Schoonhoven ( pronunciation (help·info)) is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. The municipality has a population of 12,195 as of 2007 , and covers an area of 6.96 km² (of which 0.67 km² water). It is now the smallest municipality in the Netherlands in land area, following the merger of Rozenburg into Rotterdam.
A historic map of Schoonhoven of 1652 shows the north and west town walls, which were common during medieval times in the Netherlands. The only remaining medieval entrance gate of Schoonhoven is the Veerpoort (Ferry Gate) next to the Lek River (see external link 4). This Veerpoort has protected Schoonhoven from the floods of the river Rhine and from the sea during the North Sea flood of 1953 and is still fully functional as a water barrier today.
A ferry transporting both vehicles and pedestrians across the Lek River (see external link 5) connects Schoonhoven with Gelkenes in Liesveld.
In the grassy fields around the city of Schoonhoven you can see a magnificent bird life such as storks (external link 6).
The first winner of the Dutch version of Pop Idol, Jamai Loman, is from this town. Also Jan Arie van der Heijden, player of football club Ajax, lives in Schoonhoven.
Circa 1220 a castle was built on the north side of little stream Zevender, near its mouth at the Lek River and Schoonhoven formed near the castle. The oldest reference to Schoonhoven is on a document from 1247 where the town is called Sconhoven. In 1280, it was granted city rights.
Around 1350, the citywalls and gates were added to Schoonhoven. Its economy was dependent on shipping, brewing, fishing and agriculture. Schoonhoven was also the marketplace for the region. In 1518 the castle burned down and its remnants were removed in subsequent decades.
Between 1582 and 1601 the city's defense walls were renewed and expanded to include the shipyards as well. And following the Disaster Year of 1672, they were reinforced again and expanded on the west and north sides. Yet in 1816, when bastion fortifications were no longer relevant to the warfare of the time, they were mostly demolished and made way for a cemetery and park.
In 1860 the city had 2900 inhabitants. Not until the middle of the 20th century did the city expand beyond the former fortress limits, first in a north-westerly direction, and then in the east since the 1990s.
Tourism and attractions
Schoonhoven is renowned for its silver, hence it is nicknamed Zilverstad ("Silver City"). Since the 17th century silver smiths have already been present here. Today there are a lot of silver trade possibilities and Schoonhoven is home of the International Silver School.
Another less known tradition in Schoonhoven is that of clock making. There are still small scale clock makers. Some of them can be visited. A beautiful example of large clockwork is the Van den Gheyn Beiaard on the medieval town hall of Schoonhoven (external link 3). In the Dutch Gold, Silver and Clock Museum a lot of other large and small clocks are on display as well.
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