The History of Middelfart
during 500 years – 1500-2000
A very short introductionTranslation. The original text in Danish is written by curator and archivist Kristian Buhl
of Middelfart was, from medieval times, an important ferry landing; its
privileges as a royal borough were confirmed by King Hans in 1496. It is
likely, however, that a town already existed here in the 1200s, during which
period a church was built. Until the 1700s, harbour porpoise hunting in the
Little Belt was an important source of income for the community. The town was
tucked between the land belonging to the Hindsgavl Estate and the Little Belt,
which gave little room for expansion. From 1650 the town faced growing
competition from the new fortress town, Fredericia, and as a consequence,
Middelfart long remained one of the smallest market towns – with only 756
inhabitants, for instance, in 1672.Theme: Trade and fences
period the town of Middelfart was encircled by a fence that marked a clear
division between the town and its surroundings. As a market town, Middelfart
had a monopoly on trade and finer crafts. Peasants in the vicinity were ordered
to trade their goods at Middelfart’s town square and at the semi-annual
markets. At the city gate, peasants were forced to pay excise tax to the king
from 1671. In addition to being a customs border, the fence and an adjacent
moat had military significance during the wars with Sweden in the 1600s.
has been described in this period as a stagnant market town. In spite of this,
the town’s population exceeded 1000 inhabitants in 1801. Middelfart was at this
time ruled by a town bailiff who was both mayor, judge and police officer. As a
market town, Middelfart had the right to engage in fine crafts. To enforce this
privilege, craftsmen were organised in guilds by profession. The porpoise
hunters had their own guild, which emphasised their rights as whale hunters.
Most privileges disappeared when the Free Trade Act was passed in 1857.
Theme: How did the town look?
a violent fire broke out in the town, and 12 buildings in Algade and Søndergade
were reduced to ashes. A new residential area was soon built, now with houses
of brick. Brick patterns were painted on many of the remaining houses in
Algade, as half-timbering was now low status. In 1800 the French-born land
surveyor Nestor Bretteville was hired to build the main road from Odense to the
ferry landing in Middelfart. Brogade was made wider, and a more even decline to
the ferry wharf was constructed. In 1837, a real harbour was finally built,
replacing the former ferry landing.
there were 1,840 inhabitants in Middelfart - a number that grew to more than
twice its size in the next 50 years. Growth came in particular in the form of
strong industrialisation and construction projects, which overstepped the
fenced-in town limits in force since the Middle Ages. In addition, a national
psychiatric hospital was established in 1888 as a huge building complex just
south of the town. To Middelfart’s great disappointment, Strib was made the
central ferry berth and railway junction in 1866. The railway went east of
Middelfart, and the town’s first railway station was built in an isolated
location in the current industrial area.
Jørgen Svendsen Hess took over a small iron foundry in Algade 68. This marked
the beginning of an industrial adventure. The iron foundry specialised in
wood-burning stoves and cookers and in 1900 was the town’s largest place of
work. The company existed until 1965. Another major industrial company was
Nordisk Kabel & Tråd, which established a wirework in the town in 1899. The
wire mill made copper and iron wiring for use in electrical cables. Since then
the company has been acquired by new owners, and since 2000 has manufactured
nails and screws.
the turn of the century, the town of Middelfart was in heavy growth, and by the
1930s the population of 4,446 had grown to twice its size, due mainly to
industrialisation. In 1935 the first bridge over the Little Belt was opened and
the current railway station was built. Middelfart was again a focal point for
traffic between the different parts of the country. This was especially evident
during World War II, when the German occupational forces set up anti-aircraft
defence cannons to secure the Little Belt bridge, shooting down, amongst
others, the British bomber MacRobert’s Reply in 1942.
Theme: The first bridge over the Little Belt
for a bridge over the Little Belt were discussed back in the mid-1800s, when
railways were being built on Funen and Jutland. In 1924, a specific plan for
building a bridge was finally adopted. Initially designated to be only a
railway bridge, pressure from car owners resulted in an expansion of the plan
in 1927 to include a lane for cars. It took from 1925 to 1935 to build the
bridge. The train ride from Copenhagen to Aalborg via the Little Belt Bridge
was reduced from 10.5 to 6.5 hours. The bridge also served as an important link
for car traffic until the inauguration of the second bridge over the Little
Belt in 1970.
Middelfart from 1950
Middelfart had a population of just over 11,000, a figure that remained almost
unchanged in the following 20 years. The town’s physical development was
limited by the county’s parish communities, which extended more or less to the
city limits. Not until the municipal reform of 1970 was there room for new
growth. At the same time, the construction of a second bridge over the Little
Belt meant that Middelfart now had a good motorway connection to the ”triangle
area” in Jutland. The population grew, reaching 15,044 inhabitants by 2016.
Since the structural reform of 2007 Middelfart has been the centre of a new and
larger municipality – which a new city hall, opened in 2017, clearly indicates.
Theme: Wealth and welfare
1960s, increased prosperity and welfare brought about better living and housing
conditions. Single-family houses were becoming the preferred form of living,
and 1969 saw the beginning of Middelfart’s largest residential area in
Skrillinge. At the same time, mass-produced consumer goods, such as clothing,
music and TV sets, were becoming readily available, and food could now be
bought in the town’s new supermarkets, such as Favoritten, Pryds, Kvickly and
Vivo. The eastern part of Algade was transformed into a pedestrian street
between 1975 and 1980.