The History of the Hoorn Cheesemarket
The city of Hoorn was founded as a settlement of farmers and fishermen along the dike, which protected West-Friesland against the Zuiderzee, now called IJsselmeer. Hoorn was situated at an intersection of land- and waterways, where goods could be transferred for further transport. Because of that Hoorn was an attractive seat for traders and craftsmen. The citizens of Hoorn got their burghership ( city rights ) from their landlord on July 7 in 1356 after having paid an enormous amount of money. Hoorn grew into an executive center of West-Friesland and focused on maritime rights. Annually two or three ships of the VOC ( United East Company ) set sail tot he Far East ( East Asia ).
At that time the Hoorn cheesemarket was one of the most important of Noord-Holland and cheese became an important exportation. After 1650 Hoorn loses her function as a seaport and became a market center of the agricultural region. The market took place on the most important square in the city, the now called Roode Steen, but it used to be called de Kaasmarkt. Cheese became the most important merchandise.
Every Thursday early in the morning horses and carriages rode to the Roode Steen to deliver the round cheeses, the Edammertjes. On the square straw was put down to serve as an underground for he cheeses, which were piled up, ( the so called ( ‘zetten’ ). This had to be done carefully, because a beautiful pile gave more respect and so more money could be earned. After parking the empty carriages at the Achterom the farmers went to the bars and that was the time for the cheesecarriers with their barrows.
The market was divided into 4 ‘quarters’, each with their own colour. The strawhats and barrows corresponded with these colours. After that the main figures showed up, the cheesebuyers. The piles of cheeses were sold by slapping hands and weighed in de Waag. Then they were loaded in handcarts and transported to the cheesewarehouses. Several of such warehouses still exist.
After World War II the cheesemarket ceased to exist because of the rise of the great dairies. Nowadays great tankers collect the milk at the farms and cheese is made in great cheesefactories such as Beemsterkaas, about 10 kilometres from Hoorn.