Netherlands submitted the nomination together. In Flanders it concerns the Wortel-Colony; in the Netherlands the colonies of Veenhuizen, Frederiksoord and Wilhelminaoord.
From 1818, the Society of Benevolence founded colonies in unexplored areas in the then Dutch Kingdom. They were also called pauper colonies. The aim was to give the poor in the cities better prospects by offering them work in the countryside and making them self-sufficient. The Colonies of Benevolence were a social experiment that wanted to improve society by means of structure, coercion and discipline.
Traces of the colony's layout – colony houses, lanes, arable farms – can still be clearly seen today in the cultural landscapes inscribed on the World Heritage List.
At their peak, in the middle of the 19th century, more than 11,000 people lived in the colonies in the Netherlands. In Belgium their number peaked at 6,000 in 1910.
Source: www.unesco.nl and www.unesco-vlaanderen.be
Photo: Wortel-Colony in Flanders © James van Leuven