The oldest history of the city of Hoorn (horn = corner of the dike) was recorded by city doctor Dirk Seijlmaker, better known by his Latin name Velius. In his Chronicle of Hoorn he gives a good picture of life in the 17th century and also offers one of the theories about the origin of Hoorn. According to tradition, the city was founded by three beer-brewing brothers from Hamburg, Germany.
Velius was actually called Dirk Seijlmaeker. He lived in the 17th century and at that time it was customary to take a Latin name if you had studied. Velius was a learned man: he had studied medicine and was the city doctor of Hoorn. He also recorded the history of Hoorn as a hobby. Velius not only recorded what happened in his own time, but also tried to find out how and when Hoorn had come into existence. Velius told that in the 13th century Danes, Bremers and Hamburgers unloaded their merchandise at the Roode Steen. They sold their wares to merchants on the land or bartered them for other goods. Three brothers from Hamburg decided to build warehouses on site to store their merchandise. This is how the first three houses on the Roode Steen were built. Soon a hamlet arose that was simply referred to as ‘corner’ or in its medieval ‘horne’, after its location in a corner or bend of the then dike. His statue (1981) is located on the Nieuwland.
Anyone who wants to uncover the history of Hoorn is actually looking for the missing pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle. For no one can confirm that the historian Velius was right when he wrote that the first houses of the city were built near the Red Stone. The evidence is hidden in the ground. Archaeological research can provide clarity, but is only taking place sparsely. Such as after the fire in the Winston cinema and after the demolition of the fire station on the Kleine Oost, both in 2000. It is clear that Hoorn originated more than 700 years (ca. 1300) ago as a tiny settlement outside the dykes at the mouth of a river, which flowed into the Hoornsche Hop and was later called the Gouw. People built a dike to protect against flooding. The small settlement outside the dikes of Danish and North German merchants were joined by farms inside the dikes. In 1341 the Nieuwendam was constructed as a loading and unloading place; ribbon development was built along the North and the East.
The Hoornsche Hop was an excellent anchorage, where the ships were well sheltered. The Gouw, which later became the Wijzend and Rijsdam, provided a favorable connection by water with the heart of West Friesland. Thanks to this favorable location on the water, a lively trade quickly developed. The village grew into a city, which got its name from its location in a bend of the dike. “Horne” is the medieval word for bend or corner. In 1357 Hoorn received city rights from Count William the Fifth. The city had to pay a lot for it, but was given many freedoms in return. The document on which the city rights are mentioned is still present in the Regional Archives. This sheet of parchment is the oldest document in the archives. Fourteenth-century Hoorn was smaller than today’s inner city. The people lived in wooden houses along the dike and some roads inland. The land within the dyke was swampy, which is why the first houses and the first (wooden) church were placed on the sea side of the dyke. It was only after a while that pieces of swamp were filled in and built inside the dikes. Around 1400 the first part of the Shire was partly filled in.
The Roode Steen became the center for trade, administration and justice. The town hall stood at the corner with Kerkstraat until 1797. The executions by beheading took place in the square. Executions by hanging were carried out outside Hoorn, at the ‘Galgenbocht’ along the dike towards Scharwoude.
According to the Hoorn historian Theodorus Velius, Hoorn must have originated here. In 1316, three brothers from Hamburg built an inn and three houses there. Archaeological research has now shown that the first buildings in Hoorn must be of an earlier date.
Nevertheless, the Roode Steen can be seen as the central point from which the city has developed. Farmers from the area brought their agricultural products to the market, merchants traded and government buildings such as the town hall (1420), the Waag (1609) and the Statencollege (1632) were built. Due to the steady trade in dairy products (a market was held twice a week), the square was given the name Kaasmarkt. On the Waterschapshuis, Grote Oost 6, there is still a gable stone depicting two cheese carriers. Since 1888, the Roode Steen has officially had two names: both Roode Steen and Kaasmarkt. In 1357, Hoorn received (or better: bought) city rights. Count William V (1354-1358) in conflict with his mother Empress Margaretha, urgently needed money to pay his men. Hoorn was awarded the much-coveted right of gate upon payment of 1,550 shields, a coin worth one and a half guilders. Many old buildings show that the city had an important function for the region: the Waag, the City Hall, the Proostenhuis and the Stynhuis (now the Westfries Museum).
Fishing, trade and shipping were the main livelihoods of the inhabitants of Hoorn. At that time, the population of Hoorn consisted largely of farmers, skippers and clergy. The farmers gradually disappeared from the townscape when Hoorn grew in size. The monasteries with their large gardens took up no less than a quarter of the surface of the city. The skippers were mainly involved in overseas trade and herring fishing. Herring was the main food of the people. The knitted herring net was an invention from Hoorn, which made it possible to catch large quantities of herring. Trade and fishing also gave rise to some industry, especially in the field of woodworking and shipbuilding, such as anchor forges, rope and sail makers.
More and more craftsmen, traders and fishermen are settling in the city. The guilds are also flourishing in Hoorn. A number of guilds are depicted in stained glass in the Oosterkerk. Hoorn is developing into a significant marketplace. Agricultural products from the rich West Frisian countryside are traded in Hoorn for resale or export. The Roode Steen is still popularly called the cheese market. During fairs, a thousand carts drove the cheeses to and fro. From the fifteenth century, more and more was built in stone. This certainly applied to important buildings such as the town hall, which was given a place on the market at the Roode Steen, which was enlarged in 1420.