Den Bommel

The village of Den Bommel on the island of Goeree-Overflakkee is close to the Haringvliet waterway. Its cosy marina nestles where thefishing harbour once did. The village arose from the reedy marshes around the Ooltgensplaat early in the 16th century when they were impoldered. The drainage sluice on the north of the polder became the site for Den Bommel.

Originally, the villagers’ main source of income was shipping and fishing, salmon and sturgeon especially. The catches of choice salmon saw the village prosper over the centuries. Early in the 19th century agriculture grew in importance.

By 1647, Den Bommel was ready for its own church, which you should visit. On the Emmaplein square, this single-nave aisleless church is one of the few buildings to have survived the 1953 Flood – along with the village windmill. That night, a massive dike breach swept through the village claiming the lives of nine villagers.

And maybe that name, Bommel, reminds you of Olivier B. Bommel? Aka in English as Oliver B. Bumble, he’s the lead character in a Dutch series by Marten Toonder. (The other is Tom Puss aka Tom Poes). His imposing statue adorns the church square. You may recall that Bumble bear is dressed in a checked jacket, and usually smokes a pipe. He’s quite posh, and gets up to all sorts of japes and adventures with his servant and Tom Puss. In 1964, Jeanette Toonder, the author’s daughter, unveiled a statue of chamotte clay, later replaced by a bronze sculpture. The original clay work now stands in the Ollie. B. Bommel primary school.

The corn mill, a ground-sail model, called De Bommelaer, stands on the edge of the village. Its stony build, dating from 1735, is key to the village façade. It was almost lost in 1965 when a demolition permit was pending. The Flakkeese Molens foundation for the preservation of local mills took it over and restored it to working glory. You can visit when it’s in operation – usually on Saturdays.