Welcome in Het Hofje of Mrs Van Aerden. Hofje is a beautiful garden

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Welcome in Het Hofje of Mrs Van Aerden. Hofje is a beautiful garden

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Welcome in Het Hofje of Mrs Van Aerden.

Hofje is a beautiful garden (Garden of Eden)
My name is Toos van Iperen, I will be your guide today.
Mrs. Van Aerden was born as Maria Ponderus, daughter of doctor Antonius Ponderus and Mrs Francoise van Barthem, in the neighbourhood of The Hague (Monster) in 1672. When she was 20 years old, Maria married Pieter Van Aerden, a public notary in The Hague. Pieter was 29 years older (49 years old) and already had 9 children from a former marriage. Together Maria and Pieter had 3 more children: Pieter, Maurits and Maria.
Maria died at the very old age of 92 in 1764. Unfortunatly her 3 children all passed away before she did, without leaving grand children behind. Maria was a rich widow. Her son Mauits had left an inheritance of 131.000 guilders. Both her sons had a prosperous career in Batavia/Jakarta (Indonsia), where they both died. She had two options: Maria could leave her money to her cousins, or she could spend the money on her poor relatives. She decided for her poor relatives, charity, hoping that her ascension/trip to heaven, would be much easier.
Maria made her will/testament. Her husband was a public notary so she was well informed on the wording and procedures. After her death a foundation was to be established with 6 governors, 3 male + 3 female. The governers should all be related to the Ponderus or Van Aerden families. Nowadays the present governors are still related through ancestors of Maria’s mother and sisters. (Speaking about Maria Ponderus we say aunt).
According to Maria’s will Het Hofje was to be build in The Hague. She mentioned Het Hof van Nieuwkoop, Prinsegracht, in The Hague designed and built by architect Pieter Post (Huis ten Bosch) as example of the building style she liked.
First plan:

Outstanding debts from Mr. Pieter de Neijs. Maria assumed that Pieter de Neijs would not be able to pay for these debts. That was the reason why his property was mentioned as starting-point for building Het Hofje. Unfortunately, Pieter de Neijs was able to repay the outstanding debt in full.

Second plan:

The governors bought a building in The Hague for creating Het Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden. However, in the meantime the poor relatives of Mr and Mrs. Van Aerden left The Hague and moved into the city of Leerdam. Their return to The Hague was no option.

Third plan:

The governors looked around in Leerdam for a suitable place to build Het Hofje. They were interested in the location where the castle of Leerdam was built between 1250-1300 by the gentlemen Van der Leeden. This castle was obtained by Willem van Oranje, Prince of Oranje, 1533-1584) through his first marriage in 1551 with Anna van Buren, the richest girl in Holland. Willem V donated the building site for free.

23 Years later the castle was destroyed in 1574 during the 80 years of war, between the Seventeen Provinces of Holland against the Spanish (Habsburg) Empire. The castle had not been rebuilt after the war. The reason for this was the religion. The Spanish Empire only accepted the roman catholic religion and we desired more options: roman catholic but also protestant.
The governors asked the Prince of Oranje for permission to build Het Hofje at the location where the castle used to be. The permission was granted and the Prince did not ask for any fees or taxes. This was because the grandmother of Maria was lady’s maid of Amalia van Nassau. Amalia was the daughter of Willem van Oranje and his second wife Anna van Saksen. Lady’s maid as you might know is an important position.
Het Hofje was built between 1770-1772, 100 years after Maria’s year of birth.
We see 12 houses (12 apostles), the angels on the roof (psalm 150 – praise The Lord) which all refers to the bible. Maria was very religious.
The women that lived here were supposed to be single, protestant and they had to be of good repute. The women lived here for free, they received an allowance of 6 guilders per month and they got 15 barrels with peat. Maria’s birthday, January 27th and the day she passed away April 20th, were celebrated every year. On those special days all the residents received extra bread, meat and white wine. Nowadays the ladies still receive a bottle of white wine. (red wine is not o.k. for women).
Het Hofje was built according to Dutch high quality, the garden has a French touch and you also see Rococo in the window above the stairs. Rococo is the elegent style, popular after the dark and heavy Barok days. Het Hofje was equipped with all the latest conveniences of the day.
Above the door of glass you see the coat of arms of the first three female governors.

All these female governors were married, the difference mrs and miss is a matter of class only. The name Amalia: today the little daughter of our crown prince Willem Alexander and Princess Maxima is also called Amalia. The family Ponderus often named their children after the Oranjes, which resulted into a visit from the family of Oranje to the mother of the newly born child, which proofs the excellent connection with the house of Oranje.

Het Hofje went through difficult periods. During world war II German soldiers took control of Het Hofje and used it as a local base. Just before World War II the Dutch soldiers stayed in the premises. After these periods Het Hofje was in a very bad condition and the local authorities thought about breaking down the building to create a car park for the city.


However the mayor of Leerdam (Mr. Den Hollander) and the managing governor (Mr. Tukker) at that time, initiated the renovation of the building with financial contribution from The Province and the City of Leerdam. The renovation took 2 years and was completed in 1976. Het Hofje was reopened by Princess Margriet and her husband Mr. Pieter van Vollenhoven. During the renovation the house of De Binnenvader (daily manager of Het Hofje) was changed into the council chamber, and the former mortuary was changed into the present wedding room. The local authorities rent this part of the building at a substantial amount of money for weddings and ceremonies.

In this space we can see how the women cooked together. The stove was heated with peat.

Apples and pears were preserved (for winter) by drying them above the bread oven. Since the renovation all the individual houses have a small kitchen (in stead of a box bed). The water-pump provided fresh water.

The toilet for two is called Gemeen Secreet (general secret), the latest gossips were told here. Only women lived in Het Hofje and people were not very prudish. The toilet was connected with the river Linge with a tube, special barrels were not necessary. In general Het Hofje was built according to the modern views of that period, fully in accordance with the will of Maria (Mrs. Van Aerden).
The inner garden was used as bleach-field. The outer garden was used for growing a variety of apple and pear treas. There were also two walnut trees and two mulberry trees. The latter had ecological importance because mulberries are the sole food source of the silk worm. The garden will be restored to the original condition with old fashioned or forgotten vegetables (like parsnip and scorzonera) and herbs.
During the 80 year Spanish war Leerdam was also under attack. In 1574 The city council negotiated the capitulation of Leerdam with the Spanish General Mr Vitelli.

Despite the negotiated terms, the cruel general Vitelli commanded an attack which resulted in total destruction of the Castle. The castle has not been rebuild. As a result of the negotiations the Spanish soldiers did not plunder the city. Soldiers were often paid by allowing plundering.

In 1573 Leerdam joined the reformation, which made the Spaniards (roman catholic) very angry. This resulted into the hanging of the first pastor (engels is vicar) after the reformation: Joost de Jonge and also two teachers (Quirines de Palme + Rogier Joosten)
The river Linge, with a length of 100 km, is the longest rivers flowing entirely within The Netherlands (Pannerden – Gorinchem/De Waal). The Linge was a tidal river. High tide in combination with rain sometimes resulted into flooded streets in Leerdam. The solution: piles in the street, reinforced with wooden shelves and cow manure in between.
Stairs in the garden: former underground passages.
The governors’room (regentenkamer)

In this building the paintings of Mr. Van Aerden are displayed. The paintings originate from the 17th century. Mr. Van Aerden collected paintings. We assume Mrs. Van Aerden was less interested in these paintings. After her husband’s death Mrs. Van Aerden has completed the collection with only one more painting of son Maurits (this painting is situated upstairs, in the governors’ room) Mrs Van Aerden was not a collector but she took good care of the paintings. In her will Mrs. Van Aerden wrote that the collection of paintings was the hobby of her husband, and the collection must remain together in the newly planned Hofje. The painting should not only stay together but stay well presereved.

The colonial furniture is reminiscent of the time the two sons of Mr. and Mrs Van Aerden spent in Batavia/Djakarta. The furniture is on loan of The National Museum in Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum). Scheepskist = Deck hand’s chest. (trunk).
The paintings are rather small and they hung in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Van Aerden. The theme of the paintings is diverse. Many paintings breathe the atmosphere of vanity, life is short, enjoy it.
The soap bubbling boy, a painting of Jacob van Spreeuwen (ca. 1640). Van Spreeuwen was a pupil of Rembrandt. The boy is handicapped, a popular subject in that period. A remarkable example people often visited the local madhouse on Sunday, just to observe these kind of people and ridicule them.
The delivery room of an unknown painter from the Northern Netherlands gives a clear impression of that period. Look at the popular tiles.
Anna en her blind husband Tobias. A copy (ca. 1630) of the famous painting of Rembrand. Anna is spinning wool to earn money.
Still life of Laurens Craen (ca. 1660). This is a typical still life for showing the opportunities painters had to use their skills, like a bill board or brochure. Look at the lemon peel, the tin plate with shadow, the oyster. May be this painting is not the best composition but again it is showing creator’s opportunities.
Painting of Mrs. Van Aerden

Painting of son Maurits (look at the hand)

Frans Hans, born in Antwerp (ca. 1583), died in Haarlem (1666)

A person is looking into the empty jar, you cannot have everything (ca. 1627)

Philips Koninck

Landscape with trees, famous for the panorama

Pieter Claesz

Still life with rummer, oyster, lobster

Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael

Landscape, forest with elder in bloom

Last 4 mentioned paintings are masterpieces
Ter Borch:

Peace of Munster, treaty between The United Netherlands and Spain, 1648, The United Netherlands became independent from the Holy Roman Empire, at the end of the eighty year war with Spain. Rev. Lootius from The Hague, probably accompanied by his daughter. Rev. Lootius represented Holland. A painting of all representatives in Munster is situated in The National Gallery in Londen.


Dutch humanist, born in either Rotterdam or Gouda in 14660/1469 as Gerrit Gerritszoon, sun of a priest, defectus natalis, undesirable child. Desiderius = desired.

Flora = Venus and Cupido, Theodoor Tullens.
Geldkist = treasure chest with three keys
Bedstee = cupboard-bed
Napoleon visited Leerdam 1811. Coat of arms of the male governers were removed (liberty, equality, fellowship.

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