1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/North Holland

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NORTH HOLLAND, a province of the kingdom of Holland, lying between the North Sea and the Zuider Zee, and on the landward side bounded by the provinces of South Holland and Utrecht. Pop. (1904) 1,053,083; area, 1070 sq. m. The province also includes the islands of Texel, Vlieland and Terschelling, belonging to the group of the Frisian Islands, as well as Wieringen, Marken and Urk in the Zuider Zee. There are three natural divisions—foreshore and sand-dunes, inner dunes and the geest grounds, and low fens and clay lands.

The dunes form the great natural barrier against the sea behind which the province lies secure. But the fact of there being no inlets of the sea is the reason of the absence of commercial towns along the sea-board, the only exception being Ymuiden, which has arisen at the mouth of the North Sea canal from Amsterdam. On the other hand the broad, gently-sloping, sandy beach is peculiarly fitted for sea-bathing, and in the absence of harbours permits the beaching of the characteristic flat-bottomed fishing boats. Petten, Egmond-on-Sea, Wyk-on-Sea and Zandvoort are fishing villages and watering-places.

In the depressions of the dunes and on the geest grounds at their foot, small woods have been planted in places, and in this sheltered strip market-gardening and horticulture are practised. Horticulture flourishes, especially along the margin of the geest grounds from about 5 m. north of Haarlem to twice that distance south, hyacinths, tulips, narcissus and crocuses being the flowers chiefly cultivated. The sight of these flowers in spring, with mile after mile of brilliant and varied colours, attracts visitors even from foreign countries. This region of the province was one of the earliest inhabited and includes the oldest towns and villages, such as Schagen, which was flourishing in the 12th century and was created into a lordship in the beginning of the 15th century for the benefit of a natural son of Count Albrecht of Holland. The castle was demolished in the 19th century, but two towers (restored in 1879) are standing. Among interesting places may be mentioned Alkmaar, Heilo, Egmond, Kastrikum and Beverwyk, which, like Velzen a few miles south, was granted by Charles Martel to Willebrord, the apostle of the Frisians, in the first half of the 8th century. The name is a corruption of Bedevaartswyk, “the village on the pilgrims' road,” and refers to the pilgrimages once made to the church of St Agatha in the neighbourhood. Brederode, another ancient village, was the seat of the illustrious family of the same name. The remains of the castle are extensive. Other ancient towns are Zandpoort, Bakenes, Haarlem and Bennebroek, once the seat of a nunnery removed hither from Egmond by Dirk II. in the 10th century.

The third division of the province comprises by far the largest area, that, namely, which lies at or below sea-level. The reclamation of land which has been effected here is noteworthy. The whole of the lakes to the north of the former Y, including the famous Purmer and Beemster lakes, and the Wieringerwaard and Zype sea-polders, were drained in the beginning of the 17th century; but the Waard-en-Groet, the Anna Paulowna and the Koegras sea-polders to the north of these, were only added to the mainland in the first half of the 19th century. This region is traversed by the North Holland canal (1819—1825), between Amsterdam and the naval station of den fielder. The Y, which was formerly an inlet of the Zuider Zee, was drained, and the North Sea ship canal was formed in its stead (1865—1876), and carried through the dunes to Ymuiden. Of the drained lakes south of the former Y, the most important is the Haarlem Lake. The landscape in this division of the province is the most typical of Holland; green meadows stretching as far as the eye can see, dotted with windmills and cattle, and slashed by the regular lines of the drainage canals, bordered with pollarded willows.

As in Friesland, cattle-rearing and the making of cheese, chiefly of the Edam description, are the main industries, but agriculture and even a little market-gardening are also practised in the heavier clay lands, such as the Y and Anna Paulowna polders. Purrnerend, Alkmaar and Enkhuizen are the chief market centres. Though the country is naturally poor in minerals, springs containing iron have been discovered, such as the Wilhelminabron at Haarlem. The security of the Zuider Zee for trade and fishing purposes was the first factor in the commercial development of North Holland, and the cities of Medemblik, Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Edam and Monnikendam, though now little more than market centres for the surrounding district, possessed a large foreign commerce in the 16th and 17th centuries. This prosperity finally concentrated itself upon the Y (that is, upon Amsterdam) and the series of industrial villages situated on its offshoot the Zaam, of which Zaandam and Wormerveer are the most important.