Discovering Groningen – Borg Rusthoven

Honestly I had no idea that very close to the borg (a former stronghold or villa in the province of Groningen) that I was going to visit today, there was another one. It turns out Borg Rusthoven in Wirdum is the smallest of the 16 borgen in the Province of Groningen. I only found out when I passed it on my way to the Ekenstein Estate. I had a day ticket for the bus to use, and one of my options was to go here by bus. No rain, but I guess the weather could have been better. Already around 3pm it started to look dark. A reason to return in the summer, when everything looks more cheerful and colourful.


Not all buildings called a borg were built by a noble family. Borg Rusthoven in Wirdum, Province of Groningen, according to a plaque on the wall the house was built in the year 1686, very likely by Johan Eeck Jr, whose father was, like himself later on, a mayor of the city of Groningen. He thus came from a family belonging to the city patriciate. The house was used as a country house. The nearby Damsterdiep, a waterway, provided a comfortable connection to the city. After Eeck and his wife Clementia Eyckenbergh died without descendants, Catharina Maria de Lairesse inherited the house, after her death her son-in-law Gerhard Schaffer. He likely didn’t live here and after his death in 1733 the house was sold to his son-in-law Wigbold Aldringa, who died in 1744. His daughter Barbera Albertina exchanged the borg in 1752 for other property with her cousin Wigbolt Gerhard Andringa, who already sold the house to the Groninger silversmith Frederik van Halsema in 1764. The next owner was the son, Diderik Frederik van Halsema, who died in 1784.

His widow was Trijntje Willems Tichelaar, daughter of a brick manufacturer, who remarried twice afterwards. She sold the property to brick manufacturer Jan Hendrik Sissingh in 1804. He had the brickworks Rusthoven built, of which I saw the ruins during my walk too. Also here the location on the Damsterdiep was of huge importance for the transport of peat. Because of the brickworks connection the borg is also called a tichelborg. After Sissinghs death in 1814, his widow Wiepke Berends Smedes had the borg extensively renovated. The house got 18th-century sash windows and on the outside the house was plastered with a thick layer of lime. Her heirs sold the house in 1836 to lawyer Johannes Koning Uilkens fro the nearby village of Loppersum. After the death of his sons and heirs Theodorus Frederik and Nathan François Uilkens the borg was inherited by their sister Catharina, and afterwards by Ingina, another sister. Manager Hendrik Gautier inherited the house and the brickworks.

The Groninger brick manufacturer Berend van der Veen bought the company in 1924, which went bankrupt in 1965, and in 1955 also the Borg Rusthoven. It took him seven years to restore the house. The piers at the entrance came from the Vredenhoven manor house in Eexta that was demolished in 1955. In 1985 Van der Veen sold the borg to the Groninger Borgen Foundation, who leased it 1986 to artist Annet Bakker, who eventually bought the house in 2005. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the borg and its garden was restored once again. The plaster layer was finally removed. Even the moats returned after 140 years. Bakker sold the house in 2012.


The current owners, John and Lenie van Zaanen, keep on restoring and maintaining the house, that is a national monument. Once in a while it is opened for tours and visits. The borg also serves as a guesthouse and a meeting place. As Rusthoven is located in an area where earthquakes occur, caused by gas drilling, the owners combined the planned restoration with the reinforcement task to make the property earthquake-proof. The work took place in 2020. After the borg was provided with a new foundation – 40 15-metres long piles were pushed through a concrete floor.

On these piles experts mounted jacks that pushed the borg – weighing 536.000 kilo – into the air. Even the cellars were lifted into the air. When the building hovered a metre above the ground, the concrete outer box with the dampers was made. Then the whole borg could be lowered again, after which the inner tray was constructed. The tiled floor that had been removed beforehand, was put back, as well as monumental pieces of the interior. It must have been a magnificent sight. During the removal of the kitchen floor two letters and a collection of post stamps were found in a box, that was put there by carpenter H. Nieland in 1896. Something more about the renovation can be found here. A few great videos: here and here. And like me someone decided to visit all these borgen.

The brickworks Rusthoven was acquired by the Groninger Landschap in 2019 and until 2022 they were busy with the landscaping of the area, which I am not quite sure off that they have already finished the work. The site was completely cleared and remediated in 2020 and 2021.

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