Heeswijk Castle near Den Bosch

I’ve written about two contrasting castles in the Netherlands before: Muiderslot and Castle de Haar. Muiderslot is the archetypal medieval castle: square with towers in each corner and crenellated walls between them. Castle de Haar, on the other hand, is far more ornate. Meant to look medieval, only more so, it was actually built in the 19th century.

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Heeswijk Castle (Kasteel Heeswijk), not far from Den Bosch, falls somewhere between the two: it’s got more history to it than Kasteel de Haar, but projects less of the medieval atmosphere that Muiderslot provides.

The dirt road is absolutely straight into the distance, too far to make out the castle at the end of it. Trees line the road, casting it in shade: two parallel rows on each side.
The grand entrance drive to Heeswijk Castle.

A brief history of Heeswijk Castle

A defensive castle stood on this site from the 11th century but little remains of that or its 14th century replacement. On the bank of the Aa river, an important trade route, it stood in a strategic place because any armies moving east or west had to cross the river. It withstood a siege in the 14th century and again in the 16th century, both of which were unsuccessful.

In this view of the castl, it is entirely surrounded by a moat. The biggest tower is on the left and is connected to the smaller tower on the right by a walkway with decorative roofing with arched openings. On the far side are several more, smaller turrets.

Most of what now stands is from 15th (both defensive and residential) and 16th century (residential) renovations with gradual changes and additions in the following centuries. By the late 17th century it wasn’t as necessary for it to be a defensive castle, so renovations aimed at making it more livable. Louis the XIV, king of France, stayed here with his army when they were fighting the Dutch in 1672.

The castle passed through several families’ hands over the following centuries. Baron Andreas van den Bogaerde van Terbrugge, a Belgian, bought it in 1834 and launched into some extensive renovations. This was a period of romanticization of everything medieval, so he and his descendants added touches like a neogothic addition as well as a tower five stories tall.

Besides my article on Kasteel de Haar, read my piece on Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Queen Victoria’s version of this love of the medieval.

The Bogaerdes filled the castle with collections of artworks, porcelain, pottery, statures, wine, and pretty much anything else that could be collected.

A waterpipe with the face of a lizard or alligator or similar, its mouth wide open showing its teeth.
Even the drainpipes are decorative.

A lawsuit

In 1895, the owner, Alberic van den Bogaerde, died and left a very odd will. It stated that Heeswijk Castle must serve as a museum – a role it had had for a while – until 1963, when the youngest of his heirs would be 80 years old. (Who would do that to their own heirs?) Not surprisingly, the family contested the will.

They won – sort of. They gained the right to sell the contents of the castle, but not the castle itself. So they went ahead and sold it all off in a series of auctions, raising an enormous amount of cash. What’s left in the castle are the items they couldn’t sell.

The green water of the moat in the foreground. Behind, the castle, red brick, about 4 stories high, with turrets on each corner.
A view on the back of the castle.

The heirs were allowed to live in the gatehouse after World War II, but still not the castle itself. The last of the heirs created a foundation to maintain the castle after her death. It restored and renovated it to allow things like weddings and concerts to take place on the grounds. Today the inside is furnished to show life in the castle in the mid-19th century, when the Van den Bogaerde family lived there.

If you’re planning a visit to Heeswijk and Den Bosch, read my article about what to do in Den Bosch.

Touring Heeswijk Castle

Even after so much of the contents were sold, the rooms of the castle still seem pretty full. It must have been ridiculously cluttered!

The most striking room is the “Chinese dining room” with its hand-painted Chinese silk curtains and wallpaper from 1800, its Murano glass chandelier, and the table set with Chinese porcelain.

The walls are predominantly green with flowery images painted onto them. The table is elegantly set, with a white tablecloth and all the usuall table settings. The chandelier is rather chunky-with each candle in an ornate glass holder. Against the wall on the left is a large piece of furniture holding several pieces of Chinese porcelein.
The “Chinese Dining Room”

The library looks cozy, as libraries tend to do.

A large wooden desk with an upholstered seat behind it and another in front of it. A typewriter and some framed pictures on the desk and a bright red uniform on a stand next to it. Behind the desk the wall is filled with glass-fronted wooden shelves filled with books.
The library at Heeswijk Castle.

The Blue Boudoir, which used to be the nursery, is interesting in that a number of personal items belonging to the family are on display. Above them is a window. Climbing a stairway off the room brings visitors to a tiny, low-ceilinged room on the other side of that window. Apparently the nanny would watch the children from there.

A low-ceilinged room, quite plain. The window is low near the floor on the left. Plain wood flor with two simple wooden chairs, a small carved secretary and a table.
The nanny’s lair, with a window overlooking the nursery.

A grand bedroom is called the Tin Room because of the tin collection on display around the room. French King Louis the 14th slept in this room in 1672. Notice the wooden panels on the walls: no two panels are the same. The ceiling is stucco and dates to the 17th century. The mantel reminded me strongly of Castle de Haar, with its abundance of over-the-top statuary.

The mantel has two human figures carved into the stone, bent so it looks like they're holding up the mantel. The horizontal mantel, also stone, is ornately carved with white panels inset - maybe plasterwork? ON either side of the mantel the walls are paneled in wood, with inlays in a darker wood. The panels end about 2 meters up from the ground in a plate rail, and that is lined with a series of tankards and teapots and such in tin, except on the mantel, which has a row of blue and white porcelein vases.
The mantelpiece in the Tin Room. You can see some of tin collection too.

The White Room is particularly pretty, with its white and gold furnishings. The family china and silver are on display in the cabinets.

On the right is a grand mantel with two clocks in the center made of white porcelein, very flowery. One other end is a white porcelein candelabra with multiple candles. Behind the clocks is a mirror and above that a painting with two figures, one liying down, another leaning over the first on her knees. Around the painting is gold-painted edging. Left of the mantal is a large glass-fronted cupboard with a rounded top, lit from inside, where various china and silver is on display.
One corner of the White Room.

The bedroom of Jonker Louis is decorated in 17th century style, but what catches attention is the unusual ceiling, with 81 antique Chinese porcelain pieces embedded in it.

Looking straight up, a 10-sided room. The ceiling has 4 concentric circles of porcelein plates, smaller in the inner rings, getting larger to the outer ring, with a quite large one in the center. It looks like every plate is different, but the dominant colors are blue and white. Between the plates seems to be painted, mostly in a gold and black or dark blue pattern.
The ceiling of the Torenkamer, the bedroom of Jonker Louis.

Of course, wealth like this needed lots of workers to support it, and the kitchen gives an idea of how that worked. Notice the window onto the kitchen from the stairway: this allowed the upper classes to keep an eye on the lower classes.

Foreground, a long wooden table with various food preparation tools on it like morters and pestles. Beyond, a cast-iron stove in the far corner. On the wood beam above it are various other tools: kettles and pots and such. On the right halfway down the room part of another wooden table with chairs around it is visible, and a large cupboard beyond that. The floor is rough stone and the walls are plain white.
The kitchen at Heeswijk Castle.

Like at Kasteel de Haar and Muiderslot, the formal garden is lovely and worth a slow stroll, allowing a range of views of the castle as well. A whole estate of lovely wooded paths encircles the castle, its moat and the gardens.

IN the foreground, very tidy green grass lawn with statues here and there. Beyond, the castle: red bricks, with a large tower in the near corner and smaller little turrets here and there, as well as a separate tower on the right.
The castle as seen from the formal garden.

Useful information

Heeswijk Castle: Kanaaldijk Noord, Heeswijk- Dinther. Parking available. From ’s-Hertogenbosch (a.k.a. Den Bosch) Central Station, take bus 158 (Vegel via Heeswijk). The trip will take about a half hour. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-17:00. Admission €11 for adults, €7 for children 4-12. Garden and ground floor are accessible with a wheelchair. Tickets.

To book your accommodation near Heeswijk or in Den Bosch, use the map below!

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Text: Heeswijk Castle near Den Bosch: A charming castle in the Netherlands
Image: view of the castle: red brick, round turrets, with a neatly mown grassy garden in front.

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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more...

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Like you say, it’s hard to imagine how packed with stuff it must have been before the family started selling things off! But Heeswijk Castle actually looks rather comfortable and almost tasteful.

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