04 - The Otterspoor Dam & Sluice
The oldest document that is believed to mention the dam in the River Vecht near Otterspoor is from April 1228. It is Mr. S.J. Fockema Andreae who concludes in his book ‘study of the jurisdiction of the waterboard history’ from 1950 that the dam in the charter is the Otterspoordam. He also states that a charter from 1397 confirms this.
He further believes, that it is possible that the dam and sluce in the Vecht were built about 1140 – 1150, because of the digging of the ‘Vaartse Rhine’ canal.
Not every researcher agrees with F Andreae.
The translator of the charter Dr. K. Heeringa identified the dam as the Jansdam in Utrecht.
The researcher Martin de Bruin writes an article about it. ‘Was there in April 1228 talk about a dam in the Vecht near Otterspoor’.
In the first instance he states that he understands why others came to that conclusion.
-The sentence about the ‘houseyards super dammum’ is between stipulations about Otterspoor.
-A dam fits well in the history of the watercontrol from the Vecht.
-In the 12th century the Southernsea came into ecxistance and through the Vecht the water came much further south.
-In a charter from 13 march 1326 was talk about a meerdam from Otterspoorsluce.
-In 1170, according to a cronicle from the Abbey Egmond seafish was caught in the Utrecht citycanals.
Reasons enough to protect the hinterland with dykes and dams.
Yet on the basis of other arguments he comes to a different conclusion.
-The latyn term ‘aree’= houseyards points to a villagecenter.
In the charter from 1139 where the excistance of the village Otterspoor is based on, this indication is missing.
-In later sources there is no talk of houseyards at Otterspoor.
Why hand over the rights from a few houseyards and not the whole area Otterspoor.
-The dam lies not in Otterspoor, but on the border from Otterspoor and Maarssen.
On the basis of further arguments Martin de Bruin comes to the conclusion the the houseyards must have been on the Pausdam (Popedam) in Utrecht
Apart from that he believes it possible that there was a dam in the Vecht in the 13th century, but not the one in the charter from April 1228. (04.01)
The researcher Hans Lägers also has a different view.
He follows here up on the arguments from Martin de Bruin.
He states that the scarce historical sources never spoke of a dam or a village near Otterspoor. He further believes it not to be very likely that the Vecht would have been closed with a dam tens of kilometers inland, as a dam at the mouth of the river near Muiden would be more likely. He uses other arguments;
-The cost of a new sluce, talked about in a charter from 1326, would also be chargeble to the damhoeven (tax) north of the Otterspoorsluce. He sees de meerdam that is talked about here – AFTER CHANGING THE INTERPUNCTION – as a still to be constructed waterdam downstream from the Otterspoorsluce.
-It is probable that the Otterspoorsluce was located in an excisting dyke alongside the Vecht and that it must have been the waterdrainage sluce from de Maarssenbroek polder watercourse
-In a charter from 1244 about toll near Muiden there is no mention of a dam in the Vecht.
-There has never been spoken about toll, crane- or transhipcharges in connection with Otterspoor.
- He sees no proof in the charter from 28 September 1397 that is used by F Andreae to confirm the excistance of the dam. That charter is about the ‘tijns and tiens’ taxes on the Otterspoorbroek polder, extending from the Hairrhine on the ‘dannen’ up to the churchgraves, and the Otterspoorbroek is not on the Vecht. (04.02)
The researcher Arie A Manten on the contrary stands by F. Andreae and against Martin de Bruin and hans Lägers. (see chapter 06)
The compleet translated texts of most of the sources are not known to me and several arguments are assumed, interpretations and believes.
But I still would like to remark on some of Hans Lägers arguments.
-His belief that a dam in the Vecht at Otterspoor was not likely, as a dam near Muiden would be more likely, is very strange. He pays no attention att all to the power struggle between Holland and Utrecht that is pointed out by most researchers. He also neglects sources that must have been known to him about the Hinderdam in the Vecht in 1437 and the construction of a sluce, after a century of negotiations between Holland and Utrecht, in 1674 near Muiden, that rendered the Hinderdam superfluous.
He himself contradicts his belief further down his article where he points to a charter from 1326 from the Dutch count Willem III who with 4 gentleman from the Vecht area plans to construct a dam across the Vecht downstream. A dam that by other researchers is seen as the dam near Vreeland.
- That the Otterspoorsluce was a waterdrainigesluce located in an excisting dyke alongside the Vecht can simply not be right. That does not tally with the Otterspoorhoefslag taxes at all. (see chapter 05)
-It amazes me, that he finds that he should put a comma between ‘the meerdam’ and ‘from Otterspoorsluce downwards’. He does not specify a reason.
Wikipedia shows the importance of the use of interpunction for the interpretation of text in two short sentences, that are in Dutch exactly the same words.
-Ik houd van je, lieve vriendin – I love you, dear friend
-Ik houd van je lieve vriendin – I love your dear friend
The difference in interpretation is immense and changing the interpunction should of course never be done by anyone else but the writer.
It is not untill 1323 that the Otterspoorsluce comes into the picture.
The sluce was mentioned as one of the limits to where the rules about the maintenance of the Leckedyke are in place, the Lekdykehoeven tax. Interesting is, that there is no mention again of the Otterspoordam.
This charter from 12 July 1323 is by itself interesting too.
It is a joint charter from the bishop Jan from Utrecht, deans and churchcolleges from the Dom, Oudmunster, St Pieter, St Jan and St Marie, religeus people, the common land and the city of Utrecht in deliberation with William, count of Heynegouwen etc. and his counsel.
It shows the great importance that was given in the past to the watercontrol in The Netherlands. The broad bearing of the management and maintenance.
The way the management was structured held for centuries with a dikecount and dikereefs. The stringent regulations and punitive measures on infringement and the way the cost was divided over all parties concerned.
About the Otterspoorsluce more sources are available. The translation of these sources from 1378 and 1381 are unfortunately not known to me.
It is clear that the opinions from the different researchers differ a lot and are sometimes contradictory. It is also clear that the –some possibly assumed- sources about the area Otterspoor, the Otterspoordam, the Otterspoorsluce, the Otterspoorvillage and the Otterspoorhoefslag are very scarce and sometimes confusing.
Only the excistance of the Otterspoorsluce and the Otterspoorhoefslag is apparently factual for all of them.