During excavations in Tegelen a lot of Roman pottery and tile ovens were found. The Sint-Martinus church is mentioned in diocesan and monasterial archives dating back to the year 800. Because of its strategic location various castles and reinforced farms were soon established. The most important of these were the Castle of Holtmühle and the Munt. During the Middle Ages there were several battles in and around Tegelen, also because of the vicinity of the walled city of Venlo. Over time, a barracks was established in Venlo, and a fortification in neighbouring Blerick. As a result, from the 16th century until the 18th century Tegelen was regularly visited by plundering armies.
What is less well known is that Tegelen for centuries was part of the Duchy of Jülich, whilst neighbouring Venlo belonged to the Duchy of Guelders. So literally, according to the people of Tegelen Venlo was 'abroad' and vice versa. This fact explains the clear differences between the local dialects of the neighbouring towns and it explains the rivalry between these parts of the city that persists to this day. The black, uncrowned lion on a golden ground, in the coat of arms and the flag of Tegelen can be found in the coat of arms of the Duchy of Jülich (compare the images above with the one at right). For Jülich it was very important to have access to the Meuse river. Tegelen, with its harbour at Steyl, was the most northern one, the other one being Urmond near Sittard. Both enclaves became part of the Prussian Rhineland in the 18th century. This territorial fragmentation was ended in Napoleonic times. Both enclaves were ceded to the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, such that the Netherlands finally got complete control of the river from Maastricht northward.
Early in the 19th century Tegelen developed into a regional centre of industry. At first, tile and pottery factories were established, and later that century, metallurgy and tobacco factories. After 1900 agriculture was added to the mix. Pottery and related industries were very successful in Tegelen from 1750 until World War II.
Economic and social life before that war was dominated by a small number of factory owning families that would scratch each other's backs. One infamous episode illustrating the way they treated their work force and how they controlled their lives occurred during World War I. The producers of clay products claimed that the embargo on Germany brought them to the brink of bankruptcy, and the only way they could survive was to drastically reduce wages. The work force went on strike but soon the strike fund was depleted. The local clergy helped negotiate a settlement allowing labourers to return to work for a salary that barely exceeded subsistence levels. It later transpired that there never was any risk of any of the producers going bankrupt, and that this drastic reduction in labour cost had allowed them to make exorbitant profit levels. This is still evident from the gigantic villas in which these families lived and of which a number are still standing.
After the war the number of factories in Tegelen steadily decreased. All smelters, including Globe, known throughout the Netherlands for providing drainage covers, disappeared. There are still three operating factories producing clay products, but all of these are now in foreign ownership. One chimney, previously owned by a stone cutter named Canoy Herfkens, is still standing as a reminder of Tegelen's industrial heyday.
In 2001 Tegelen was amalgamated into the municipality of Venlo.
Tegelen can boast several theater, music and choral organisations. It is internationally famous for its Passion Play De Passiespelen that are held every five years in the years that are divisible by 5, in Openluchttheater De Doolhof These always attract many visitors. The same open air theater hosts Tegelen's Bluesrock Festival every year.
More locally famous, before the Second World War, were the pub owners "Joës en Petatte Nelke", Gustaaf Schreurs and Petronella Muller, who were so famous they had a song written about them and a statue erected for them in the market square. You can find an image of this statue (about 1/3 down the page).
En as weej wir nao Tegele gáon,
dèn gáon weej nao Petatte-Nelke.
Dao drinke weej ’n sjöpke beer,
en hebbe weej ouch vuël plezeer!
En Joes, dae haet zô’n lollig vrouwke,
die duit t’r sôkker in, die duit t’r sôkker in.
Al in det beer, al in det beer,
die duit t’r sôkker al in det beer!
Translation: As we go back to Tegelen
We'll go and see Potato Nelke
Were we'll knock back a pint of beer
and have some good old fashioned cheer
And Joës's lady is a joker
She puts some sugar in, she puts some sugar in
Our pint of beer, our pint of beer
She puts some sugar in our beer