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Aalten once part of County of Lohn

Medieval tower a landmark

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AALTEN - Many towns and villages located in the heartland of the medieval Duchy of Gelre - the 'Achterhoek' - can almost be dated by a quick look at the building in the centre of town: the church. Aalten's oldest surviving building is without a doubt the 12th century tower of the late-Gothic Reformed Church.

During the 12th century, Aalten and the region of nearby Bredevoort were disputed by the Count of Lohn and the Bishop of Munster, with the former winning his claim. Once the last Count of Lohn died (1316), the Bishop of Munster again laid claim to the area. A decade later, the Duke of Gelre added Aalten to his territory while nearby Bredevoort stayed with Munster. Foreign soldiers invaded the swampy area during the Eighty Year War when the warring factions engaged in long drawn-out see-saw campaigns. In addition, the region suffered the invasions of 1672, 1795 and 1940.

Near Aalten is also the Walfort Manor, the only castle to survive the 19th century rush to demolish antiquated structures. The former garrison town of Bredevoort has been part of the municipality of Aalten since 1818. Bredevoort, built during the 12th century, controlled a passage through the region's swamps and was for centuries a fortified place. Its castle was largely destroyed in 1646, when a thunderbolt hit its powder magazine, resulting in an explosion. Besides the nearby villages of Haart, Heurne, IJzerlo, Lintelo, Dale and Barlo, Aalten may boast about its numerous historic farm steads. Many well-known families can trace their surnames to these farms (Rensink, Luiten, and Stapelkamp, to just name a few).

Aalten's distant past can also be observed in ancient trade routes. 'Romienendiek' (or 'Romansdike') is the the oldest of these roads - it once served as the route of the Roman forces - while others are called Landstraat, Koningsweg, and Deventerweg. Aalten enjoyed periods of prosperity when traveling German textile merchants settled in town.

In the recent past, Aalten's economy was supported by various textile plants, by manufacturers of poultry equipment and farm implements, and various small tools. The town of Aalten, an educational and industrial centre near the Dutch border with Germany, features several buildings with old facades. The church may be viewed by appointment, while Aalten's museum provides many items of interest to the visitor.

Since the 1830s when neighbouring German principalities were hemorrhaging from a heavy drain from immigration, Aalten and vicinity have provided both the USA and Canada with a steady trickle of emigrants.