Homecoming of a long-lost bell from 1915

Carillonneur Jan Willem Achterkamp: "A wonderful gift for our university’s anniversary"

February 10 2022

After an absence of more than 80 years, one of Nyenrode’s old bells has returned to the castle. The bell was once part of the bell ensemble that the lord of the castle, Michiel Onnes, had installed in the lantern on the onion-shaped tower in 1916. The purchase has been made partly possible with a donation from the Nyenrode community, facilitated by Stichting Nyenrode Fonds (Nyenrode Fund). Remmelt Vetkamp, vice-chairman of the University Board, accepted the bell on behalf of the university last February 7. 

Ever since 1940, no trace of the bell was found until it suddenly resurfaced in an advertisement on Marktplaats (a Dutch virtual marketplace). The seller had bought the bell at a market about ten years ago. After he had recently put it up for sale, it was pointed out to him that the bell probably originated from Nyenrode Castle. That is when he decided to contact Nyenrode Business University.

The bronze bell, with a diameter of 34 cm, has the size of a bucket and weighs 32 kilos. According to university carillonneur Jan Willem Achterkamp, there is no reason to doubt the origin of the bell: "When I saw it, I recognized the bell immediately. The bell bears the text FACTA SUM A.D. MDCCCCXV PRO CASTRO NYENRODAE [I was made in the year of the Lord 1915 for Nyenrode Castle]. It also bears the coat of arms of Nyenrode and the motto of then castle owner Michiel Onnes: CEDO NULLI [I yield to no one]." 

Carillonneur Jan Willem Achterkamp: "I have inspected the bell and it still sounded absolutely fine." He agreed on a price with the seller and that is how Remmelt Vetkamp, vice-chairman of the University Board, was able to receive the bell on behalf of the university on February 7. The purchase has been made partly possible with a donation from the Nyenrode community, facilitated by Stichting Nyenrode Fonds  (Nyenrode Fund).

Highly valued

Coffee merchant Michiel Onnes (1878-1972) bought Nijenrode at an auction in early 1907 and thus saved the castle from demolition. In years that followed, he had the castle thoroughly restored in a historicizing style. Several monuments on the estate, including the Poortgebouw at the Straatweg and the Koetshuis, date back from this period. 
In 1915, Onnes commissioned the Taylor firm from Loughborough, England, to cast a so-called chime of six bells, which he had hung in the lantern on the onion-shaped castle tower the following year. Achterkamp: "In campanology, bells made by Taylor are highly valued. They are as highly valued as bells made by the famous Hemony brothers from the seventeenth century."

Adopted son

On the returned bell the following cheerful (old-Dutch) lines can be read:

FRANK, ick, vrije, (Frank, I, free)
Kloecke en blije, (Brave and happy,)
Roepe luyd  (Call out loud)
Vreughdemaer (Rejoice)
En jubel uyt. (And cheer.)

"In this text, FRANK refers to the adopted son of the castle lord: Frank Onnes", says communications advisor Helm Horsten, co-author of several books on the history of Nyenrode. "Several references to this Frank were left spread over the estate. He, for example, laid the first stone for the entrance gate at the castle square. A little further down on the estate, you will find the adopted son's playhouse. This dates back to 1912. He also had a gazebo (speelprieel) in the Menagerie, where the boy played in the sandbox or on playground equipment while his governess watched him from a bench. Frank's initials F and O can be seen on it. This gazebo, along with the other monuments of the Menagerie, was restored in 2019."


Escaped the melting furnaces

The original six bells of the chime hung in the tower of Nyenrode until the fall of 1940. Michiel Onnes had already sold the castle and the estate to art dealer Jacques Goudstikker ten years earlier. The latter had died in May 1940 while fleeing from the Nazis, after which the castle fell into the hands of the German Alois Miedl. Miedl shortly thereafter purchased the carillon of Huize Witzand from the Boissevain family from Blaricum, which counted thirteen bells. However, there were duplications: five of those new bells matched in pitch with bells from the chime of Onnes' time. 

Achterkamp explains: "It was decided at the time to keep the bells of the carillon of Huize Witzand together as a whole and install them together in the tower of Nyenrode. The five old bells were removed; of the old chime, only the large bell remained at Nyenrode. That one still rings at the whole hour."

"Since 1940, every trace of those five bells was missing. It was obvious to think that they ended up in melting furnaces during World War II to benefit the German war industry. So now that this bell has been recovered, four bells still remain missing. But the fact that this one was found, also gives me some hope that another one will turn up at some point in time."

Wonderful gift

Carillonneur Achterkamp is very pleased with the returned bell: "I see this as a wonderful gift for our university, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this academic year." The bell does not return to the castle's carillon. We are considering what would be a good spot for this special piece of heritage.

Stichting Nyenrode Fonds (Nyenrode Fund)

Stichting Nyenrode Fonds (Nyenrode Fund), SNF, is the university fund of Nyenrode Business University and its mission is to invest in the past, present and future of the university. The fund makes money available for the preservation of Nyenrode's past, such as its monuments, heritage, and traditions. 
The estate in Breukelen on which the university is located, contributes to the unique experience of studying at Nyenrode. The campus, counting no less than 27 monuments, is ranked among the top 10 most extraordinary business school campuses worldwide. Nyenrode has made huge investments in its heritage in recent years. Great examples are the renovation of the Oranjerie, the Menagerie, the Poortgebouw and of the monumental exit gate, as well as the recent ‘homecoming’ of the bell. 

For heritage projects, Stichting Nyenrode Fonds works closely with alumni and other donors who want to support the work of the fund. If you also want to contribute and, for example, make a next heritage purchase possible, then donate now to our heritage fund or contact Anouk Reitsma, Fundraising and Development Stichting Nyenrode Fonds at a.reitsma@nyenrode.nl.

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