Hereford City Heritage

The Mayor’s Chain



Dillenburg had its first documentary mention in 1254. It was the ancestral seat of the Orange branch of the House of Nassau. Dillenburg Castle was built on top of the peak now called the Schlossberg (castle hill)in the late 13th or early 14th century. All that remains of the castle today is the old Stockhaus (a former prison).

  In the 1870s the Wilhelmsturm was built on castle hill, in honour of William of Orange. It is today the town’s landmark and houses the Orange-Nassau Museum, with many exhibits and documents on the history of William I.  

William of Orange (‘William the Silent’)

He was the first son of William of Nassau and was born at Dillenburg Castle in 1533 as Prince of Nassau-Dillenburg. At the age of eleven his cousin René, Count of Nassau and Prince of Orange, died and William inherited the Royal title of Prince of Orange, together with the little principality in the south of France that went with the name. He moved to the Imperial Court in the Netherlands and later established his own splendid court at Breda. He became one of the wealthiest noblemen in Europe. William the Silent was the military and political genius who, with his brother Maurice, led the revolt of the Netherlands against Spain and Philip II and became the focal point of Dutch unity. In 1580 Philip banned him and placed a price on his head. He was assassinated four years later. He was the great-grandfather of William III, Prince of Orange and King of England who, with his wife Mary Stuart, ushered in an epoch of immense achievement in the UK. 

After the destruction of Dillenburg castle in 1760 during the Seven Years' War, new housing was needed for its former residents, the Orange-Nassau administrative officials and their families. This led to the development of today's Wilhelmstraße, built from 1769 of the stones of the old fortifications. The Royal Stables, which were formerly in the castle, were relocated here in 1771. Together with the riding hall of 1789/1790, it forms the heart of today's Stud-farm which was re-established in 1869 as the Hessisches Landgestüt Dillenburg and is today an important equestrian centre. 

In the 19th century the Industrial Revolution came to Dillenburg with the building of the Giessen-Cologne railway line – called the Sieg-Dill line – and the development of a thriving iron ore industry with mines on the Lahn, Dill and Sieg. In the 20th century ore mining became increasingly less profitable and in 1968 the last blast furnace, in Oberscheld, ceased operations. 

>>>For more information go to Dillenburg’s own website.