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The country- and manor houses of Kralingen


In 2020 Robert Jan Ligthelm published “De Kralingse Buitenplaatsen van de 16e tot de 21e eeuw” which tells the story of the country- and manor houses of Kralingen which had until then been a forgotten part of Dutch and especially Rotterdam’s architectural heritage. In the book Ligthelm describes the 42 houses which existed in the area over the period from the late 16th century to the present day. Kralingen was a unique landscape with a high concentration of country houses, probably even higher than in the well documented areas of country houses around Amsterdam. While early country houses in The Netherlands were generally related to members of the high nobility or church dignitaries, around Rotterdam as somewhat later around Amsterdam the relation here is with the commercial city patricians. Remarkable is the high incidence of families with an immigrant background, Huguenot refugees and German and British commercial families. There was also a lot of industrial activity on these estates as never described before to this degree.

The houses seem often to have been inspired by the architecture of Dutch city houses in the 17th and 18th century. But there were also a number of houses with a much more rural appearance that betray their farmhouse origin. The so-called ‘kwakel’ bridges that coped with the many canals, traffic over water and accessibility of the houses and their estates were a very typical aspect of this locality.

During the French occupation of The Netherlands (1796-1813) quite a number of the houses were demolished due to the bad economic situation. But the country house scene flowered again in the 19th century. However, the increasing industrial pressure and the necessity of housing for labourers from the 1880’s onwards were the reasons for the final decline. But there is still enough to enjoy, 5 houses survive, and two parks including the world-famous arboretum Trompenburg. Also, the Lake was saved from draining by one of the last country houses owners. The street plan of Kralingen, street names and the greenness of what is now a Rotterdam suburb remind the informed of the past.

The book on the “Kralingse Buitenplaatsen” has been well received, and the author hope to publish a volume 2 and 3 on the country houses north of Rotterdam in november 2023. You may find the book at: 

For further information contact Dr Robert J. Ligthelm