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Village type and layout

The Dutch colonization in Poland is inseparably linked to a specific village type, and a building layout that was characteristic for the type of terrain (often previously uninhabited) colonized. The landform features of the colonized areas as well as the soil characteristics and productivity had a direct impact on the economic life and other aspects of Olęder material culture, for example the form of the settlement and its architecture. Not only the environment but also the settlement contract were factors that determined and shaped elements of the colonists' life. Most frequently, the Dutch were given free rein in establishing their settlement and in deciding how many buildings and of what type were to be included; the contract only specified that the buildings were to be "Dutch". In some cases, however, the landowner explicitly stated his wishes, to which the settlers were to accommodate (e.g. Kępa Zawadowska). The dissimilarities of Dutch culture and farming style (e.g. settlement and building types) were so obvious and known that the contracts usually did not provide for these issues. The Dutch colonization was usually identified with both a specific colonization law as well as with the originality of the settlement forms and the uniqueness of the homestead appearance.

The oldest type of Dutch village was ulicówka, which was common in the 16th and 17th centuries in Żuławy Wiślane[1]. Villages of this type were usually far removed from the river; whereas, the settlements of rzędówka or rzędówka bagienna type with a characteristic strip layout of fields and wide dispersal of homesteads predominated in the river's proximity. The land that was connected to individual farms had the form of a long strip, which stretched out perpendicularly from the river. The village was built at the end of this strip - next to the river. The individual farms were connected to a road running crosswise to the plots along the water (frequently on top of the flood bank). The buildings were located at a certain distance from one another, usually on one side of the road.

A very interesting example of a field layout that is unique to Mazowsze, can be found, for instance, in Nowy Wymyśl. This type of layout is related to the terrain specificity and in that village fields are arranged in rows that stretch from the lowest floodplain to the elevated area - a low escarpment of the Vistula's ice marginal valley with a village located on its crest. Almost all villages were founded on the end moraine dunes and in the outwash fans frayed by the post-glacial waters. The characteristic feature of the Dutch colonization was the fact that each settler cultivated the land in one piece as opposed to the colonization under the German law, in which the settler was required to cultivate the land in the three-field system. The land cultivated by the settlers in Mazowsze was usually characterized by low quality and sandy soils. However, this aspect was largely dependent on the locality; for example, the villages of Nowy Kazuń, Wilków Nowy, and Kępa Zawadowska, were founded on good quality soils, while the soil in Nowy Secymin or Śladów was of lesser quality.

Such a village layout and the land division were not accidental. Due to this arrangement, each farmer received a share of land of similar quality. Individual plots were separated by drainage ditches. Since the farms were of considerable size, amounting to almost 2 włóka (around 30 ha) in many instances, the narrow 100-150 m wide strip of land stretched as far as 2 km. This type of farm was common in Żuławy. In Mazowsze, however, the farms were less productive and smaller; their area usually equaled 1 włóka.

As part of the leased land, settlers were granted a piece of communal land, which sometimes was exempted from rent. On this plot, settlers built a school, a church, an inn, or a cemetery, which usually was situated next to the church on the edge of the farmland outside of the village.

A dispersed, colonial village was another type of settlement. These villages were most often founded for the purpose of clearing the forest or bringing the forested wastelands, which were periodically flooded by the river, under cultivation. As a rule, the landowner allowed the settlers to clear a specific-size land plot, which was marked off from the larger area of forest or other type of wasteland. Each settler was free to choose a suitable plot for clearing on his own. The plots were allotted in one piece and their shapes resembled a square or a polygon. For the most part, buildings were situated in the plot centers. A farmer linked his homestead with the main route running through a village or in its proximity.

The characteristic features of the Dutch village landscape were the flood-banks and man-made hillocks, on which the homestead was located, in addition to canals and irrigation ponds, which were to collect and channel excess water from the fields,. Initially, the flood-banks protecting the settlers' farms against flooding were relatively small and were frequently overrun by spring waters. Therefore, in order to protect the plain against inflow of ice floes from the Vistula and to prevent the buildings from being damaged by the fast current, the settlers planted willows and poplars. Only later, with time, did the colonists build higher embankments, which were more efficient in resisting the surging river waters. The colonists even founded Embankment Associations, the so called Związki Wałowe, whose sole purpose was to build and maintain the flood-banks[2] . In spite of all these measures, the homesteads would frequently get completely flooded. In order to prevent flooding, the homesteads were located on elevated spots. If natural rises were missing, settlers would build artificial hillocks and erect houses on their tops. However, in the case of uncommonly high waters, these rises were not tall enough to entirely protect the homesteads from being flooded.

[1] O. Kloeppel, Die bauerliche haus- Hof- und Siedlungslanlage im Weischel-Nogat-Delta, Danzig 1965, p. 186.

[2] Z. Ludkiewicz, Osady holenderskie na nizinie sartawicko-nowskiej, Toruń 1934.

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