- For people with this surname, see Hoogstraten (surname)
|— Municipality of Belgium —|
|• Mayor||Arnold Van Aperen (KVB)|
|• Governing party/ies||KVB, HOOP|
|• Total||105.32 km2 (40.66 sq mi)|
|Population (1 January 2011)|
|• Density||190/km2 ( 490/sq mi)|
|Postal codes||2320–2323, 2328|
|Area codes||03, 014|
Hoogstraten (Dutch pronunciation: [ɦoːçˈstraːtə(n)]) is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp. The municipality comprises the city of Hoogstraten proper and the towns of Meer, Meerle, Meersel-Dreef, Minderhout and Wortel, (Meersel-Dreef includes the northernmost point in Belgium.)
Hoogstraten (originally Hoogstraeten), has a population of 18,900, and lies in Flanders at the northern border of Belgium within an enclave surrounded on three sides by the Netherlands. Today, over ten percent of the population consists of Dutch people who have chosen to live in Hoogstraten while working in the Netherlands, while the remaining ninety percent of the population is overwhelmingly Flemish.
The town is named after the ‘hoge straat’ or’ high road’ – a military highway that linked the old towns of Antwerp and 's Hertogenbosch. In the town’s early days, no tradesmen existed. People were either serfs or freemen but they were not tradesmen. Villages and towns produced just enough for their own support. Nothing was ‘sold’ to other areas. Thus, the only travelers along this high road were soldiers and armies.
Originally Hoogstraten probably existed as a small group of thatched cottages, with perhaps one which served as an inn. Passing travelers would pay for a meal of bread and stew and the opportunity to lie on a straw pallet in an upper room for the night while their horse was tended in a stable attached to the cottage. Apart from the innkeeper who probably also sold beer, most of the men in Hoogstraten labored for the principal landowner while their wives tended to the family, to the garden and perhaps to chickens and a pig or a sheep that they might own. The animals and children ran free in the town along its earthen street. There was no natural lake or hill around which the cottages might have been grouped so the town’s focus was the main street, the "Vrijheid". There was a small river, the Mark, but given the tendency for rivers to overflow in this flat land, townspeople were wise to avoid building too close to it.
The town’s real existence is measured from 1210, when it was granted the title of ‘free town’ (freibrief). This effectively gave it a charter with certain privileges: perhaps exemption from some taxes or exemption from ecclesiastical territorial sovereignty. Both helped the growth of a town.
A watermill ('het Laermolen') was built outside town on the River Mark. It was already an old mill when it was first mentioned in 1391. In 1380 a Béguijnage was established to house good but poor old women. A very large brick church was built in 1524, and a matching town hall next door was built in 1530 before the church was completed in 1546.
By 1564, a drawing shows the town still consisted of houses on both sides of the wide unpaved Vrijheid. Cattle and dogs still ran freely along its length. The number of houses had grown to more than a hundred and they were no longer thatched but were fine upstanding wooden buildings some three stories high. The church, St. Catherine’s Church, formed the center of the town. Behind the church on a slight hill a few kilometers distant stood the castle of the Count who owned all the land for miles around.
Under the ownership of Count Antoon de Lalaing (1480–1540) and his wife, Countess Elisabeth van Culemborg (1475–1555), the ‘Land van Hoogstraten’ became a county, a title bestowed by Margaretha of Austria. The ‘county’ encompassed the whole the Count’s land in which several villages existed. It is now marked by the boundaries of his property, one of three bulges of northern Belgium each of which are almost surrounded by The Netherlands.
Hoogstraten remained in the hands of the Lalaing-Culemborg family until 1709 after which the town was transferred to the Salm-Salm family. In 1740 Hoogstraten was elevated to a Duchy by Emperor Charles VI, but barely half a century later, during French rule, it lost its titles of ‘town’ and ‘duchy.’ The status of a town often depended on whether the townspeople were considered supporters or not, so one might infer that the area was seen to have anti-French feeling.
Over two hundred years later, in 1977, Hoogstraten was combined, as it had been in the past, with a mixture of dependent municipalities: the villages of Meer, Meerle, Meersel-Dreef, Minderhout and Wortel, which clustered around its edges, none of these villages was more than 15 kilometers from each other. Since 1985 Hoogstraten has also been entitled to call itself a ‘stad’ – a town – once more.
Some inhabitants prefer to think of the title as referring to a city (grote stad). There is some argument about this. The town has, after all, a cathedral and while almost any minor accumulation of homes is either a village or a town, Hoogstraten is more important to the locality since it administers the area.
- Population per municipality on 1 January 2011 (XLS; 322 KB)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hoogstraten|
- (Dutch) Official website
- (English) Local Heritage (1) a colourful history of St Catherine's church in English
- (Dutch) Local heritage (2), contains an Image Bank, several old movies, Audio, old artifacts etc
- (Dutch) Local heritage (3)