Visiting De Wellsche Hut and De Maasduinen, Well, The Netherlands: asserting a jurisdiction since the Middle Ages

Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Arms of Well, Limburg, The Netherlands
Arms of Well, Limburg, The Netherlands | Source
De Maasduinen National Park in the province of Limburg
De Maasduinen National Park in the province of Limburg | Source
Map location of Bergen, Limburg
Map location of Bergen, Limburg | Source

A constant and a microcosm

I visited De Wellsche Hut, Well (on the edge of De Maasduinen National Park) in the Dutch province of Limburg, and my attention was drawn to Well's distinctive arms, in places visible. These arms consist of an upward pointing broad arrow, on a blue background.

Interestingly, the arms of Well have been used since 1449. This Medieval design depicts an upward facing broad arrow on a blue background.

Traditionally, in heraldry, an upward facing broad arrow has variously served as a sign of government jurisdiction and property and even ordnance for hundreds of years.

Well as a jurisdiction dates from 1363, with a body of aldermen having been established in 1368. Now part of the municipality of Bergen, this unit was described as Well-Bergen until the end of the 18th century.

I crossed into Well from the international part of its boundaries, actually. Walking in from Weeze-Wemb, in Germany's state of North Rhine- Westphalia (German: Nordrhein-Westfalen; Dutch; Noordrijn-Westfalen)(1), I was later to learn that Well in fact regarded as 'German' for about a century (it is problematic to say, 'part of Germany' here because in the century prior to the end of the Napoleonic period, when the area became part of The Netherlands, there was yet no united Germany). Well was officially a Prussian territory during much of the 18th century.

Then there is the matter that Limburg, the Dutch province in which Well is situated, today encompasses part of what used to be Gelderland (still the name of a Dutch province today). The former, greater Gelderland is today partly in The Netherlands, and partly in Germany; and some of its territory was also ceded administratively to the Dutch province of Limburg (there is also a Belgian province of that name). It can also be useful to remember that what is now the Dutch province of Limburg was formally incorporated into The Netherlands in the early 19th century.

This means that for several hundreds of years of Well's existence, it was jurisdictionally in a complex situation.

Linguistically, also, it has been multi-faceted. Today, standard Dutch is official. During its period of Prussian sovereignty (like elsewhere in Prussian Gelderland), laws and edicts came from Berlin in German, but local courts would still administer through the medium of Dutch. What is called Limburgs, the Limburg dialect of Dutch (especially associated with the south of the province) is as akin to German as it is to standard Dutch, but is actually not very identified with the part of the province where Well is situated. So (as many Limburgers will say), Limburg is different, but the part of Limburg where Well is, is different again!

Well was actually caught up in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) and interestingly the border between Well and neighbouring Germany, from where I entered, consists of a feature still known as the De Spanische Ley (The Spanish ditch).

So, yes, Well's juristiction has been asserted since the Middle Ages. But this jurisdiction has really been somewhat of a kaleidoscope of European history.

May 22, 2013

Notes

(1) Sometimes written Noord-Rijnland-Westfalen in Dutch.

Some sourcing: wikipedia

Also worth seeing

In Well itself, The Netherlands, (distance from Wemb: 11 kilometres) there is a castle, dating from the 14th century, now used by an American college; De Maasduinen National Park is popular with nature lovers, hikers and cyclists.

Wemb (or: Weeze-Wemb ; distance; 11 kilometres), Germany, has a Royal Air Force Museum at Airport-Weeze.

...

How to get there: Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. For North American travellers making London, England, their base, Ryanair flies directly to Airport-Weeze , Germany (close to the Dutch border at De Wellsche Hut , Well, Bergen), where car rental is also available. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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