Historie

Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie van de historie van het kasteel.

A Short History of Asten Castle From 1399 to the present

In many ways, the village of Asten enters history as a frontier settlement. From the thirteenth century onwards, it served as an expanding reclamation area along the western fringes of the Peel, an extensive region of desolate and inhospitable moors. It was also the natural border between the duchies of Brabant and Gelre; its legacy still lingers on in the present boundary between the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg. Enterprising and pioneering missionaries like St Willibrord, monks of the Premonstratensian order, and secular landlords like the Lords of Cuijck, opened up this wild marchland for permanent cultivation and settlement.
 
In 1399 the Huys tot Asten appears in our sources for the first time. Starting as a small mansio or manor-house, it soon developed into a true castle, that is consisting of a fortified residence and a farmstead. At the end of a long sixteenth century of devastating crop failures and armies marauding the area, the castle was refurbished as a Renaissance-style country-house. The farm also received its present U-shape with characteristic gate-tower. This is also the time that one of the most colourful and notorious lords of the castle, Bernard van Merode, managed to expand the estate at the expense of various supposed witches and wizards. Bernard, eagerly assisted by his wife Catherina van Brederode, personally tortured them to confession, sentenced them to death and, of course, appropriated their possessions.
Although the castle was renovated and embellished in 1680 under Everard van Doerne, it soon fell into disrepair, primarily because absentee landlords took much less interest in it. As a result, the elegant country-house of the seventeenth century gradually decayed into the dilapidated summer residence and hunting lodge of the eighteenth century. Its new lords were mainly Dutch regents who preferred to stay in the far-off cities of Holland, leaving the occupation of the castle to the occasional tenant or overseer. Simultaneous with the decline of manorial rights, the situation of the castle deteriorated further during the nineteenth century when the local population began to use the ramshackle building as a local stone pit.
The process of ongoing decline was halted by the self-willed initiative of the Baron Clemens van Hövell tot Westerflier, who, together with his brother Alexander, inherited the estate in 1917. Unfortunately, his imaginative reconstruction of the northern wing was destroyed by a German firebomb in 1944, after only a few years of habitation. In 1984, three years after the death of Baron Clemens jr, the dowager Brigitte born d'Espinay St. Luc sold most of the estate to the present Foundation which aims at the conservation of the estate and whose members live in the southern wing of the castle's farmstead.