Bredevoort is a fortified town in the municipality of Aalten in the area of Gelderland known as the Achterhoek. Bredevoort is known as the Dutch Hay-on-Wye on account of its antiquarian and second-hand booksellers.

The name Bredevoort is derived from the word voorde which originally meant “passage” or ford. In this case it’s a broad (breed) passage, a sand ridge through marshland. A castle was built at the end of the sand ridge which was later extended and which eventually developed in to an reinforced stronghold town. This can still be seen in a part of the town moat where in the summer (the last Friday and Saturday of August and the first Friday and Saturday of September) the annual gondola procession (gondelvaart) takes place.


Bredevoort appears for the first time in the list of possessions of the Archbishop of Cologne in 1188. According to this list, the Archbishop owned three shares of Bredevoort castle. Apart from the extended castle, the Manor of Bredevoort also consisted of the villages of Aalten, Dinxperlo en Winterswijk with their hamlets. After Herman and Johan van Bredevoort, the Earl Van Lohn and the Earl Van Steinfurt each inherited a share of the manor.

When the Earl Van Steinfurt sold his share to the Bishop of Munster and the Earl Van Lohn transferred his share to the Earl Van Gelre, a conflict between Munster and Gelre began for possession of the whole of the manor. This conflict lasted two centuries. Actually Bredevoort came under control of Gelre from 1326. In 1388 Bredevoort received town rights. The fortified town of Bredevoort forms part of the Dutch eastern line of defence. During the eighty-years war Bredevoort was besieged and conquered several times. Maurits conquered the town in 1597.

The States of Gelre gave the Manor to King Stadholder Willem III in 1696. So the Manor, in its entirety, came in to the possession of the Nassaus. One of the titles of Queen Beatrix is still “Lady of Bredevoort”, because of this.

Bredevoort today

With tens of shops, including antiquarian bookshops and art galleries, Bredevoort makes a pleasant visit. Every third Saturday of the month a specialised book market takes place on ‘t Zand, a large square with tall trees. Most shops are open on the Sunday afternoon of the same weekend.

Bredevoort has more to offer. In the historical centre, that not so long ago was splendidly restored, beautiful old facades can be seen. Look up now and again to see the old family coats of arms. These are the arms of prominent citizens who lived here about 1430. In the beautiful white house (1754) with the green front door on 't Zand at number 23 lived Bernardus Roelvink, the rentmeester van Willem V. There is still, behind his house in the centuries old garden and lying at water’s edge, a romantic 19th century teahouse. A fine place to read your recently acquired book! .
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