Blokzijl used to be a coastal town on the Zuiderzee. Where once there was sea, now there is polder on its doorstep.
Visit Gildehuys Museum to find out about the various ways the people of Blokzijl used to make a living, from the trade flows to manufactory. Prosperity fluctuated through the centuries, but the peat diggings in the vicinity were the biggest moneymaker: All the turf was shipped out through Blokzijl. The pretty view of the old harbour should not be missed. This is where cargoes were transferred from river boats to sea ships and vice versa.
The heyday of Blokzijl was during the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) when it was the only town in the surroundings not to be occupied by the Spanish forces. The Eighty Years War was all about religion. The Spanish Catholics wanted to stamp out any non-Catholic sentiments in the Low Countries at a time when the more pragmatic locals firmly believed that religious tolerance was best for business. Most people were Catholics, but the Protestants were gaining ground. The non-occupied territories profiled themselves as Protestant in order to gain financial and military support from Protestants abroad to continue their struggles against the Spanish occupation. Blokzijl sided with the Protestants in Holland. The church you see here is one of the very first churches in the Netherlands to be purpose-built for protestant worship.
In the Eighty Years War, Blokzijl was allied with Holland, across the Zuiderzee. The townspeople in Holland were dependent on the plentiful supply of turf (fuel for heating and cooking) coming through Blokzijl by boat. From 1580 to 1590, Holland financed the building of defensive town walls and moats around Blokzijl to safeguard a steady supply of turf. The settlement was turned into a veritable fortress to keep out the Spanish.
All the peat boats had to pass through the sea lock on their way from the peat diggings to the Zuiderzee and Holland. Every boat passing through the lock had to pay a toll to Blokzijl.
Many soldiers, skippers and traders from Holland settled in Blokzijl, bringing with them the building styles of Holland. That is why Blokzijl will remind you of Enkhuizen or Hoorn.