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Street name tour Lombok

History of the Lombok neighbourhood

Economic growth across the country in the nineteenth century meant that Utrecht was quickly expanding past its medieval boundaries. To deal with this, the city's director of architecture, Cornelis Vermeys, drew up plans in 1879 to create an entirely new neighbourhood. Although this new district did not have a name yet, this was the beginning of Lombok. Despite the lack of name, authorities were clear that such a significant addition to the city should keep to one theme and it was eventually decided that this should be a colonial one. All street names in the area refer to Dutch colonial history and the district itself came to be named after the island of Lombok on the Indonesian archipelago. This choice is not particularly surprising. The late nineteenth century was a time of feverish Dutch nationalism and colonial pride. Throughout the century, the Netherlands had fought to expand its possessions from trading outposts set up by the VOC, to full-blown colonial territories governed directly by Dutch authorities. By the time of Queen Wilhelmina's coronation in 1898, the Dutch could boast of around 35 million colonial subjects in the Indies (1).

It is difficult to trace the exact reason for the districts name. A likely explanation is that it sits right next to what was a barracks for the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) on Mineurslaan and Croeselaan. In 1894, soldiers departed from these barracks for what was called the 'Lombok Expedition,' which was a response to complaints from the local Sasak population of their oppression at the hands of Balinese rulers. The KNIL's military actions were efficient and resulted in complete Dutch control over the area. What is more, it was well-received by the public back home, with much of the campaigns plunder being sent back to Dutch museums. This enthusiasm was reflected in a popular soldier chant from the time:

"And to Lombok off we go
And we are bored with peace
So we'll shoot with powder and lead
Those Balinesers dead."

A Neighbourhood in Motion

Lombok has had a dynamic history. In its early years it was mainly an industrial area, a heritage which can still be seen today with its narrow streets and workers houses. People worked for employers nearby such as the Douwe Egberts coffee company (who also have a heritage centre close by if you want to explore this further). The proximity of the neighbourhood to the railway and business area also meant that some office workers lived in Lombok. Better paid than labourers, they tended to live along the more upmarket Jan Pieterszoon Coenstraat, rather than the working-class Kanaalstraat.

From the 1960s, migrant workers, largely from Turkey or Morocco, started to settle in the neighbourhood. This was the beginning of the multicultural Lombok you see today. However, it also led to controversy, with some associating the neighbourhood with 'foreigners', 'unemployment' and 'neglect'. This image was not helped by a recession in the 1970s and the closure of many nearby factories.

Like many European countries, the Netherlands moved away from an industrial economy in the 1980s and this meant that districts such as Lombok took on a more residential character. At the same time, the 'image' of the neighbourhood was beginning to change, with the municipality supporting its multicultural appeal. Today, Lombok remains an exciting neighbourhood, with many ethnicities living alongside each other and going about their daily business on busy shopping streets such as the Kanaalstraat (3).


  • M. Kuitenbrouwer, Nederland en de opkomst van het moderne imperialisme. Koloniën en buitenlandse politiek 1870-1902 (Amsterdam 1985), 135.; N.C.F. van Sas, 'Fin-de-siecle als nieuw begin. Nationalisme in Nederland rond 1900'. BMGN-Low Countries Historical Review 106 (1991) 4, 595-609, 606.
  • Adrian Vickers, A History of Modern Indonesia , 2 nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 11.
  • Theo Meder and Hester Dibbits, 'Kasbah in de Kanaalstraat. Beeldvorming in en rond de multi-etnische stadswijk: een verkenning', Volkskundig Bulletin 5 (2009) 1, 1-25.
The tour covers 12 points in the Lombok neighbourhood. It begins at Molen de Ster. Click on the map for more information about this point...

De Bitterzoete Route
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