Sir Willen van Egmond had Huis te Palenstein built on Dorpsstraat around 1380. The hundreds of piles on which the tower block was built, along with many items used in the castle form the 14th to the 18th century, were found during excavations made in the 1980s. The manor was demolished in 1791.
During the Middle Ages, the soil in the Zoetermeer region consisted of a layer of peat several meters thick on which the farmers here earned their living. People discovered that when this peat was dried, it proved an excellent fuel. During the 15th century, peat extraction became an important source of income. But intensive peat digging resulted in the loss of hundreds of hectares of land that became small lakes. And this water formed a continual threat to the houses located on the narrow strips of land between these lakes. Reclaiming all these lakes by turning them into polders would not be finished until sometime during the 19th century.
Another remarkable event that involved Zoetermeer was its role in the Relief of Leiden during the Eighty Years’ War. After seizing Haarlem, the Spanish laid siege to the city in order to force the inhabitants to surrender by starving them. To drive out the enemy, the Prince of Orange ordered that the dikes on the River Maas and the River IJssel be cut in September 1574. In this way, the Sea Beggars (the name given to refugees of the Eighty Years’ War who became pirates during that time) could sail their flat-bottomed boats toward Zoetermeer. The Sea Beggars first defeated the Spanish troops south of Zoetermeer and cut the dikes there. Wolfert Adriaanszoon from Zoetermeer then told the Sea Beggars about a short cut to the Zoetermeer lakes so that they could reach Leiden in almost no time at all. The starving inhabitants of Leiden were liberated on 3 October 1574. The Relief of Leiden, as the liberation is known, is still celebrated as a holiday in that city.
This brief summary is simply an introduction to Zoetermeer’s long and fascinating history – a history that could fill many a book. And much has been written, too, as you can see by a visit to www.oudsoetermeer.nl (Dutch).