Summary

The Rasphuis was a “tuchthuis” or prison in Amsterdam that was established in 1596 in the former Convent of the Poor Clares on the Heiligeweg. In 1815 it was closed, and in 1892 the building was demolished to make way for a swimming pool. Only the main gate remains.

The Rasphuis was a prison for young male criminals. Female criminals were sent to the Spinhuis. The detainees in the Rasphuis were made to shave wood from the brazilwood tree (Caesalpinia echinata or pernambuco), rasping it into powder using an eight to twelve bladed rasp, hence the name. The powder was delivered as a raw material to the paint industry where it was mixed with water, then boiled and oxidised to form a red pigment, also known as brazilwood which in turn was used as a textile dye.

Prisoners shaving brazilwood using a rasp

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Further reading

Sources

  • Background from Wikipedia