The Society of Benevolence focuses on the preservation of the work started by Johannes van den Bosch 200 years ago. A visionary idealist, Johannes believed in a socially engineerable society. His ideas stem from the European Age of Enlightenment. After Napoleon’s  French troops had withdrawn from our country, Johannes van den Bosch wanted to end the impoverishment of the urban population in particular. Offering housing, work, education and care within agrarian colonies to be founded in Drenthe was at the core of his solution.

As an organisation, the Society of Benevolence now strives to preserve the material heritage and ideology of this historic event and to develop this for generations yet to come, so it may be a continual source of inspiration and an example in the field of housing, work, education, and care – the major pillars of those days.


The Society of Benevolence strives to:

  • tell the unique story, together with its partners in the area, also for the generations yet to come.
  • provide space for social and sustainable entrepreneurship, while preserving the cultural heritage.
  • develop Frederiksoord to become an Experimental Garden of Benevolence; a place which provides inspiration for living together and caring for each other, and for healthy, self-reliant, and sustainable living.

In addition, the foundation acts as the manager of grounds and property, consisting of about 1,300 hectares of land and 65 buildings, 30 of which are listed buildings.

The mission for achieving this objective is: from forgetting to telling, from preserving to developing.

The story

General Johannes van den Bosch is the founder of the Society of Benevolence. Not only  Minister of State, confidant of King William I, Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament and governor general of the Dutch East Indies, but also a visionary idealist who believed in a socially engineerable society.

Johannes van den Bosch founded the Society of Benevolence in 1818. At a rapid speed, the first hundreds of colony cottages are built and needy families arrive in this first agrarian colony. Schools are founded and facilities such as a soup kitchen and a spinning mill, in fact everything that is necessary for achieving self-reliance, are set up. Going to church is obligatory, as is school attendance and membership of the ‘sickness fund’. During the period from 1818 to 1921, this probably concerns around 80,000 people in these colonies in Drenthe, with an estimated number of one million descendants today.

These events have left their traces to this very day. This wonderful material legacy consisting of monumental buildings, characteristic landscape structures and moulded nature offers a unique insight into the area as it was designed by general Johannes van den Bosch.

Inspired by the ideas of Johannes van den Bosch, various initiatives have been launched that give a new meaning to these historical sites. An influential history worth telling, which will be propagated again by visitors.


By means of transnational, serial nomination, the colonies of Frederiksoord, Willemsoord, Wilhelminaoord, Boschoord, Veenhuizen, Ommerschans, Wortel and Merkplas have been put forward to UNESCO in Paris for nomination for World Heritage. UNESCO has decided on the matter in 2021. The Colonies of Benevolence may now call themselves UNESCO World Heritage.

Drop by?

Pay a visit to the free Colonies of Benevolence in Frederiksoord and its surroundings and learn all about the unique story. Experience the past today on foot or by bike.

A new visitor centre opened in the House of Benevolence (Huis van Weldadigheid) in Frederiksoord in May 2019. Here, at museum De Proefkolonie, you can take a trip back in time to the days when the first colonists arrived in Frederiksoord.

There are excellent facilities for having dinner and staying the night in the surrounding area. Check all the options on

Colony cottage of the future

In order to restore a part of the landscape, the concept of the ‘Colony Cottage of the Future’ was developed. Sixty-two historic houses, built in accordance with the standards of the future, will soon restore the historic image in the colonies around Frederiksoord. Much work has been done and is still done to restore several characteristic landscape elements. Once the colony cottages are placed back, the story will be complete again.