Case Studies - Commons - The Netherlands

Marke Diepenheim, The Netherlands


Type of institution for collective action


Name/description institution  

Marke Diepenheim


The Netherlands


Province of Overijssel

Name of city or specified area 

The area of the marke surrounded the small town of Diepenheim (also known by it's nickname 'Stedeke' ['small city']), situated in the Twente area of the province of Overijssel.

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)


Surface area and boundaries

As registration was lacking (see further on), we only have figures for the second half of the nineteenth century. After corrections based on the cadastral registration of 1832-1835, in 1835 the marke Diepenheim consisted of slightly over 575 hectares of land, mainly consisting of heath land and meadows with only minor plots of woodland. In the case of this marke, there seem to have been no boundary markers like  stones or poles, as was the case in many other marks, but there were monumental trees or ditches as markers on some sides.

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

Unclear, maybe twelfth or thirteenth century.

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

Apart from archival documents on the dissolution process, there are few other archival sources on the history of this marke. The first more extensive documents on this marke date from the second half of the eighteenth century. Even in the dissolution process in the nineteenth century no reference was ever made to a foundation year/age, locally there was no oral tradition on the origin of the marke. 

Foundation act present?

No, see also above.

Description of Act of foundation

N/a, see also above.

Year of termination of institution

21 February 1861.

Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?


Act regarding termination present?

De jure, the final meeting of the assembly of the marke Diepenheim was held on 21 February 1861 (which - not accidentally - happened to be the 67th birthday of the chairman of the assembly of the marke). This meeting concluded a process of dividing the possessions of the marke and the dissolution of the marke as an institution, started at the meeting of  the marke assembly on 31 July 1852, at which meeting the decision to dissolve the marke was taken, followed by the act of 27 June 1854 whereby the common grounds were divided, and the marke de facto came to an end.

Description Act of termination

The minutes of the meeting of the assembly of the marke of 21 February 1861 state the final dissolution of the marke and the abolition of the function of chairman of the assembly of the marke.

Reason for termination?

Just like the other marks, the marke Diepenheim was subject to the legislation of 1810 that sought to divide the uncultivated lands.  However, until the 1840s the assembly of the marke decided not to start any dissolution process, due to the resistance of smaller claimants : division  would result in a lot of small plots of land, each plot being too small to graze cattle on. As the marke had a positive financial balance, there was no immediate financial need to divide the marke, as was the case for many other marken. In 1852 however, an advisory committee of the marke advised to divide the lands of the marke, as the marke as institution had only limited judicial and financial means left to defend it's property rights, whereas individual ownership seemed to hold better means of defending ownership. This proposal was now accepted by the assembly of the marke, as the large landowners sought to re-strengthen their social position (partly weakened by the loss of old manorial rights), farmers owning large plots of land sought ways of gaining more profit from the land (in combination with increasing food prices), and small landowners now mostly lived in the city and could be compensated by financial means. Although the judicial effectuation of these measures took almost a decade (1852-1861), de facto the process already was completed in 1854.

Recognized by local government?

Although the archival documents contain no 'bill of rights', the minutes from the assembly meetings show that the local mayor [burgemeester]  attended all meetings of the marke and participated in its committees; the local government thus recognized  the markegenootschap of Diepenheim as a legal instition.

Concise history of institution

Due to a lack of historical sources, we know little about the origins of the marke Diepenheim as an institution: the earliest minutes in the markenboek date from 1765. Part of the sources may have been destroyed by the fire of 1605, but it is also likely that some documents we would find in other marken simply never have existed in the marke Diepenheim. A probable cause for this may have been the major influence of the five large estate-owners around the marke.Their position was strongly based in medieval times. The chair specific history of the management of this marke, which was strongly based on its medieval hierarchy. The management of the marke was in the hands of one of those  five so-called 'borgmannen' [translated: guarantors; the function of guarantor dates back until the twelfth century, when the lord of the Diepenheim mansion appointed guarantors to help him in times of need and to safeguard his properties]. As this system had been in force for centuries, there may have been no need for the participants of the marke to formalize this well-known structure in writing.


In the third quarter of the eighteenth century, the assembly of the marke conferred for the first time about dividing the marke, the outcome of this discussion however was that the marke should not sell major plots of land or divide the land among the commoners as. In 1810, the Royal Decree seeking to divide uncultivated land was discussed within the assembly of the mark and a committee was established to look into the effects for the marke Diepenheim. Strangely enough, the markenboek - although there seem to be no pages missing - holds no records of any meetings between 1810 and 1819; the findings of the aforesaid committee therefore are unknown to us. In 1837-1839 a second committee investigated the effects of the newly issued tax and legislation on common land and concluded that implementation of the proposed actions would leave far too little plots of land to offer the entitled commoners for grazing their livestock. A third committee issued its recommendations in May 1852, stating that division of the land of the marke would be more beneficial, as individual ownership of land would hold better judicial and financial means to defend that ownership than the reduced legal and financial means that would be to the disposal of the marke as an institution. After the advise of the committee was accepted, the implementation of this decision took two years; and then the financial liquidation took another seven years, resulting in the final formal abolition of the marke Diepenheim on 21 February 1861.



Page from the markenboek of the marke Diepenheim, dating from 1767, the year in which the first markenboek was introduced.

Photo: Jaap van Soest.

Click here for a larger version



Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

  • 1177: first mentioning of the Diepenheim mansion, destroyed in battle, rebuilt in 1180.
  • 1224: the chapel of the Diepenheim mansion was promoted to parish church and obtined its own parish jurisdiction.
  • 1767: first markenboek was introduced; it also contains the minutes of a prior meeting from 1765.
  • 1810: Royal Decree seeks to divide uncultivated lands; effect on marke Diepenheim unknown as minutes of meetings lack for 1810-1819.
  • 1837-1839: investigation on the effects new tax regulation and legislation would have on the marke; it was concluded that division of the marke would not be beneficial to the entitled users, as division would only create a large number of small plots of land, each plot being insufficiently large to graze livestock.
  • 1852: advisory committee advises to divide the lands of the marke, as individual ownership would offer better legal and financial protection for the land owners over ownership in common.
  • 1854: Act of 27 June 1854 whereby the common grounds were divided, and the marke de facto came to an end.
  • 1852-1861: implementation of the division and dissolution of the marke.
  • 21 February 1861: formal dissolution of the marke Diepenheim.

Membe rship

Numbers of members (specified)

It is very hard to determine the number of entitled users over the years, as the financial records of the marke were not available in writing before 1765. But even then, the consecutive financial officers in charge of keeping the books of the marke appeared to be incapable of producing adequate financial records: the preserved financial records show that it often took more than a decade (and in some cases even several decades!) to produce any financial overview. Only documents related to the final dissolution of the marke show the number of people involved: next to the lists of entitled users from the estates (the five so-called 'borgmannen') and farms (but only the farmers who held  private ownership of their fields), which lists were established in the mid-nineteenth century, the official acts on the division of the the lands of the marke show that these plots were divided among over 330 claimants, some of which were institutional participants (like the city of Deventer).

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

Although we only have archival documents over a limited time frame (1765-1861), the minutes show that the common land could only be used by holders of landed property in the area; some inhabitants of the small town also had certain limited rights. Nine old farms (the so-called 'Negenhuizen' ['Nine Houses']) also had ancient use rights in the adjacent marke Stokkum, including the right to dig peat and to cut '50 axes of wood'.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

See above.

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?

The regulation of the marke does not state any revoking of rights. However, the marke acted severely against trespassers from outside, and against members who dug more peat or kept more cattle than they were entitled to, or who secretely added marke-land to their private property.

Advantages of membership?

The main advantage for all entitled users was the right to use the natural resources of the marke (within the prescribed limits), which mainly consisted of grazing livestock and digging peat, sods, and heath.

Obligations of members? 

All members had to comply with the regulation, recorded in the markenboek, which regulation prescribed:

  • to not harvest resources beyond specified amounts;
  • the amount of animals allowed to be kept and the way in which these animals should be kept (regarding location and timeframe, but also containing prescriptions about how animals ought to be kept: members were obliged to brand their cattle and to ring the noses of their pigs, before they were allowed to graze them on the common);
  • the penning in of animals gone astray or animals that were put on the common illegally.


Literature on case study

Van Soest, J., 2013. Het einde van de marke van Diepenheim. s.l. [Diepenheim]: Historische vereniging Old Deep'n.

Sources on case study

  • Historisch Centrum Overijssel
    • Archief Marken in Overijssel (nr. 0157), Marke Diepenheim, inv.nrs. 231-252.

Links to further information on case study:



Also the information by the Oudheidkamer Twente on the Gericht Diepenheim contains useful background info, but contains some errors regarding the situation on the marke Diepenheim; for the remarks by Jaap van Soest on this publication click here.

Case study composed by

René van Weeren/Jaap van Soest, based on Jaap van Soest's Het einde van de marke van Diepenheim.