Before 1578 there were in the western part of Aalter a few scattered farms from where they got to grips with the development of the Bulskampveld ("veld" = field). But until 1700 there was no hamlet on the crossing of the Aardenburgse Haringweg and the Nedere Bruggeweg. (Aardenburg is a town just across the Belgian-Dutch border, then no doubt closer to the sea, "haring" = herring and a "weg" is a way, a path or a road; "nedere" = lower and a "brug" is a bridge.)
In 1850-51 Jan Clarysse who was a priest and an architect built here one of the first neo-gothic parish churches in Flanders. In 1851 there also came a vicarage, a year later a town school and in 1895 a free school for girls. Free here means not controlled by any government. In this Catholic country most free schools were Catholic. I said "were" because now they receive so many millions in subsidies from government bodies that they have come to depend on these. And as always with the subsidies came conditions. Please read: government control. So now these schools are free and Catholic only in name.
There was also a school for lace making, founded in 1847. A new building was put up for this school behind the church in 1860. And it is still there.
In 1932 the heath had disappeared but there still remained 383 ha (a little over 946 acres) of woodland. The tiny houses of the broom makers and peat diggers that still existed before WW II have now all but disappeared.
St.-Maria-Aalter is since 1 January 1977 administratively a part of
Aalter. According to
the official website of Aalter
on 1 January 2004 there were in St.-Maria-Aalter 1,851 inhabitants and on 1
January 2013 this had gone up to 2,031.
The source for much of the above is the excellent "Streekgids Meetjesland", 1998, pp. 107-109 by Geertrui De Zutter. See also: Our Sources.