You will find Museum De Proefkolonie in Frederiksoord, the first ‘trial colony’ of the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid founded by Johannes van den Bosch. Around two hundred years ago, this General was a Member of Parliament, Minister of State and King Willem I’s confidant. This visionary idealist believed in the makeable society and had an ambitious plan to end the impoverishment in the cities after Napoleon’s departure from our country. The core of his solution consisted of offering accommodation, work, education and care within newly established agricultural colonies in Drenthe.


Are you wondering whether you have any ancestors in the colonies? Then take a look at

A hundred years ahead of national developments


A total of 52 houses were ready in Frederiksoord for the first needy families from Holland in no time at all. They travelled to Blokzijl by sailing boat and then continued on to Drenthe either on an ox cart or on foot. More subsequently followed in the Wilhelminaoord, Willemsoord and Boschoord areas, as well as Wortel in Belgium. There were, for example, schools, a soup kitchen, a spinning mill. Education and health insurance membership were compulsory, which actually meant the colonies were some hundred years ahead of the national developments. And what happened to those who didn’t abide by the rules? They would be ‘banished’ to the forced colonies in Veenhuizen, Ommerschans or Merksplas in Belgium.


And that’s how approximately 80,000 people were moved to the Drenthe countryside during the 1818-1921 period, now with an estimated one million descendants.



The Frederiksoord, Willemsoord, Wilhelminaoord, Veenhuizen, Ommerschans, Wortel and Merkplas colonies have been nominated to UNESCO in Paris for the World Heritage status.