Frisians - Settlements



Settlement of Friesland depended upon protecting its lowlying lands from inundation by sea floods. The "Golden Hoop" of dikes that today extends along the whole of the Frisian coast was begun as long ago as A.D. 1000. The earliest Frisian settlements were built on mounds of refuse covered with clay, and drainage windmills were constructed to pump water out of sodden fields. The inland portion of Friesland is still dotted with scattered farming homesteads, although nucleated village settlements became common beginning in the medieval period. A group of villages forms a gemeente, or community, which is similar to, but not identical with, the concept of the Anglo-American county. (The gemeente was originally a cooperative unit, rather than an administrative one.) The classic Frisian homestead is called "head-neck-body"—a series of articulated structures in which the family quarters are contained in the smallish "head," connected to the larger "body" (the barn), by a narrower and shorter section (the "neck") that contains the kitchen, milk cellar, and churn room. The living quarters include a parlor, reserved for formal use (e.g., Sunday visits), as well as a larger, plainer room for day-to-day family use. Traditional, but rarely used today, is the "bed-cupboard" that opened off the living area and was precisely what the name suggests: a sort of closet containing a bed. Hearths, and sometimes internal walls as well, were tiled. Barns were traditionally built of wattle and daub, but brick is the more common material today. Thatching for barn roofs remains in use, but house roofs are usually tiled. Barn roofs were traditionally finished off with decorative gables, a practice that is rapidly dying out. In the "heather villages" of old, where the peat workers lived, dwellings (called spitkeat ) were semi-subterranean constructions of turf and planking, covered over with a peaked thatch roof.


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