As we we travelled further south the surroundings changed from the marshes, low lands and polders to a more solid area of land and river. It is an area that had been inhabited for thousand of years and was well known to the Romans.
Small principalities and moated and walled cites start to appear. One of these settlements that is of particular interest to me is the town of Heusden, which is strategically located on the river Maas and has origins prior to the thirteenth century. The original castle of Heusden was destroyed in 1202 by the Duke of Brabant and a replacement was built with a moat and donjon.
Heusden received its city rights in 1318 and expanded with the addition of fortification, ramparts and moats. With the expansion, the moated Heusden castle was itself surrounded by a moated and fortified city. During the Eighty Years War 1568-1648 Heusden was occupied by the Spanish but in 1577 the citizens of Heusden chose to ally with William, Prince of Orange. Because of its location, William fortified the city with stronger moats, bastions, walls and ravelins and was completed in 1597. The castle lost its function as a stronghold and its donjon was converted to use as a munitions depot.
On 24 July 1680, during a thunderstorm, lightning struck the donjon of castle Heusden and sixty thousand pounds of gunpowder and other ammunition exploded. It destroyed the castle and which was never rebuild. This disaster caused the economic demise of the city and forced many of its citizens to leave the area and settle elsewhere.