Leeuwarden was generated from three ‘terps’ on the shore of the Middelzee. ‘Terps’ are artificially created mounds. People built houses on them to keep their feet dry. People have been living here since before the year 1000 AD. From the tenth century on, this farming community also began to trade. The town’s location near the Zuyderzee was perfect for this. There were commercial ties with countries as far away as Russia! This is how Leeuwarden gradually developed into a town.However, in the thirteenth century the Zuyderzee became silted up. From then on, there was only regional trading.
In 1435, Leeuwarden was enfranchised and it became the provincial capital in 1504, when central government and the judiciary were established here. In addition to this, Leeuwarden became the residence of the Frisian ‘stadholders’. The town began to flourish. The number of inhabitants rose spectacularly: from five thousand round about the year 1500 AD up to sixteen thousand in 1650 AD.
At the time, Leeuwarden was one of the ten most prominent towns in the Netherlands. You can still tell this by the numerous monumental buildings dating back to that period, such as the ‘Kanselarij’ (Chancellery), where justice was administered, the ‘Stadhouderlijk Hof’ (Stadholderly Court), the ‘Waag’(Weighhouse) as trading centre, and the ‘Oldehove’-church tower.