The castle of the Van Cammingha family
The castle of the lords of Ameland, in its earliest form, dates back to approximately 1425 and was built by Ritsche Jelmera. In 1604 it was extended on the westside with a large transept by Sicco van Cammingha. On the eastside the graveyard is found, from the fourteenth century until 1838 the location of the small church within which the gravestone of the Van Cammingha family, which is still present in the little "baarhuis"".
Lords of Ameland
The first Lord of Ameland was Ritsche Jelmera, a Frisian nobleman, which from 1424 represented the interests of the Ameland population, who were self-sufficient until that time. On the east side of Ballum he built an estate, and called it Jelmerastate, the Castle of Ballum.
The Van Cammingha castle
In his olderst form, the Castle was built around 1425 by the first Lord, or Chieftain, of Ameland, Ritsche Jelmera. In 1604 this essentially simple house was extended with a large transept and enhanced by Sicco van Cammingha, Lord of Ameland from 1583 until 1624. The building was built on heavy, arched basements meant to entertain the Lord and featured spacious rooms and a court room. With this extension, the large tower was also built, which incorporated a pine cone. Above the monumental main entrance, the crests of Sicco and his wife Catharina van Cammingha were applied, with the following text; ‘Nemo Sine Cruce’; Noone without a cross.
In 1704 Ameland was sold for 170.000 carolus guilders to hereditary governor of Friesland Johan Willem Friso, as a result of which the hereditary lordship was passed onto the house of Orange. On April 28th 1828 the castle was sold for demolition to Jan Scheltema, merchant and contractor in Nes, for a total of 1250 guilders.
The castle was demolished in 1828, Ameland was sold to the house of Orange in 1704 and nobody used the derelict ancient building anymore. The current town hall is located roughly in the same location as the place where lords of the past would determine the affairs of Ameland.
What remained of this famous building?
In the archives drawings and descriptions can be found but on the location itself there is nothing to see. In the soil small remains may still be present, as were found before during construction of the town hall. This way a number of old fragments were found in April 1997, such as a brickwork pit, which could be the foundation of the old tower, and an ancient waterwell with interesting details.
At the east side of the castle the cemetary of Ballum can be found, which was the site of a small church from early 14th century until 1838. This church is most likely older than the castle of Ballum. The dimensions of the church measure 19,90 m. by 8,30 m. and fitted with a three-sided chevet. The walls with a thickness of 54 and 67 cm were built with special bricks (called "kloostermoppen"), the foundation is still present at the cemetary and is marked with shells. In 1640 the church was refurbished after which this was repeated in 1773. In that time the monumental pulpit, originally from the big church of Harlingen, was placed. This pulpit was created in 1604 by Claes Jelles and can now be found in the Dutch reformed church of Ballum.
The floor of the church was covered with different tiles called "estrikken": non-glazed 20 by 20 cm flagstones of 4,6 cm thickness which were most likely used as a path through the church. Given the thickness of these flagstones, these will be the oldest tiles. There were glazed 13,5 x 13,5 flagstones with 2 cm thickness in the colours yellow/brown and green, these tiles were possibly used for the entire floor of the church, with the exception of the walking path. On the east side of the gravestone the chancel was covered with "estrikken" measuring 24 x 24 cm and a thickness of 3,5 cm in the colours yellow and green.
In the church lay the gravestone of the "Heren (Lords)" of Ameland , this monumental gravestone was preserved and can be found in the "baarhuis" on the cemetary. The stone with the dimensions of 3,80 m. x 2,25 m. can be regarded as one of the largest gravestones in Friesland. The stone was made by Vincent Lucas from Franeker in 1552. On this Renaissance stone we see a harnassed knight, and an inscription with the text; ‘Int jaer ons heren MVc – lij den x octobris sterf den edeelen en erentvheste welgghe – bore heerh Wytso va Cammingha – heer van Amelandt en is hier onder begraven’ (In the year of our Lord MVc on 10 October the noble and honorable Lord Wytso van Cammingha, Lord of Ameland, die and was buried here below) . Below on the cartouche are the names of those who have been interred in the underlying basement.
Noticeable is that the gravestone contains two parts, i.e. a coverstone with a thickness of 12 cm and a bottom stome with a thickness of 10 cm. The total weight of the gravestone is some 3000 kg. Under this stone a basement is found with a length of 3,38 m., a width of 1,38 m., and a depth of 1,40 m. This basement contains 11 skulls.
According to the inscriptions on the gravestone, in this basement rest:
Lord Wijtso van Cammingha died; 10 October 1552
Lord Hayo van Cammingha died; 19 December 1556
Pieter van Cammingha died; 29 October 1575
Miss Franske van Minnema, died; 15 October 1574
Lord Pieter van Cammingha, died; … March 1638
Mrs…(Sjouck) van Ockinga, died; 4 April 1638
Wytze van Cammingha, died; 29 Januari 1641
The walls of the basement are built with Frisian claystone, in the western wall a separate section with a width of 80 cm was built in. This part was built with the special bricks called "kloostermoppen". It is likely that the deceased was placed in the basement through this section. The floor of this basement is covered with "estrikken" with dimensions of 13,5 x 13,5 cm.