Cultural Entities 


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1. Overview




North Sea, in the west the Harlebucht (Harlingerland) and furtheron the border to the district of Wittmund, in the east the Außenjade respectively the town of Wilhelmshaven, the southern boundary is rather uncertain and lies somewhere in the northern part of the Maadebucht


Approx. 285 km²

Location - map:

Marsh landscape in the northern part of the district of Friesland with the communities Wangerland, Jever, Schortens as well as in the eastern part of the community Sande, Lower Saxony, Germany.

Origin of name:

From ‘wanga’ , meaning grassland or plain.

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Comparable both for its cultural and heritage landscape to Harlingerland and Auricherland and other cultural entities around the Jade and Weser. Shares the East Frisian “ Gulf House” style.

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

East-Frisian “Gulf-house“, dwelling mounds landscape, church and village dwelling mounds, settlements following the course of dykes, sluice harbours, irregular blocks of land of the Altmarsch (old marsh) region, organised strip fields of the Grodenmarsch region.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The cultural entity of Wangerland/Jeverland is in the northern part of the present district of Friesland. Wangerland forms the northern part of the Jeverland and is a historical name which dates back to the Frisian area wanga, meaning grassland or plain. The islands along the coast, the dune island of Wangerooge, as well as the unsettled flat sand plates of Minsener Oog and Oldeoog, are also part of the district area.

The Jeverland dates back to the historic territory of of Jever which developed in the 14th century and combined the Wangerland, great parts of Östringen, as well as the Banter Viertel in the north-western part of Rüstringen. A precise definition of the boundaries of the Jeverland is rather difficult, due to changing political power structures and border conflicts as well as natural disasters which caused various territorial changes. Examples for these processes include the development of the small-scale immediate lordships of Inhausen and Kniphausen in the present area of the town of Wilhelmshaven towards the end of the 15th century, and the sea incursions in the medieval period of the Harlebucht and the Jadebusen.

To the north the Wangerland and Jeverland are bordered by the sea while the Außenjade and the Jadebusen form the eastern border. The southernmost districts reach almost to Sande. The western border originates in the 15th century separation of Ostfriesland and Jeverland (Oldenburg). This border remains such a strong institution in the minds of the people, that in 1977 the merging of the districts Wittmund and Friesland had to be reversed.

The Wangerland and Jeverland largely comprises a completely flat marsh landscape. Only in the south-western part of the Jeverland does part of the East Frisian-Oldenburger Geest, together with its towns of Jever and Schortens, reach far into the marshes. Along the Geest ridge there are many border fens, known as the Sietland. The marsh landscape can be divided into an old and a young marsh which differ clearly in their genesis and formation. The old marsh came into existence during the post-glacial sea-level changes in prehistoric times and has been settled since then. The young marshes on the other hand are the results of land reclamation schemes following medieval land loss to rising sea-levels. The younger marshes are mainly in the Crildumer Bucht area, west of the Jadebusen and in the Maadebucht. Most of today’s coast line was in place by the end of the 19th century. The composition of the marshland soils echoes their origins. The old marshes comprise densely bedded, waterlogged, clay soils which support ‘classic’ grassland habitats, whilst the younger and sandier sea marshes make quite good arable land. The coast comprises tidal flats, dune islands and sand flats, these form part of the national park of Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer.

2.2 Present landscape
There is a stark contrast between the Jever Geest with its fens, birch trees, bank hedges and tree-lined roads and the wide-open sparsely-wooded marsh landscape. The old marsh strip in the north-east of the cultural entity covers an area up to 10 km wide and c. 15 km long. The shape and outline of this region can still be clearly distinguished in today’s landscape at the Jadebusen, even after the re-dyking of the Harlebucht and the Crildumer Bucht. A very distinctive feature is the course of the road along the well preserved and slightly raised 14th century dike line which encloses the old marsh region. Its origin is well documented by place names such as Tettenser, Medenser, Wiarder or Wüppelser Altendeich (old dyke).

The contrasting history of the marsh areas is also reflected in the different land use and settlement structures which characterise the landscapes of the Jeverland. In the old marshes the fieldscape comprises small-scale irregular plots, in contrast to the regular large-scale blocks of land of the Grodenmarssch regions at the Jadebusen and in the Maadebucht. The old marsh is also characterised by dwelling-mounds (warf or terpen) with their buildings and trees. The Grodenmarsch regions are characterised by settlements aligned along the dyke lines. The buildings in both areas are characterised by impressive farm houses of the ‘Gulf’-house type.

3. Landscape and settlement history 

The Wangerland/Jeverland has a complex settlement history, and the marsh landscape in particular reflects man’s continual struggle to reclaim and retain land from the sea, as evidenced by the characteristic dykes and dwelling mounds.

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
Large scale study of the North German mud flats and the adjacent Geest have successfully progressed, due to the efforts of the Institute of Historical Coastal Research and municipal, regional and local archaeologists. As a geologically recent area the Weser-Ems area is marked by quarternary deposits. The tidal river marshes of the Jeverland/Wangerland have developed since the end of the last Ice Age.

The exact date of the first settlement in the Jeverland/Wangerland is based on comparison with neighbouring areas. At the beginning of the post-Ice Age, today’s southern North Sea coast was dry land and the North Sea coast was located in the area of the Dogger Bank. It is presumed that the Jeverland/Wangerland’s tidal river-marshes were frequented during the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic period by hunter-gatherers. It is also possible that sites relating to this period of occupation are located beneath the marsh-soils and their millennia of sedimentary deposits.

The Geest has probably been permanently settled since the Neolithic, c. 4.000 BC, by farmers. However, the exact extent of this settlement is still unknown. The oldest surviving archaeological monuments are sited near Schortens: cemeteries consisting of burial mound cemeteries which have been in use since c. 2000 BC.

The standard of knowledge about the early settlement of the marsh is also fragmentary. There are sporadic settlement sites from the time around the birth of Christ. In the beginning the marsh settlements were built on flat ground. With the subsequent rise in sea level during the first century BC, the building of dwelling mounds began. These were formed by the heaping up of dung and clay to raise the settlement site above the surrounding marsh. There were several hundred dwelling mounds with villages, churches and single farmsteads scattered across the Jeverland, mainly erected during medieval and early modern times.

The increasing threat of continually rising storm tides forced the marsh population to build their villages on large joint dwelling mounds. The location of these settlements can still be seen in the rows of dwelling mounds in the old marsh. Like beads on a string, the mounds are aligned along the oldest areas of firm marsh land in the Wangerland and thus mark the fringes of the oldest settlement areas in this region. The village dwelling mound Ziallerns in the district of Tettens is unique. It probably is the best preserved and most self-contained unit of its kind in the Jeverland. Ziallerns lies in the old marsh on a system of priels (drainage channels) which probably once linked the Harlebucht and the Jadebusen. Boreholes have shown that the dwelling mound was erected over a ground-level settlement dating to the Roman Iron Age. The nearly circular construction, with a radial inner structure, is 200 m wide and almost 5 m high, and rising clear above the surrounding land. The mound is enclosed by a circular path from which other agricultural roads radiate like a spider’s web into the landscape. Other impressive examples of villages on dwelling mounds are the Langwurten (long dwelling mounds) of Neuwarfen and Wüppels.

After the Conversion of the Frisians to Christianity in the 10th century, people began to build more and more churches. Since the mid 12th century wooden churches were replaced by massive granite stone churches. Churches were either built on separate mounds erected near the village dwelling mound, or in the centre of existing high village dwelling mounds. Many churches in the Geest, like that in Jever, are also sited on artificial earth mounds to make them more prominent in the landscape. In the Wangerland and Jeverland there is a unique concentration of Romanesque granite block churches, forming a very characteristic features of the landscape. The reasons for the building of such an unusual number of impressive churches in an agricultural setting within a short period of time during the 13th century are still largely unknown.

Historic landscape with dwelling mound nearby Minsen

Historic landscape with dyke nearby Hohenkirchen

The construction of dykes began in the 11th century. The first ones were circular dykes which protected the fields and meadows of a village rather than the settlement itself. Later these systems were gradually extended, until they linked up to form the so-called Altdeich (old dyke) which enclosed the whole Wangerland. The old dwelling mounds were not however abandoned. Even though they were not strictly necessary anymore because of the safety provided by the dykes, they still protected the settlements from the soddenness of the ground during the winter months. Gradually the dwelling mounds merged to form villages, and the medieval settlement of the newly gained agricultural areas proceeded. Unlike the other marsh regions of the North Sea coast, the dwelling mound landscape of the old marsh of the Jeverland largely comprises widely scattered settlements. In the new marsh Deichreihensiedlungen (linear settlements along dykes) developed, as demonstrated to the north of the Maadebucht and south of Wilhelmshaven.

Historic landscape with drainage ditch and relics of a castle

Historic settlement landscape with dyke at Pakens

3.2 Early Modern Times
The settlement of the new marsh in the Crildumer Bucht began in medieval and early modern times. The principal settlement of the Wangerland since the medieval period was Hohenkirchen. The history of the region is however very complex. Originally the East Frisian peninsula was divided into two counties, however this developed into an almost complete independence of the Frisian countries (“Friesische Freiheit”) in the 12th century. The Frisian country communities were subject to a cooperative self-administration.

Historic landscape with dyke nearby Pakens

After the mid 14th century some members of the farmers’ upper class developed as local potentates, known as chieftains. As a consequence, the 14th and 15th centuries were marked by power-struggles, with single chiefs trying to extend their spheres of influence. Competition between the chiefs included improving the appearance of their dwellings and surroundings and the construction of castles in the form of tower-like stone houses which were fortified by banks and ditches. None of these castles have been preserved in their original layout.

Whilst several small castles from the Renaissance (e.g. Rickelhausen near Westrum or Canarienhausen near Waddewarden) have completely vanished, there are some good examples of this type of building, e.g. Groß Scheep near Wiefels and the particularly impressive Schloss Fischhausen near Wüppels, the latter underwent modification in 1578. The Sibetsburg used to be one of the most powerful castles of its time. Here the Rüstringer chiefs ruled until their downfall in 1433, this led to the rise of the dominion of Jever. Even though the castle was demolished in 1435 the castle hill as well as the bailey and the extensive system of banks and ditches can still clearly be seen in the townscape of Wilhelmshaven. The castle in Jever with its characteristic onion spire dates back to a defensive work of the 14th century, whilst today’s representative four-winged structure was built in the 16th century. In Gödens and Kniphausen, the chiefs’ residences of the 14th century have also been preserved, although they have undergone widespread modifications, as at the castle of Jever.

Moated castle of Gödens

Afforested relics of a bastion nearby Gödens

3.3 Modern Times
Agriculture is the traditional economy of the Jeverland. It has characterised and transformed the landscape, particularly in the last century. Several periods can be clearly distinguished which have led to distinctive changes in the land use, or in its intensity, in turn causing changes to the appearance of the cultural landscape. After the medieval settlement phases and the land reclamation around 1500 there was an increase in the agricultural productivity of the Jeverland.

The agricultural economy, which had been largely animal based changed to tillage after 1650 due to the influence of wider global economics. Strong population growth and a rising demand for food promoted the trade in grain as well as meat and dairy products. This led to a temporary domination of the cultivation of grain in the 18th and 19th centuries which was followed by a stronger emphasis on dairy production in the old marsh by 1900. A further change was caused by the beginning of the industrialisation of agriculture after 1950.

All these phases had different impacts on the cultural landscape of the Wanger- and Jeverland which still can be seen in today’s landscape. One of the most characteristic features of this period is the “Gulf”-house. These impressive dwelling and farm buildings reflect the high productivity of the agriculture of this time. The acquisition of agricultural land and the enlargement of the farms resulted in the consolidation of agricultural enterprises and a lack of reallocation of land (Flurbereinigung) in the Jeverland. This had a positive affect on the preservation of traditional field systems. Relicts of a temporary boom of grain production, which should be definitely preserved within the modern landscape, are the ridge and furrow-systems (Wölbäcker), now largely relict in meadows.

4. Modern development and planning

Many characteristic features of the cultural landscape of Wangerland and Jeverland have been preserved until today: including the distinct landscape of dwelling mounds with its villages and big farmsteads. There have however also been changes to the landscape since the second half of the 20th century, which continue until today. The alterations result mainly from the agri-industrial structural change in agriculture. This has led to an emphasis on agricultural techniques, ignorance of the natural environment, and the loss of employment in agriculture. In addition there are new claims on the land, like tourism which is pushing into the hinterland of the coasts and wind-power. One of the biggest infra-structure projects of Lower Saxony is planned in the neighbouring Wilhelmshaven, the Jade-Weser-Port.

4.1 Land use
Wangerland and Jeverland are dominated by an agricultural economy, and agriculturee is the principal land use in this region and cause of the cultural landscape. Because of the different soil conditions the agricultural use varies according to area: the older parts of the marsh, with their heavy, wet soils, are mainly used as pasture, whilst the younger parts of the marsh along the coastline and beside the Außenjade are used for corn growing. There is no increase in the growing of renewable resources even though there is a new law (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz [EEG]) to promote the cultivation of those plants. Corn-growing is still economically productive.

The abolition of the milk quota will pose a problem for the economy of the older marshes with its high percentage of grassland. There are only very few possibilities for these farmsteads for independent conditioning. In addition the payments for not using the meadows as pasturage are not sufficient to ensure a farmers income. Therefore, a program especially for cattle farmers of disadvantaged areas is needed. There are for example of the Lower Saxonian “Agri-Environmental-Program” of the Ministry of Agriculture promoting pasturage. A complete change to the historic agricultural use of this area would have devastating consequences for the preservation of the historical cultural landscape.

The change in agricultural practices, which lead to bigger cattle herds and a movement to new, larger farmsteads on the outskirts of the villages, have also affected the characteristic settlement structures. These new farmsteads with modern stables or chicken-mast-houses dominate the landscape.

Many of the cultural monuments, which were originally used for agriculture, have lost their function because of this change, and their upkeep is neglected. Only 30 to 70% of the older farm-buildings are still in use today. In addition the modernising of the rural infrastructure can cause damage to single monuments or parts of ensembles. Thus the facades of historical buildings will be changed by introduction of insulation and the old surfaces of streets be altered by the addition of tarmac or concrete (this latter change is particularly pertinent to the important cobble-stone pavements [Klinkerstraßen] in the Wangerland). The introduction of an energy-pass by the energy-saving decree (Energiesparverordnung [EnEV]) will have a particular impact, as houses which do not meet the standards of the decree will suffer from depreciation and the modernisation of building for the sake of saving energy will be encouraged.

4.2 Settlement development
There is an increasing need for land for housing, especially around the main towns of the region like Jever, Schortens, Sande, Hohenkirchen, near the sluices at the Jadebusen, and particularly around Wilhelmshaven. Prior to this, some districts of the city of Wilhelmshaven became somewhat abandoned. This tendency of consumption of land on the Geest, and even more obviously in the Marshes, leads to a loss of traditional settlement structures and the region´s unique landscape. Urban development and administrative urban planning are absolute necessary to control the development, e.g. with concepts for an increasing inner-urban concentration. These problems will become even more pressing when it comes to the building of the Jade-Weser-Port. During the time of construction, between 2007 and 2010, a large quota of employees will be needed, and who will require housing. It is possible that there will be other more wide-reaching effects of the construction of this deep water harbour on the Jeverland, dependent on the establishment of local logistic services besides the freight trade.

Church on a dwelling mound at Sande

Church on a dwelling mound at Wüppels

Since the middle of the 1950’s the coastal region has developed as an important recreational area. With 2 million overnight stays per year, tourism has become one of the most important sources of income in Wangerland, including the isle of Wangerooge. While the tourist opportunities in the marsh regions are mostly limited to “Holiday on a Farm”, there are intensive recreation facilities concentrating around the sluices along the coast, which occupy large areas of land, e.g. campsites, resorts etc. There is also a growing tendency to establish these kinds of structures in the hinterland. A good example is the location in the neighbourhood of Hohenkirchen, where it is planed to install a new kind of recreation area with an artificial pond for swimming and a hotel on a former pit where sand has been removed.

Historic, open landscape with dyke nearby Hohenkirchen

The museum of the castle in Jever and the Institute of Historical Costal Research (Institut für Historische Küstenforschung) in Wilhelmshaven are two of the most important institutions for research and education. Their work is focused on the development of the cultural landscape of the Wangerland and Jeverland. A small regional museum (Heimatstube) on Ziallerns demonstrates the development of the dwelling mounds of the Jeverland.

4.3 Industry and energy
Whilst there are only a few industries in Wangerland and Jeverland, the Groden (what are these ?) are the most important locations for industry in the region. They were built one by one at the Jadebusen in Wilhelmshaven (Voslapper Groden, Rüstersieler Groden and Heppenser Groden). These highly visible industrial structures are now having an effect on the scenery of the Wangerland.

Wilhelmshaven, with its Oil-Harbour, the tanker discharge bridge and the NOW-Pipeline, has gained national significance as Germany’s biggest harbour for crude oil. The NOW-Pipeline runs to the Rhein-Ruhr region and crosses the south-eastern part of Jeverland.

Wind energy plants have also had a lasting effect on the historical landscape of Wangerland and Jeverland in recent times. Since 1989 81 single wind turbines have been erected. The highest increase came from the “Bürger Windpark” near Bassens. Since the community of Wangerland was designated as a specific area for the purpose of gaining power by wind energy in its land utilisation plan (Flächennutzungsplan), the uncontrolled erection of wind energy plants had been stopped. Now no wind energy plant can be erected outside these specific areas anymore. In the future “Repowering” will encourage a reduction in the numbers of single installations and encourage their concentration on wind farms. Amongst other sites, it is hoped to remove single worn-out installations on the Hohenstiefersiel for the sake of the scenery.

4.4 Infrastructure
The problematic layout of the road network in the Wangerland and Jeverland, the water ways were used for traffic in to recent times. Trading goods were exported and imported over the sea. Even in the inland areas, the natural water ways, like the Tettenser Tief or the Hooksieler Tief, were used. During the most part of the year the clay roads were impassable and goods could not be transported. In the middle of the 19th century a path, called the “Wangerweg” which led from Jever to Hohenkirchen, was an important traffic route. This as an extension of the Frisian Hostway (Friesische Heerstraße) from Oldenburg to Jever. In Wangerland it belonged to a road network with its side paths linking up the parishes of the 16th century.

The historical road network has not changed until modern times in the Wangerland. The waterways are not important anymore but the main streets and roads follow the original road network which developed during the settlement of the land during the past centuries and follows the historical dykes.

Nowadays traffic from the south comes in over the A-29. Further on, the north-west and south-east connection are the main roads 210 towards Wittmund and B 436 towards Friedeburg as a by-pass. Some years ago the B 210 had been extended in the region around Jever. It now is a “Kraftfahrtstraße” (clear way) of a “2 to 1”-system without any crossings. The same is planned for the area around Schortens. From there on the motorway will have four lanes and lead to the harbour of Wilhelmshaven. The coastal motorway A-22, which is in planning, will bring a direct connection to the regions east of the Jadebusen and Hamburg.

The formerly well developed railway system in Wangerland and Jeverland was reduced since the second half of the 20th century. There is no direct connection to the coastal regions by train anymore. Since 2000 a private railroad company (Nord-West-Bahn GmbH) runs the lines in the area of Oldenburg-Wilhelmshaven-Jever-Wittmund. This has grown to be an attractive transport system for the region. During the construction of the Jade-Weser-Port it will be necessary to think carefully about a by-pass of Sande.

5. Legal and spatial planning aspects

The Wangerland and Jeverland belong to the rural district of Friesland. The northern part has the communities of Wangerland and Schortens, the western part the community Sande and the city of Jever. The north-western part of the county borough of Wilhelmshaven, which is its eastern neighbour, belongs to the Jeverland.

The regional program for spatial planning (Regionaler Raumordnungsplan [RROP]) from the 10th of September 2004 for the rural district Friesland, strengthens the more general aims of the Lower Saxonian state office spatial planning of the Wangerland and Jeverland and fixes the regional aims for its development. An individual contribution from the Office for Natural Protection is the landscape framework plan (Landschaftsrahmenplan) of the rural district of Friesland. It is the basis for the protection of historical cultural landscapes or parts of historical cultural landscapes of specific characteristics as well as special important historical elements of cultural landscapes like cultural, building or ancient monuments. The advice of the land utilisation plan of the communities will also have to be taken into account.

Another important basis for enduring and sustainable spatial planning in Jeverland is the innovative ideas of the inter-municipal co-operation of the districts of Friesland, Wittmund and the city of Wilhelmshaven. They took part at the program “Modellvorhaben der Raumordnung (MORO)” (pattern of tasks of spatial planning) of the Ferderal Office of Traffic, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS) as well as the “Flächenagentur Region – Friesland – Wittmund – Wilhelmshaven” (Agency for space of the region Friesland – Wittmund – Wilhelmshaven) which was founded in 2003.

Because of its historic origins in the district of Oldenburg, the rural district of Fiesland, including the Jeverland, belongs to the “Oldenburgische Landschaft”, whose duty it is to take care of the historical and cultural interests.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Strategic Planning
Strategic planning for large scale developments especially within Jeverland needs to consider the existing cultural heritage both in the form of surviving landscape as well as the buried archaeological deposits.

6.2 Settlement
The historic settlement pattern is important within this area and is vulnerable to the threat from development within the core and expansion around the perimeter. The historic farmsteads are also vulnerable to change of use away from traditional agricultural production.

6.3 Agriculture
Globalisation and competition with wealthy regions within Germany has led to more intensive agricultural production and an enlargement of farmsteads. Wide areas of the Jeverland, especially the older Mashes, are limited by its natural conditions and it is very difficult to intensify agricultural production. There is the possibility that the area could lose its economic attraction for agriculture, and there is the potential that farming will be abandoned on a large scale. Both these scenerios would result in the cultural landscape of the Jeverland being vulnerable to change.

6.4 Tourism
Tourism in the Wangerland depends at least in some parts more or less directly on reconsilable agriculture. If the agricultural basis is abandoned the landscape and structures within it will decline. On the other hand tourist use should not lead to the installation of large scale infrastructure without any reference to the natural and historic cultural landscape.

6.5 Industry and energy
Wind turbines and wind farms can have an adverse effect on both the visual historic landscape as well as the buried cultural heritage. The qualities of parts of this landscape are its openness and its quietness and these are at threat from continuing expansion of wind energy. The construction of more concentrated wind farms needs to consider both the visual landscape and the potential buried archaeological deposits.

7. Potentials

7.1 Spatial Planning
It is essential for the preservation of the historical cultural landscape of the Jeverland that projects of communal co-operation in spatial planning include the cultural heritage as an integrated element. For the preservation of the cultural landscape a consistent and inter-disciplinary co-operation between the Office for Natural Preservation and the Bureau for Conservation of Historic Monuments will have many positive effects.

7.2 Settlement
The historic settlement pattern is important within this area and has potential for being a resource to encourage tourism. Careful integration of the cultural heritage into planning proposals provides the potential both for the preservation and management of the historic settlements. The historic farmsteads have the potential to promote local agricultural production as well as to be carefully used as tourist accomodation.

7.3 Agriculture
Agriculture has been the main historic economy for this area and remains so. The area has not suffered as badly as other areas through intensification and many of the historic monuments associated with agriculture survive within the landscape. These have great potential to be promoted, protected and managed via tourism and protection via agricultural schemes. These features tell an important story for the development of this area and their value should be identified both to the local population and the incoming tourists.

7.4 Tourism
The high density of historic monuments and the good quality of the surviving historic landscape means that this area has a high potential for increasing its tourist value. The museum Jever and the Institute of Historical Costal Research in Wilhelmshaven have the potential to be the focal points for the development of cultural tourism in the area.

8. Sources

Author: Ortrun Schwarzer

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