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Nijlen (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2019-07-30 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Nijlen]

Municipal flag of Nijlen - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 9 December 2005

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Presentation of Nijlen

The municipality of Nijlen (20,978 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 3,909 ha) is located in the region of Kempen, 15 km south-west of Antwerp and 5 km north-east of Lier. The municipality of Nijlen is madesince 1976 of the former municipalities of Nijlen, Bevel and Kessel.

Remains from the Roman colonization were found in Nijlen (the exact place of the finding is not known) in 1770 as an earthenware pot filled with gold coins bearing the effigy of Julius Caesar, Tiber, Agrippina, Nero, Vespasian and Domitian.
The name of Nijlen is found for the first time in a Bull dated March 1145, by which Eugenius III Hendrik, Abbot of the Norbertine abbey of Tongerlo, was confirmed the ownership of several domains, including "Nile". On 12 July 1286, the inhabitants of Nijlen took part to the battle of Woeringen, on the side of Duke Jean I of Brabant, who defeated Limburg. There are two remains of the battle in Nijlen: the Woeringen street (Woeringenstraat) and the four lions on the coat of arms.
From 1212 to the French Revolution, Nijlen, along with Bevel, Kessel, Emblem and the hamlets of Mijle, Lachenen and Hagenbroeck, belonged to the so-called bijvang van Lier. Therefore, most of the history of Nijlen is taken into account by the history of Lier. The bijvang was ran by a specific college of magistrates (schepencollege), always including a magistrate from each of the components of the bijvang. Nijlen was hit by the black plague in 1439 and sacked by the Dutch and the Spaniards in 1579-1585. The St. Lambertus parish church of Kessel was built from 1300 to 1500, all in Gothic style; the church was awarded the title of "spring flower of the Brabantine Gothic" and is considered as the most beautiful in Kempen.
By the Decree of 31 August 1795, Nijlen, Kessel and Bevel were placed in the canton of Berlaar and were no longer dependant of Lier. The Peasants' War, which spread over Belgium after the conscription imposed by the French on 5 September 1798, reached Nijlen, where the rebels were defeated by the French troops.

In 1876, Jan Eduard Claes settled in Nijlen; he brought there the "small stone" (het steentje), that is the diamond, and opened in 1885-1890 the first industrial diamond-cutting workshop (that is with more than one mill). The beginning of that industry was slow, but after the discovery of the Premier mines in South Africa the diamond-cutting workshops mushroomed in Nijlen, Kessel and Beven. After the First World War, diamond industry boomed again in 1918-1930. After the set up of electricity in Nijlen in 1928, nearly every street in the village had its diamond-cutting workshop. After the Second World War, there were 2,200-2,300 inhabitants of Nijlen living from diamond. In 1968, there were still 203 active workshops. However, job offers started to decrease in the 1970s; in 1982, there were only 62 active workshops and ten years later only 28 left.

The inhabitants of Nijlen are nicknamed sparrijders, lit. spruce riders. This nickname refers to the original way found by a local band of rascals to get money from the travelers. These rascals were a branch of the infamous bokkerijders who scoured the region. They used to hung their victims upside-down by the feet to a spruce, so that their money fell down out of their pockets and the rascals had just to bend over to pick it up. The method seems unnecessarily complicated, but it allowed the rascals to claim that they did not steal the money by force but just found it by chance on the ground and picked it up. If this odd excuse was accepted is not known, anyway the inhabitants of Nijlen have kept the nickname of sparrijders.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 9 December 2005

Municipal flag of Nijlen

The municipal flag of Nijlen is quartered black and white, with a yellow lion with a red tongue and claws in the black quarters and a red lion with a yellow crown, tongue and claws in the white quarters.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel, the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 4 February 1985, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 2 September 1985 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 July 1986.
The flag is a banner of the municipal arms. As said above, the arms quartered Brabant-Limburg recall the involvement of Nijlen into the battle of Woeringen.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 9 December 2005