Oegstgeest is a town in South Holland, bordering the city of Leiden, perhaps best known as the birthplace of Dutch author Jan Wolkers and from the title of his autobiographical novel Return to Oegstgeest.


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Natural ice skating ring in front of the Endegeest castle.

Oegstgeest is one of the first ever settled parts of the Dutch coast that we know of today. The earliest trace of a settlement dates back from the second century, when a Batavi settlement would have been located here. In 2010 a group from the Leiden University found remains of a bridge that would have connected the two banks of the river Rhine dating back from between the year 500 and 700. The river Rhine nowadays no longer runs through the town, but used to do so centuries ago. It is not sure if the area has been settled permanently since, but legend states that where the Groene Kerkje stands today, a church would have been found that was sacred by Willibrord, one of the Northumbrian Saints that converted the Netherlands. For the legend to be true, the church needs to have been built before 739, when Willibrord died. The church its existence is not doubted, and its mere existence indicated that the area was a busy settlement for its time with an above average population density.

Oegstgeest saw a rise between the eleventh and fourteenth century, after which nearby Leiden took over. Oegstgeest’s expansion was formally limited as a certain perimeter around Leiden could no longer be settled by other towns in order to not limit Leiden’s growth. The Endegeest and Oud-Poelgeest castles date from this time period, with both being built in respectively the thirteenth and seventeenth century. Meanwhile, Leiden kept on growing being one of the few university cities of the Netherlands at the time. Where Oegstgeest used to own the lands up to Leiden’s moats and defence works, it had to cede more and more land starting in the nineteenth century. Oegstgeest was only seeing growth between the several communes that made up Oegstgeest after 1900, when new neighbourhoods were built, a growth which lasts to this day, though at a steady pace of one new neighbourhood every fifteen or twenty years.

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