In 1818 General Johannes van den Bosch established the 'Society of Benevolence'. The purpose of the society was to take poor unemployed families out of the cities and let them build a new life as a farmer. 'Colonies' were established in The Netherlands as well as in Belgium.
Later on orphans, beggars and vagrants were assigned to the Society. For them institutes were built in Veenhuizen where men and women were separated and staying there was not voluntary. People had to do hard work on the land or in the factories.
Around 1859 Veenhuizen was transferred to the Dutch State and in 1875 to the Ministry of Justice. By then the institutes had become prisons and around it houses were built to accommodate the staff.
Up to 1989 Veenhuizen was a closed village where prisoners worked on the land, in the gardens or in the factories.
Veenhuizen is all but a regular village. Besides three prisons there are over a hundred monuments including the Prison museum.
Veenhuizen was and is unique.
The heritage of the Society of Benevolence has been placed on the preliminary list of UNESCO's World Heritage.
The campagne for permanent listing is well on its way. Please have a look at this short but very informative film.