On the road with Oud-Utrecht: Wandering through Lauwerecht

The historical association Oud-Utrecht makes walks through the city for DUIC, in search of special heritage. This time we make an alley along previous activities on the Vecht in the Lauwerecht district.

The Lauwerecht district is surrounded by the waterways Vecht and Zwarte Water. Zwarte Water emptied into the Vecht in two places. Lauwerecht lies between one estuary at Bemuurde Weerd and the other estuary at the former Pellecussenpoort on the corner with Schermerhornstraat. Only a remnant of the latter estuary remains.

The Vechtoever was traditionally suitable as a working area for flammable companies. For example, many kilns from brick, stone and roof tile factories and lime-burning factories were located along the Vecht. Clay deposits of the Vecht were readily available, the fuel peat could be mined downstream along the Vecht and everything could be brought in and removed by ship. Until well into the twentieth century, Lauwerecht remained a busy district that followed the Vecht as a ribbon of side streets. We explore the area with a walk through the smallest streets.

Gietershof

The tour starts at Gietershof, a side street to Bemuurde Weerd Oostzijde and behind the former old Catholic Jacobuskerk on Bemuurde Weerd, not to be confused with the Jacobikerk on Sint Jacobsstraat. Built with houses from the period of urban renewal in the 1980s, Gietershof owes its name to an iron foundry from the nineteenth century. The Verloop family had mills in operation and was also one of the innovative mill builders. The traditional mill manufacturer with forge grew to ‘Jernstøberi og Maskinfabrik C. Verloop’. The steam engine factory was on the site of Gietershof.

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Lauwerecht – where Oosterstroom and Het Zwarte Water meet (photo Bert Poortman)

In the nineteenth century, the oil mill – also from Verloop – was named Stoomfabriek ‘t Scheprad. This was on the corner of Oosterstroom, Zwarte Water and Flieruilensteeg. The original water mill got its power from the height difference of one meter between the water in Oosterstroom and the water in Vecht. Verloop converted the water mill into a steam powered one. Until the 1970s, the factories’ chimneys still stood in Lauwerecht.

Water surges in Oosterstroom and Het Zwarte Water ensure the desired water levels in Vecht. The tools, which are more than a century old, can be adjusted in height with a simple mechanism. In Kromme Elleboogsteeg and on Keizersgracht are former factory buildings in Verloop, and they lead via Jan van Lingtuin to Vecht. On the other side of the Zwarte Water, Molenwerfsteeg still reminds of the trasmolen Het Schaap, which had already been demolished in 1893 (a mill that grinds tuff into trass for the production of cement and mortar).

The alley now leads to the schoolyard of the former Kruisstraat Public Primary School. After renovation about fifteen years ago, this square was named Molenwerfhof.

New and old bridges

At the David van Mollem Bridge, you can admire the wood merchant Koker’s sawmill from the eighteenth century. Close by is Koker’s equally old timber shop, which is now used as studio space. The Koker company also had larger grounds, but on the other side of Draaiweg and the aforementioned bridge, which was built in 1965. In the same year, Knollenbrug was demolished. This bridge over the Vecht led the Brugstraat ‘to the tubers’ grown in the horticultural areas of Pijlsweerd. Brugstraat is now the terrace of restaurant Blij.

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Lauwerecht – Tubers farm and Houthandel Koker in 1965, (photo Hulskamp’s Photo Company HUA87293)

Schepenmakerssteeg is a memorial to the last active ‘ship maker’ Litsenberg. After the shipbuilding industry disappeared from this quarter, the site of the company was taken over in about 1880 by the steam-powered copper and metal foundry Rencker en Zonen. The city’s first steam-powered fire hoses were of this make. The company was active until around 1932 and had a diverse range of products from railway carriages to beer pumps and copper pipes. The factory buildings in this cul-de-sac, a slum, have been successfully converted into student accommodation. In the past, alleyways and slums were reminiscent of crowded, unsanitary urban neighborhoods in the nineteenth century. That state is long gone. People now enjoy living there and the industrial heritage has also proved suitable for housing.

Klompensteeg and Bloempoort can be found further away. Bloemsteeg leads to a playground and a walking area with connections between the streets Lauwerecht, Verenigingsstraat and Verenigingsdwarsstraat. Almost every alley is worth a visit because of its own history of habitation, activity and construction. More about the more than 400 historic alleys in Utrecht can be found on the Oud-Utrecht website and in the alley book Between Zwaansteeg and Achterom.

Text to Bert Poortman

Tips for further reading at Oud-Utrecht


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