Pauper colony and Roman frontier recommended for Unesco heritage list

One of the colony houses. Photo: Unesco handout
One of the colony houses. Photo: Unesco handout

Unesco experts have recommended including two new Dutch highlights in the world cultural heritage list – the Lower German Limes and the ‘Colonies of Benevolence’ in Groningen and Drenthe.

The Limes (paths) are one of the frontiers of the Roman Empire in Europe and ‘provide a fine example of the development of an urban infrastructure in a region without central places, illustrating the spread of Roman administrative and architectural traditions,’ Unesco said.

The colonies were developed in the 19th century as social projects for poor families, orphans, ‘fallen women’, retired military personnel, beggars and vagrants. They are, according to Unesco ‘one of the most remarkable social experiments, based on 19th century, Western, Utopian thinking on the social order.’

The most famous of the colonies is in Veenhuizen, where there is a museum and a prison which is still in operation.

The third Dutch nomination – the Hollands Waterlinie defence lines – has been rejected as it now stands, with the Unesco experts saying they doubted whether the fortification network was being properly protected, given the pressure on space in the region. The Netherlands now has three years to revise its application.

The nominations for inclusion on the formal list will now be studied by a special committee which will announce its decision towards the end of July.

The last Dutch heritage site to be included on the list was the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam. There are currently nine Dutch cultural locations and one natural site on the official list.

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