1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Zeeland

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Zeeland (or Zealand), a province of Holland, bounded S.E. and S. by Belgium, W. by the North Sea, N. by South Holland, and E. by North Brabant. It has an area of 690 sq. m. and a population (1905) of 227,292. Zeeland consists of the delta islands formed about the estuaries of the Maas and Scheldt with its two arms, the Honte or Western Scheldt, and the Ooster Scheldt, together with a strip of mainland called Zeeland-Flanders. The names of the islands are Schouwen and Duiveland, St Filipsland, Tolen, North Beveland, South Beveland and Walcheren. The history of these islands is in every case one of varying loss and gain in the struggle with the sea. They were built up by the gradual accumulation of mud deposits in a shallow bay, separated by dunes from the North Sea. As late as the 12th and 13th centuries each of these islands consisted of several smaller islands, many of whose names are still preserved in the fertile polders which have taken their place. Lying for the most part below sea-level, the islands are protected by a continuous line of artificial dikes, which hide them from view on the seaward side, whence only an occasional church steeple is seen. The islands of Schouwen and Duiveland are united owing to the damming of the Dykwater; St Filipsland, or Philipsland, and South Beveland are connected with the mainland of North Brabant by naturally formed mud banks.

The soil of Zeeland consists of a fertile sea clay which especially favours the production of wheat; rye, barley (for malting), beans and peas, and flax are also cultivated. Cattle and swine are reared, and dairy produce is largely exported; but the sheep of the province are small and their wool indifferent. The industries (linen, yarn-spinning, distilling, brewing, salt-refining, shipbuilding) are comparatively unimportant. The inhabitants, who retain many quaint and archaic peculiarities of manner and dress, speak the variety of Dutch known as Low Frankish.

The chief towns on the island of Schouwen are the ports of Zieriksee and Brouwershaven. On the well-wooded fringe of the dunes on the west side of the island are the two villages of Renesse and Haamstede, the seats in former days of the two powerful lordships of the same name. St Maartensdyk on the adjoining island of Tolen was formerly the seat of a lordship which belonged successively to the families of Van Borssele, Burren and Orange-Nassau. There is a monument of the Van Borsseles in the Reformed church. The castle built here in the first half of the 14th century was demolished in 1819. The island of South Beveland frequently suffered from inundations and experienced a particularly disastrous one in 1530. In the same century the flourishing walled town of Reimenswaal and the island of Borsele or Borssele disappeared beneath the waves; but the last-named was gradually recovered during the 17th century. This island gave its name to the powerful lordship of the same name. Goes is the chief town on South Beveland. Oyster-breeding is practised on the north coast of the island, especially at Wemeldinge and Ierseke or Yerseke. Ierseke was once a town of importance and the seat of a lordship, while at Wemeldinge there was formerly an establishment of the Templars. In 1866 South Beveland and Walcheren were joined by a heavy railway dam, a canal being cut through the middle of the former island to restore the connexion between the East and West Scheldt. South Beveland is sometimes called the “granary” and Walcheren the “garden” of Zeeland. The principal towns in Walcheren are Middelburg, the chief town of the province. Flushing and Veere; all three connected by a canal (1867–72) which divides the island in two. The fishing village of Arnemuiden flourished as a harbour in the 16th century, but decayed owing to the silting up of the sand. Domburg is pleasantly situated at the foot of the dunes on the west side of the island, and in modern times has become a popular but primitive watering-place. It is a very old town, having received civic rights in the 13th century, and from time to time Roman remains and other antiquities have been dug out of the sands. Between Domburg and the village of Westkapelle there stretches the famous Westkapelle sea-dike. The mainland of Zeeland-Flanders was formerly also composed of numerous islands which were gradually united by the accumulation of mud and sand, and in this way many once flourishing commercial towns, such as Sluis and Aardenburg, were reduced in importance. The famous castle of Sluis, built in 1385, was partly blown up by the French in 1794, and totally demolished in 1818. Yzendyke represents a Hanse town which flourished in the 13th century and was gradually engulfed by the sea. Similarly the original port of Breskens was destroyed by inundations in the 15th and 16th centuries. The modern town rose into importance in the 19th century on account of its good harbour. The old towns of Axel and Halst were formerly important fortresses, and as such were frequently besieged in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Ter Neuzen was strongly fortified in 1833–39, and has a flourishing transit trade, as the port of Ghent, by the canal constructed in 1825–27.