Lords of the Manor
In the Middle Ages the island of Voorne-Putten in southern Holland had two Lords of the Manor: the Lord of Voorne and the Lord of Putten. The Lord of Voorne held his land on behalf of the Count of Holland.
In the 13th century a piece of land comprising what now consists of Langestraat, Voorstraat and Nobelstraat - formerly owned by the Van Maarland family - became the property of the Lords and Ladies of Voorne. In order to develop the estate they gave plots of land to private individuals, as a result of which a second community arose alongside Maarland. This was Brielle.
Significant town
Brielle grew to become a significant town in the 14th century. Gerard van Voorne granted the citizens of Brielle a charter in 1330. This established the town council and court, and the town had certain rights with regard to trade, such as the right to trade in fish, collect port taxes, etc. The Lord of Voorne also granted the town the right to build fortifications in 1338.
The nobility ensured peace, security and welfare in the region. They organised the town council and court, and obtained their income through a feudal system from their farmers and hunters, and from tolls, taxes and fishing.

Clergy
Alongside the nobility there were two other classes at this time: the clergy and the citizens. The clergy were viewed as God’s direct representatives on Earth. At that time most people were Roman Catholic. Faith played an important role in their daily life.
For a long time there were two separate parishes in this area, each with their own church, that of Maarland and that of Brielle. St. Catharine’s Church (Sint Catharijnekerk) - construction started in 1280 - ultimately became the principal church of the ‘new Brielle’; the two parishes merged into one.
Brielle had a total of seven monasteries and convents in the Middle Ages. The nuns and monks sometimes participated in daily life. Hence some of them cared for the sick and buried the dead. They also brewed beer. Others cut themselves off from the community entirely.
Alongside the monasteries and convents there were three ‘hospitals’ where travellers, the homeless, the sick and the elderly were welcome.

Fishing and trade
One important source of income for Brielle was fishing and trade. The town was the centre for catching and trading herring in the county of Holland. Fishermen sold their wares in Brielle. The town was an important transit port to the south (via the Goote) and east (via the Maas). Fishermen sailed to the North Sea, but also to the Baltic and the Kattegat. Because sailing in the mouth of the Maas was not without its dangers, Lord Albrecht of Voorne had two lighthouses built in 1280 in order to guide the fishermen safely into the Maas.
In addition to wealth, the successful herring fleet also brought other industries to the town: boatyards, ropemakers, sailmakers, smokehouses, anchor makers and coopers.

Fortifications
By the 16th century Brielle had grown into a town with four gates and 22 defensive towers. These mediaeval fortifications were all destroyed in the 17th and 18th century when the fortifications were rebuilt and modernised: the decision was made by the States to provide Brielle with new defences in 1694. The design of the new fortifications was produced by fortification builders Willem Paen (who worked for the States of Holland) and Menno van Coehoorn (working for the stadholder and the States-General).

Visitors to the museum can find out more about Brielle’s town history through an interactive display.