The first residents of Alkmaar lived in the sandy area around the Great Church (the Grote Sint Laurens Kerk) at what is now the western end of the city centre. The high sandy ridge that ran parallel to the coast was surrounded by water and marshes. To the west, this sandy ground was bordered by what is now the Westerweg, to the east by the present-day shopping street, the Ritsevoort. To the east of the sandy ridge, there was a lower-lying area that was flooded by the Voormeer lake when the water levels were high. In those days, what is now the Langestraat – a major shopping street – was just a path in the marshy ground alongside the Voormeer.
The name Alkmaar was first recorded in a tenth-century record describing a gift of two farmsteads by Count Dirk I to the newly established abbey of Egmond. This gift dates from before 939, the year in which the count died. At the time, Alkmaar was in the parish of Heiloo. A document of 1063 mentions the church of Heiloo as the mother church of the chapel of Alkmaar. The office of sheriff for Alkmaar was granted to the abbey of Egmond in 1083, and this shows that Alkmaar was a separate legal entity by that time.
In 1254 Count Floris V granted Alkmaar a town charter. Located on the periphery of the Kennemer area and under the protection of the castles Torenburg, Middelburg and Nieuwenburg, Alkmaar functioned as a border fortress and base of operations in the centuries-old battle against the West Frisians. Until the 16th century, Alkmaar was bordered to the west by the shallow lake district that included the Egmondermeer and Bergermeer lakes. To the east was the Voormeer, which was connected to the Schermeer via the Zeglis. To the south lay the Achtermeer, Kooimeer, and Rietmeer lakes.
Located as it was at a meeting of waterways, Alkmaar charged tolls and levied duties on the transhipment of goods. Because of its markets and commerce, Alkmaar acquired a position as a centre, and the town grew. The street pattern was determined by land reclamation over the course of the centuries. From 1525 onward, large sums were spent on building walls around the city, with canals and city walls as protection against attacks and plundering from outside.
In 1573, the Spaniards attacked Alkmaar. The city used boiling tar and burning branches thrown from its new city walls to fight the Spaniards, who had set up their camp in Oudorp. The moment when Don Frederik, the son of Alva, withdrew in defeat was the turning point in the fight against the Spaniards. Victory began in Alkmaar.
From 1600 onwards, Alkmaar developed from a commercial town with its own fleet into a market and supply centre for the wider area. Salt extraction and barley were of great importance for the town. Salt extraction plants and breweries rose on the banks of the Voormeer and the Zeglis. Lime kilns produced shell lime that was used as mortar. Dozens of roperies made flax into rope.
The North Holland canal, an initiative of King Willem I, was opened in 1824.
To further trade in Alkmaar the town administration did its utmost to ensure that the canal passed straight through Alkmaar, sacrificing some of the city walls for the purpose. The canal did not bring about the hoped-for prosperity.
Bargemen and travellers who had previously spent the night in Alkmaar midway through their voyage now proceeded directly to their destination, leaving the inns empty.
Housing associations made an important contribution to urban expansion outside the old town walls. New residential areas were built to the south. An unusual neighbourhood was Bergerhof, which evolved in the war year 1942 at the edge of the city. The 254 dwellings were intended as housing for refugees from Den Helder.
After the war, Alkmaar continued to expand to the south. When the Berger Tunnel was opened in 1956, preparations for the development of Hoefplan and Overdie were in full swing. In 1972, Oudorp and the southern parts of Koedijk and Sint Pancras were incorporated into the territory of Alkmaar. From 1972 onwards, Alkmaar played a role as a centre of urban expansion in the housing of the residential overflow from cities to the south. It expanded to the north. After Huiswaard, the De Mare and Daalmeer areas were built. The population of Alkmaar increased from 40,000 in 1950 to 94,000 in 2005.
The city has been home to more and more large centralised facilities since the 1970s.
The cultural centre De Vest, and the Hoornsevaart sports and recreational facilities, are examples of this. Alkmaar has also grown into the educational centre of the region, with all types of advanced, secondary, and higher education. With its cheese market and historic inner city, Alkmaar is a draw for tourists and the region’s centre for culture, sport and nightlife. Alkmaar is the vibrant heart of the North Holland peninsula.
Alkmaar celebrated its 750th jubilee in 2004.
Laatste wijziging: 14 november 2012