The Estate of Vilsteren
The Vilsteren Estate and village are situated on the southern bank of the River Vecht. The earliest settlements appeared here on the border between the low river bed and the higher grounds further away from the river, which are poorer and more sandy. The settlement appeared near the arable lands. Further south, in the bush and heath lands sheep were grazed and heath was cut to serve as ground cover for the sheep stalls. This was afterwards used as manure for the arable lands. The farmers growed vegetables, buckwheat, rye, barley and later potatoes, amongst others. They also had some cattle, which grazed on the river banks. It is this, during many centuries used agricultural system, that is the first basis of the cultural landscape of Vilsteren. The settlement and more specific the location of the farms in the settlement is also an important part of this landscape. In Dutch this is called the "Esdorpenlandschap".
The second cultural layer of the landscape is the so called "Landgoederenlandschap" (Estate landscape). To understand this we need to look a little bit closer to the history of the Estate. From at least 1382 up to around 1700 the Lords of Vilsteren were the lieges of the Bishops. The family van Vilsteren were Roman Catholic. Around 1700 this meant less influence and less political possibilities. Therefore they left for Belgium (Laerne near Gent). They sold their possessions to their steward; Derck Rees. From then on the Estate went to next generations by inheritance. When the owner was a female, the name of the family owning the estate changed by marriage. From Rees it became Grootveld, Helmich and in around 1880 Cremers. These families started to buy more land, embellish the landscape with parks, forests etc. They also rebuild farms, build a church for the Parish, build a windmill for the farmers, founded a public school and gave permission to build houses for more inhabitants. In short, they directed the development of the landscape and village. Except for the church and the school they stayed owner of the land. The buildings were managed by a sort of leasehold.
The embellishing of the landscape was first done in the French style. The "zeven alleetjes" (a place were 7 straight sightlines come together) is a reminder of that style. In the beginning of the 19th century the French style was replaced by the more romantic English style. Famous still present examples of elements of this style are "de Kurkentrekker" (the corkscrew), "de Theekoepel" (the tea pavilion) and "de Kluizenaarshut" (the hermit’s cabin). These so called follies are part of an around 1810, by landscape architect Georg Blom designed philosophical stroll in the English landscape style.
The present day main building of the Estate (Huis Vilsteren) was build on the same spot were the van Vilsterens already had their whereabouts. It was build in 1906 by the architect Eduard Cuypers. The landscape architect Dirk ter Steeg designed the garden around the House.
At present day the Estate is about 1.035 hectares large (one of the ten largest in the Netherlands). It is managed as a business with the now 35 descendants of the family Cremers as shareholders. The daily management is done by the director-steward and 6 employees.
Especially the mutual cohesion between the various elements, the relationship with the community, the completeness of the historical landscape, the great cultural values and the sound economic situation, make it to an unique Estate in the Netherlands. The government acknowledged this by adjudging it with several levels of being a national monument.