The Alkmaar Cheese Carriers' Guild

What is a carriers guild? What are their tasks and traditions? You'll find everything about that on this page.

The Alkmaar Cheese Carriers' Guild

The Alkmaar Cheese Carriers' Guild is established on June 17th 1593 and consists of 30 men and a cheese master. On this page you can find more information about the Cheese Carriers’ Guild.

Strong men
The cheese trade has been alive in its traditional form in Alkmaar for hundreds of years. During that time, heavy loads of cheese have been transported to and from the Waagplein. Cheese is heavy - so strong men are needed. The cheese carrier guild consists of 30 men and the cheese master.

Guild established
In 1593 the Alkmaar cheese carriers established a guild, which was common practice at the time. Those who were not a member of a guild, were not allowed to exercise the profession. The guild defended the interests of its members and provided them with protection.

How the Cheese Carriers’ Guild works:
The Alkmaar Cheese Carriers' Guild consists of 28 men and the cheese master. The cheese master is the head of the guild. The 28 guild members are divided into four groups. These groups are called 'vemen'. Each veem has its own cheese scale in the Waaggebouw where the tasman puts the weights on the scale.

On the cheese market, 3 vemen are active. This means that every week 1 veem is ‘off’. This veem has ‘karredienst’. This means that they help to get the cheeses back to the trucks and they take over the absentees in the other vemen. Before the cheese market season starts, all men play a game of dice. The winner of the dice game can choose which part of the market they want to work on and they may also choose which scale they want to work with.

The colours of the 'vemen'
Did you notice the cheese carriers wearing different coloured hats? The colour indicates to which veem the cheese carrier belongs. The feather colour is also reflected in the barrows the cheese carriers use. The cheese master can be recognised by his orange hat and his stick. The cheese carriers call him 'master'. Discover how a cheese market works.

Some traditions of the Cheese Carriers'Guild:
- Cheese Carriers address each other with their nicknames.
- Cheese carriers must pay a fine if they are late. The nickname of the cheese carrier who handles the fines is known as 'de Beul' (the hangman).
- Cheese carriers must not curse. If the barrow falls or another accident happens, they yell out 'owl!'

Functions
There are also a number of functions within the guild, for example the setters, innocenters, emergency aid, ‘vastman’, tasman, foreman, cheese father, servant, bottelier and provost.

  • The setters place the cheeses on the market from the truck in the morning and load the berries.
  • When the cheeses have been weighed, the innocenters load the cheeses into wooden handcarts and bring them back to the truck.
  • The tasman is at the scale and is the longest in service.
  • The foreman is at the head of the veem and is the oldest man of his veem.
  • The cheese father is at the head of all four vemen.
  • The servant is the assistant of the cheese father and must keep the toilets and the pavement in front of the weigh house clean. In addition, he is responsible for hanging the bell.
  • The provost is responsible for collecting the fines.
  • Before you become a cheese carrier, you first receive emergency aid for two years. Then he may join in the guild and he gets his nickname.
  • The vastman is an experienced cheese carrier who works in one of the vemen.
  • The bottelier is responsible for the drinks.

Find out when the cheese market is held, where it takes place and what you can do in Alkmaar after your visit at the Cheese Market

 

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