Kapelle sits in the middle of Zuid-Beveland’s green heart. The village is probably best known as the birthplace of two famous Dutch people: author Annie M.G. Schmidt and former Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
The first traces of habitation date back to Roman times. The current village was formed along the banks of a waterway that ran here in the 10th century. The lord of Maalstede built an imposing castle in Kapelle, but only the island where it stood remains.
The laying of the Postweg road was quite important, as it connected the village to the rest of Zeeland. Construction of the Bergen op Zoom - Vlissingen railway line also stimulated the village’s growth.
Fruit cultivation is an economic pillar of Kapelle. Thanks to the commercial activities around the fruit industry, the village developed enormously in the 20th century. Visit the Fruit Cultivation Museum to learn all about this industry in Zeeland.
The Van der Have seed company was an iconic business in 20th-century Kapelle. From its local roots, it grew into a multinational firm called the Koninklijke VanderHave Groep. That company merged into Advanta and was later subsumed by the French company Limagrain. They still have a branch in Kapelle, which is engaged in breeding, producing and processing grass seeds.
Kapelle is also home to the only French military cemetery in the Netherlands. On 16 May 1940, German and French troops fought a fierce battle nearby. The 65 French soldiers who died that day were buried by Kapelle residents, and the French government established a military cemetery after the war. All the French soldiers killed in the Netherlands during the Second World War are now buried there.
The Dutch Reformed Church in Kapelle started its long life as a Catholic church devoted to the Virgin Mary. The church’s choir dates to 1300, and its 65-metre-high tower is the highest church tower in Zuid-Beveland. Beloved Dutch writer Annie M.G. Schmidt was born in the parsonage.
Several well-known politicians also come from Kapelle. In addition to Jan Peter Balkenende, Kapelle produced Jan Kees de Jager, a former Dutch Finance Minister. Kapelle is also the hometown of Huib Eversdijk, who held seats in both chambers of the Dutch parliament. As a senator, he was chair of the Committee for European Affairs.