“The name “Duffelt”
The conception that the name is derived from the Roman Duofluvius, two rivers, because of the branching of the Rhine near Kleve, is outdated.
In this region we still find places with uprooted forest names connected with Duffel, such as Raaijdüffel and Riesdüffel and Riesdüffelstreet and Düffelfielt. Düffel can bee looked upon as a name for a forest, the so called Devil’s forest, the name of which was about 700 Duvlelo or Dubello and which was used as a “common forest” by the settlements along the edge of the forest: Rinderen, Donsbrüggen, Mehr, Niel, Kekerdom, Bimmen, Keeken and Düffelward.
Dikes and polders.
From the agricultural settlements on the heightened side ridges of the Rhine, ring-dikes were built as protection from the ever-changing riverbeds. This happened in the upper part of the Rhine delta- the future “ Kleefsland” - already in the 9th century. Such private rings grew into complete “ islands”, the so-called “ warde” between two or more river branches.
In the 12th and 13th century the care of building and upkeep of these dikes rested with the local villages, hamlets, polder-boards, marches and parishes, before - in the 14th century – regional polder-boards came into being with the power of ruling and levying taxes. The local court was in charge.
A special category of local polder-boards were the so called “ reclaiming of wetlands” (11th , 12th, 14th cent.) (broekland = wetland) Especially the experts from Holland.
The eldest known written law to build dikes ( dijkrecht = laws for diking) is to be found in a letter from Duke Edouard of Gelre ( 1361-1371) who was then sovereign of the Duffelt. This means the beginning of the known “ Duffeltse Dijkrecht”, but not, we already know, the beginning of the maintenance of dikes, ditches etc. This letter was an affirmation of the already existing water-management. The reader meets with all kinds of known terms, such as dike-grave, dike-boards, electoral districts, landholders, cleaning and inspecting, sanctions, jurisdiction of grave and lord, right of draining etc. All kind of expressions and terms for water-management with which every Dutchman nowadays is familiar.
Even after the Duffelt came into the hands of the Duke of Kleve in the 15th century, the letter of 1364 remained fundamental law.
History of the Duffelt.
The first description of the land on the Lower Rhine we find in “ De Bello Gallico”, a report of the campaign of Julius Caesar during the Gaul war of 58-51 BC. In 55 BC the Roman forces reached the Rhine and they were to stay there for over four centuries. But their influence reached much farther in time, because the Germanic tribes, who invaded the region afterwards or settled down there after their military service in the Roman legions, remained for ages under the influence of the Roman culture. Until in the 16th century all kinds of building materials of the Roman buildings were used for new buildings. Originally the Romans wanted to conquer much more and intended to incorporate the land between Rhine and Elbe so in the meantime they built many garrisons along the Rhine to serve as bases of operations: Noviomagus (Nijmegen), Castera Vetera (Xanten) etc.
Apart from quite a row of new garrisons along the frontier civilian settlements appeared in their neighborhood of which Colonia Agrippina (Cologne), Castera Vetera (Xanten) and Noviomagum (Nijmegen) is the best known. Retired soldiers, amongst many subjected Germanic tribes could settle down there. They lived by agriculture but they also traded with the whole Roman Empire.
Peace did not last long for in 69, 70 AD the Batavians rebelled. They took advantage of the leaving of the Roman Rhine army to Rome, to help Vitellius, who had been proclaimed emperor in Cologne, to the throne. At first it meant a great loss of territory, parts of Gaul: Nijmegen, Xanten, Cologne and Mainz. But the Germanic and Gaul rebels were strongly divided and that is why Claudius Civilis, the leader of the rebels, was defeated near Trier and once again near Xanten. In 70 AD the Batavians, who had retreated in the Betuwe (West from Arnhem and Nijmegen), had to subject themselves. The Roman author Tacitus writes: the Gauls fought for freedom, the Batavians for honor, and the Germanics for plundering.”
For a long time, to be true till halfway the third century, it remained very quiet in the region. But north and east of the Rhine the Germanic tribes grew together under the name Franks and in 253 and 275 AD they crossed the state frontier (Rhine) Both times they were thrown back by the Romans, but great groups stayed in the area and were allowed to settle permanently. Particularly in the northern (lower) part of the Rhine region, so our region.
What happened next in the Duffelt?