Built in 1620 in Dutch Renaissance style, the Korenmetershuis (Grain Measurer’s House) on the Nieuwezijds Kolk 28 is one of only five guild houses left in Amsterdam and one of the very few detached buildings in the inner city. Before the Korenmetershuis was built, the grain measurers were housed in a wooden building on the (now disappeared) Oude Brug (Old Bridge) across the Damrak. The building is a national monument.
Since 1967 the building houses Erfgoedvereniging Heemschut (Heritage Organisation Heemschut). Through the years the building has had many changes, gables were opened, windows were bricked, roof dormers were added. In 1898 much was carefully restored to the original state and the shutters were put back. The stained glass windows on the upper floor show the grain measurers tools and stylized grain.
The guilds were disbanded in 1798, but the Korenmetershuis kept the original function, it just wasn’t called Grain Measurer’s Guild anymore. The building is not open to the public, except maybe once a year on Open Monuments Day.
Grain Measurers Guild
At the time grain was one of the main markets for Amsterdam, called the “moedernegotie” (mother of all trades). Grain bearers, grain putters and grain measurers were all employed by the city as sworn-in civil servants, to ensure that the grain trade was conducted in a fair and orderly manner. They checked for correct volume, kept track of the sales and of the delivery and calculated the amount of tax to be paid.
The grain putters kept the bushel level and fixed, the grain bearers put the grain in the bushel and the grain measurers leveled off the grain with a round wooden stick and measured it. All these worked together as brother-guilds, and from 1654 on they were united under one guild. The tools of their trade can still be seen on the relief above the door of the Korenmetershuis.
In Dutch there is an expression which stems from this grain trade, “aan de strijkstok blijven hangen” (clung to the leveling stick, meaning rake-off, resellers illegally or unfairly taking a share of the profits).
On the Brouwersgracht 163, corner with the Palmgracht, you can see a gable stone from 1729 with a grain measurer, using the strekel (leveling stick) to level off the grain in the bushel.
Old Content Units
Before the state regulation of measurement units, each city used their own different units. In Amsterdam a mud or mudde (from Latin modius, an ancient Roman unit for dry measures) was 111.5 liter (29.45 gallon) and equalled 4 bushels. A bushel (schepel) was 27.9 liter (7.37 gallon). 27 mud was a last (cargo), equal to 3,010 liter (795 gallon).
The Watergeuzen (Water Beggars) were a homeless group of Calvinists who had fled the repression by the Spanish Duke of Alva and had united with thieves and adventurers, living of piracy after they had lost all their belongings. They had been contacted by William of Orange in 1568 to support his cause. The Watergeuzen regularly disturbed the existing trade routes.
On the 23rd of November 1577 the Watergeuzen tried to invade Amsterdam by stealth via the Haarlemmerpoort (the 2nd Haarlemmerpoort near the current Martelaarsgracht) with a small army of around 500, led by Herman Helling. He mistook the Korenmetershuis to be the Amsterdam City Hall, which gave city guards time to regroup on Dam square and drive them out of the city. Amsterdam stayed under Spanish rule, for the time being. But after a siege, the city surrendered in February 1578 and signed a contract to join the Staatsen (a resistance group against the Spanish rule, led by the Staten-Generaal of the Netherlands).
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.