The Wierschuur was built around 1850 as a warehouse for seagrass, along with a house. The shed was used to press and store the seagrass that was fished in the sea around Wieringen. The Zuiderzee shack in the yard was added around 1930 for the workers building the Aflsuitdijk.

Black and white print of the old seaweed warehouse with huge piles of seagrass, a weeding press and workers
In the days when the Wierschuur was a warehouse for seagrass

Weed fishing

Weed fishing was an important economic activity on Wieringen for a long time. Depending on the season, the seagrass was mowed or fished, loaded onto a wagon and transported to the farmland for further processing. It was dried, washed in the ditches and then dried again. When ready it was taken to a weed shed where it was pressed and stored.

Black and white print of a fishing boat showing men wading through water, fishing for seagrass
Seagrass fishing with a 'Wieringer Aak' (local fishing boat) in 1925, off the coast of Wieringen

Weed dikes and weed mattresses

The dried and pressed seagrass was initially used to build dikes. The ‘wierdijk’ (weed dike) is one of the oldest forms of dike in the Netherlands. On Wieringen, an old sea dike runs along the south side of the former Wadden Island. The dike runs from De Haukes via the north side of the Polder Waard Nieuwland, past the Wierschuur, to Den Oever. The seagrass was very suitable for building dikes. Due to the consistency and the length of the strands, it remained a compact mass and was able to withstand the waves for a long time.

The fished seagrass was also used for insulation of houses, both between the floors and between the ceilings. In addition, the seagrass was used to fill mattresses, cushions and chair seats. A homeopathic effect was attributed to seagrass: it was said to have a positive effect on rheumatic pains.

Old black and white print of a man washing seagrass in a ditch between meadows; he is surrounded by mounds of seagrass
The seagrass was washed in the ditches on Wieringen, a process known as 'versen' (freshening)

"The seagrass died"

The arrival of the Korte Afsluitdijk and later the Afsluitdijk changed the sea currents around Wieringen. There was no more mixing of freshwater and salt water. The water on the south side became more like freshwater and on the north side too salty, resulting in the death of the seagrass on the south side of Wieringen.

For the Wieringers, the explanation was simple: the Zuiderzee Works. For the government it was also simple: a disease. The government was backed by science. This resulted in the fishermen being left behind with no seagrass and no money. Not only did they lose part of their livelihood, also the farmers, weed pressers and others workers saw their work disappear. It was a disaster for the population of Wieringen, which was largely dependent on seagrass fishing.