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Den Hem Castle – A Medieval Marvel in Modern-Day Utrecht

Den Hem Castle

Den Hem Castle is known locally as Hamtoren (Ham Tower) or Ridderhofstad den Ham. The castle sits in the village of Vleuten in the Utrecht province, just north of the Utrecht-Rotterdam railway. Although the tower has had a tumultuous history, its keep still remains today.

Den Hem Castle History

Den Hem Castle was first mentioned in 1325 and, at the time, was listed as a residential tower. It is believed that the original tower’s purpose was for an inlet of the river Rhine in 1260. The tower would provide the inlet with superior protection and its owner would have the ability to exercise their power over the area. In its early years, the tower consisted of nothing more than a dungeon, a tower with a few floors and a basement that had no access to the outside world.

Ham TowerThe castle was once the home of the Utenham family. In 1481, the tower was partially damaged. Restorations were made and a second tower was also built. Just one year after the tower was damaged, Frederick Utenham was beheaded after choosing the side of the bishop rather than the citizens of Utrecht.

The tower that still stands today partly dates back to the 13th century, although the present-day tower was not raised until 1642. It stands 7 storeys high, 9 meters wide and 10 meters long. Its walls are nearly 2 m thick. Beneath the keep lies a vaulted basement where remains of a prison and a fireplace were found. Each storey of the tower had wooden floors and fireplaces. It is believed that the first floor housed the tower’s kitchen.

In 1711, the castle was passed over to the Hacfort family through marriage and would remain in the family until the late 1800s. In 1870, the castle was torn down, but the 27 meter high keep still remains today. Remains of the castle’s extensions can still be seen with remnants of the castle still visible on the keep’s exterior stones. To preserve what little is left of the castle, the keep’s roof was made impermeable to rainwater in 1943.

Visiting Den Hem Castle

Den Hem Castle stood empty and in disrepair for a number of years, but has recently been fully restored. Den Hem Castle is privately owned and inhabited. As a result, the interior is rarely seen and the structure is not open the public. For curious and persistent travelers, the castle can still be viewed and admired from a distance.