Student - March 1, 2010

Bring back the gallows, say VHL students

In the bad old days there was a gallows hill in the Sysselt woods between Bennekom and Ede. Four VHL Velp students have some idea where it was. They have advised Geldersch Landschap to bring back the gallows. For educational and entertainment purposes.

Students James Schadenberg, Kees Schep, Ron Kamperman and Dennis van Hooren do not know exactly where the gallows hill was. Further research might reveal that. 'But for visualising the history the exact position does not really matter', says Schadenberg. The gallows hill is one of the most striking features of the history of Sysselt woods.
Schadenberg and his group are writing up that history for Geldersch Landschap, as part of their minor in Archaeology and Cultural History. They delved into the Gelderland archive in Arnhem, turned libraries inside out, spoke to local amateur historians, and combed the contour maps of the area for signs of significant height differences. They got quite a kick out of it. Schadenberg: 'Archaeological investigation. You feel just like a detective sometimes.'
Ede is planning a new housing estate to the east of the town. This will make the Sysselt woods even more important as a leisure area. The VHL students drew attention to the history and made recommendations for making it more visible. 'The nice thing about Sysselt is that a lot is known about it', says Schadenberg. 'You cannot find this much information about just any old forest area. Although a lot of things are not very clearly written.' It was especially the more recent post-seventeenth century history that was written up properly. Bailiffs kept careful records of economic developments on 'their' land. The signs of these developments can still be seen, if you know what to look for. Ancient road routes, for example, earthen game barriers and hedges. A good section of one of the old game barriers has survived and runs for 15 km between Wageningen and Meulunteren.
Gallow hill
But the most thrilling feature of the woods is the gallows hill. Schadenberg thinks it's the ideal spot for presenting history visually, with hardly a word needed. The historical gallows was positioned on a hill along one of the main roads that used to cross the area. It was clearly visible from Ede and surroundings, as a warning to people with bad intentions. To restore those views, Geldersch Landschap should fell a few trees, the VHL students suggest.