Bergen-op-Zoom - Encyclopedia

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BERGEN-OP-ZOOM, a town in the province of North Brabant, Holland, situated on both sides of the small river Zoom, near its confluence with the East Scheldt, 382 m. by rail E. by N. of Flushing. It is connected by steam tramway with Antwerp (20 m. S.) and with the islands of Tholen and Duiveland to the north-west. Pop. (1900) 13,663. The houses are well built, the market-places and squares handsome and spacious. It possesses a port and an arsenal, and contains a fine town hall, with portraits of the ancient margraves of Bergen-op-Zoom, a Latin school, and an academy of design and architecture. The remains of the old castle of the margraves have been converted into barracks. The tower is still standing and is remarkable for its increase in size as it rises, which causes it to rock in a strong wind. The church contains a monument to Lord Edward Bruce, killed in a duel with Sir Edward Sackville, afterwards earl of Dorset, in 1613. There are numerous tile-works and potteries of fine ware; and a considerable trade is carried on in anchovies and oysters caught in the Scheldt. A large sugar-beet industry has also sprung up here in modern times.

Bergen-op-Zoom is a very old town, but little is known of its early history beyond the fact that it was taken by the Normans in 880. In the 13th century it became the seat of Count Gerhard of Wesemael, who surrounded it with walls and built a castle. By the end of the 15th century it had become one of the most prosperous towns of Holland, on account of its fisheries and its cloth-trade. In 1576 the town joined the United Netherlands, and was shortly afterwards fortified. In 1588 it was successfully defended against the duke of Parma by an English and Dutch garrison commanded by Colonel Morgan, and in 1605 it was suddenly attacked by Du Terail. In 1622 the Spaniards, under Spinola, made another attempt to take the town, but were forced to abandon the enterprise after a siege of ten weeks and the loss of 1200 men. Towards the end of the 17th century the fortifications were greatly strengthened by Coehoorn, and in 1725 they were further extended. In 1747, however, the town was taken by the French, under Marshal Lowendahl, who surprised it by means of a subterranean passage. Restored at the end of the war, it was again taken by the French under Pichegru in 1795. The English, under Sir Thomas Graham, afterwards Lord Lynedoch, in March 1814 made an attempt to take it by a coup de main, but were driven back with great loss by the French, who surrendered the place, however, by the treaty of peace in the following May.

The lordship of Bergen-op-Zoom appears, after the definite union of the Low Countries with the Empire in 924, as an hereditary fief of the Empire, and the succession of its lords may be traced from Henry (1098-1125), who also held Breda. In 1 533 it was raised to a margraviate by the emperor Charles V., and wds held by various families until in 1799 it passed, through the Sultzbach branch of the Wittelsbachs, to the royal house of Bavaria, by whom it was renounced in favour of the Batavian republic in 1801.

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