Emergence of Transport and Industry

In the first half of the 19th century, poverty continued. The villages of Oerle, Meerveldhoven, Veldhoven and Zeelst were constantly struggling with the lack of funds. They also missed out on a number of opportunities when initiatives were taken in Brabant for the construction of canals, roads and railways. The first paved road dates from 1855. It ran from Eindhoven via Zeelst, Meerveldhoven and Veldhoven to Turnhout. Part of this is still known as the Provincialeweg (Provincial Road). In 1897, the first steam tram ran over the tram line from Eindhoven, parallel to the Provincial Road in Veldhoven, through to the border at Reusel.

The tram line in Meerveldhoven. Around 1905 the Provincialeweg was called Tramstraat.

Cooperation with farmers
Agriculture remained the most important source of existence well into the 19th century. The agricultural struggles from the 1870s until 1895 forced farmers to cooperate more. As a result of this collaboration, small butter factories, farmers’ unions and farmers’ banks were established. Traditionally, many linen weavers also lived in Veldhoven and Zeelst. The mayor of Zeelst, Gerardus de Wit, was the first cloth manufacturer. He was a merchant entrepreneur who outsourced spinning and weaving in the village, and had the fabrics bleached and finished in Haarlem and the surrounding area. The company De Wit, later Habraken-De Wit, made linen table textile, including damask. In 1857 Jan van Nuenen set up a modest factory where he made the textiles damask and husks. At the end of the 19th century, the textile factory had developed into one with steam engines and its own bleaching and laundry facilities.

Aerial view from 1923 of the Van Nuenen textile factory in Meerveldhoven.

Brickwork was another industry that emerged in the 19th century. Initially there were many small companies. In 1898, the Heibloem in Veldhoven was the first machine-made brick factory. Shoe manufacturing also increased and the first cigar factories were established at the end of the 19th century. All these developments were the basis for industrialization at the beginning of the 20th century, especially near the river The Gender in Meerveldhoven and Veldhoven.

Catholics became increasingly involved in the course of the 19th century. The dioceses were restored in 1853. The parishes of Oerle, Meerveldhoven, Veldhoven and Zeelst were part of the diocese of Den Bosch. Religious orders and congregations such as the sisters of Tilburg in Oerle, the Franciscans of Veghel in Veldhoven and Meerveldhoven and the sisters of Schijndel in Zeelst settled here. The sisters became involved in education, health care and care for the elderly. In Oerle, a girls’ pension was established, and became known as a boarding school for prospective teachers.

Pensioners active with gymnastics lessons at school in Oerle, around 1910.

With the arrival of the congregations, special education for girls also started. The public schools in the four church villages were mainly populated by boys and Protestant girls here and there. The Mary pilgrimages to Meerveldhoven, which had existed for centuries, were given a new impulse found new resurgence in the 19th century.

Meerveldhoven church and rectory around 1915.

New churches were erected in the four church settlements in the 19th century. Most soon became too small and were replaced in the 20th century. At the end of the 19th century, formally organized civic recreational activities and organizations also slowly emerged, with groups such as longbow militias, music federations, soccer leagues and choirs.

The Veldhovense fanfare was founded in 1984. Photo from 1913. Today it is called the Veldhovens Muziekcorps.

Read more in the next chapter Merging the four Founding Church Settlements