De Waag (the Weighing House) in Schiedam is located next to the oldest building in the city: Grote- of Sint Janskerk.
Waagrecht (Weighing rights)
Schiedam has had weighing rights since 1339. When the port became unusable due to silting, Willem IV, Earl of Holland, commissioned the harbour to be deepened. What is now the Buitenhaven and the Lange Haven.
Because this was rather expensive, he compensated by giving the city weighing rights. The weighing rights brought the city money so it was an important entitlement. Schiedam already had market rights. The market rights gave the city a major economic boost, because the surrounding villages were forced to sell their goods in Schiedam.
The label (regulations) on the scales stated that anything under 6 pounds had to be weighed with calibrated scales. Anything above that had to be weighed on the city scale and a penalty of 20 shillings had to be paid. The main conditions were that only the weighing master was allowed to use the city weights and he had to keep relevant notes on all the goods he weighed.
Butter, cheese and juniper berries
The regulations also stipulated the amounts payable per article. It listed which goods were weighed. These were metals (copper, iron and lead), textiles and food, such as cheese, butter, meat, and also juniper berries.
Although Schiedam was infamous for the witch trials in the 16th century, the scales played no role in it. Unlike Oudewater, for example, where people were weighed and accused of witchcraft.
Waaggebouw (Weighing House)
From 1339 the weighing was done on the ground floor of the town hall at the Grote Markt. In 1579, when this space became too small, the weighing was moved to the former baptistery of the Grote- of Sint Janskerk, that was renovated in 1748.
The Foundation for the Promotion of Schiedam’s (Stichting Promotie Schiedam) I-Punt S'DAM (Tourist Information Point) has been situated here since June 2016.
Scales or balances
The scale (balance) has been back in its place since June 2016. The items were found in 2003 during excavation in the backyard of the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. How they came to be there is unknown. What is known is that the device was especially made for the Waaggebouw in Schiedam, which opened in 1748.
The horizontal iron bar of the balance was missing and a new one was made in 2016 by the Schiedamse smid Rookbaard (Schiedam blacksmith Rookbaard).