KOLDING FROM THE MIDDLE AGES TO THE PRESENT
By Poul Dedenroth-Schou
Kolding popped up at the point at which the north-southbound road traffic in the early Middle Ages had to come to a halt in order to cross Kolding river at the bottom of Kolding Fjord. Very few towns in Denmark can trace their history back to the time before the century of the Valdemars (c. 1150-1250). It is probable that Kolding grew up as an urban area in the second half of the twelth century. Archaeological investigations in recent years have uncovered layers from around 1200. From that time stem the oldest traces of the town's parish church, Sct. Nicolai Church, and the first beginnings of Koldinghus stem from the middle of the thirteenth century. The first mention of the town in written sources is in the so-called Kong Valdemars Jordebog of 1231, which was an inventory of all royal property in Denmark.
From the beginning, the basis for the town's existence was farming, fishing, and trading, supplemented by some trade as a result of the ford. Koldinghus, which was laid out in the middle of the thirteenth century on the slope to the north of the town, was to secure peace for the fording point and also make sure that merchants, townsmen, and travellers paid taxes owed and duties to the crown. At the same time, the fjord and river had become the border between the Kingdom of Denmark and the Duchy of Schleswig. The castle was expanded throughout the Middle Ages, and was often the setting for the King's negotiations with foreign princes. These were the conditions under which merchants and craftsmen plied their trades, as well as for building works and for the provision of the court with everyday goods and luxury goods.
From the middle of the sixteenth century until the beginning of the seventeenth century, the town of Kolding enjoyed the favours of royalty to an unusual degree. Christian III (1536-1559) expanded the castle in the years 1546-1558 to a four-winged design, and established a new hospital in the town. His queen, Dorothea of Sachsen-Lauenburg, received Koldinghus as her dower house after the King's death. She built a new grammar school and established Slotsmøllen, today a modern brewery but at that time the castle's grain mill, where the town's farmers had to have their grain milled.
Their son Frederik II (1559-1588) created the large deer park north of Koldinghus and the so-called 'jyske vildtbane', an area of countryside ranging from Haderslev to Skanderborg, for use as a hunting ground and as farmland. He also constructed the Royal Road from Haderslev via Kolding to Nygård near Egtved, the only royal road constructed in Jutland. The royal private road had its own bridge across Kolding å river, near where Kongebro bridge and Kongebrogade are today.
In the years around 1600, Christian IV added the Great Tower to Koldinghus and at the same time fitted out a new and larger Castle Chapel and an impressive Great Hall.
The Royal Family's interest in Koldinghus and frequent stays at the castle with a large train created prosperity amongst many of the town's citizens. On top of this, Sønderbro bridge was one of two customs points for export to Germany and Holland. The export trade also brought many people to the town.
A Prominent Town
Medieval Kolding was a modest town, squeezed in between the castle hill and Koldinghus to the north, and Kolding river and its marshy banks to the south. To the east and west the town was bounded by water-filled ditches which more or less followed the present day streets Slotsgade and Skolegade. Three main roads led traffic to and from the town. From the east, the road ran from Snoghøj alongside the castle lake's east end along Munkegade and Klostergade; from the hinterland to the north and west (here the exact siting of the road is still disputed), along Skolegade and Låsbygade; from the south, across Sønderbro bridge and along Søndergade.
From the end of the sixteenth century stems the oldest known picture of Kolding, namely an engraving in Braun and Hogenberg's great work on Europe's most prominent towns. Many features of the present day town centre can be recognised in the picture. At the top of the picture lies the castle on the hill with the Stableyard alongside. Below the castle hill we find the town's parish church, begun around 1250 and consecrated to St. Nicholas, and east of the church lies the town square and the Town Hall. From square and church two roads run southwards, Vestergade and Østergade. At the southern end they meet in Helligkorsgade from where Søndergade carries traffic southwards over the river. For several centuries the town's harbour lay immediately east of Sønderbro bridge.
In Kolding the leper hospital Sankt Jørgensgården lay immediately west of the town near the river. The present day Sct. Jørgensgade recalls its location. In 1286 a Franciscan monastery was established just east of the town. It was closed down in 1529, a few years before the Reformation actually occured in Denmark, and the buildings were soon pulled down and part of the grounds rented out to the town's citizens. But most of the ground was converted into a herb garden for the castle, a herb garden which existed right until the mid-nineteenth century, when this plot was portioned out and the town's new main road, Jernbanegade, which ran from the town square to the new railway station by the harbour, built over it. Street names such as Klostergade, Munkegade og Gråbrødregade today recall the position of this monastery.
War and Pestilence
The wars with Sweden in the seventeenth century were the end of the town's time of prosperity. During the Kejserkrigen war 1627-29 and the Torstenssonkrigen war 1643-45 – both the result of the Thirty Years War in Germany – and the Carl Gustavkrigen war 1657-60, Kolding and the surrounding area were ravaged by hostile troops. In the same period the town was several times hit by pestilence. During the epidemic of 1654-55 alone 358 people died in Kolding. In a valuation of 1662 it is related that 71 farms and houses in the town were deserted. In 1672 there was a population of 1,094, during the Reformation (c. 1550) there had been around 1,600.
This marked downturn in the population was a significant reason for the difficulty Kolding had building itself up again. Also a factor was that Kolding – like most other market towns in the kingdom at the institution of the absolute monarchy in 1660 – was burdened with the so-called 'konsumtion', a duty to the state on all goods brought into the town. Kolding had the particular problem that the neighbouring towns were exempt from this duty. The new town of Fredericia, founded in 1652, was exempted from 'konsumtion' from 1669, and the towns in the Duchy of Schleswig were not burdened with this special duty. The merchants in Kolding had therefore to watch a deal of the trade that would naturally have come from the hinterland go to these towns.
In the course of the eighteenth century the town grew by only a small
number of houses. The census of 1801 states that there were 1,672 inhabitants as against 1,406 in 1769, the first time a real census had been taken in Denmark. The most common occupation in the town in 1801 was the distillery, the second was farming, and the third trading. Trade developed quickly in the following years. The export of oxen via Kolding had again risen considerably at the end of the eighteenth century. Furthermore, grain trade became a significant activity in the first half of the nineteenth century. Better methods of cultivation lead to increased grain production, and a growing population in Europe sought out Danish grain. From the 1830s a number of merchants ran a considerable grain export from Kolding. Peasants from Vejle to Haderslev sent their grain to Kolding. For the merchants, as for the town as a whole, it was of great significance that a proper harbour was built in Kolding in 1843.
The Schleswig Wars, and in particular the battles for Kolding on the 23rd April 1849, caused the town to experince a temporary stagnation – a large number of farms and houses were shot to pieces during the Schleswig-Holsteinish insurgents's artillery bombardment of the town – but after 1850 there was again an upswing. The customs border was moved southward, the 'konsumtion' discontinued, and the first industries established: ironworks, tileworks, and a furniture makers.
In 1855 there were 3,476 inhabitents in Kolding, a doubling since 1801, and from 1855 to 1880 there was another doubling to 7,141 inhabitents. The increased trade in the town was part of the explanation for this, but the tendency was supported by the fact that the town now had a hinterland to the south. After the war with Prussia and Austria in 1864 the border between Denmark and Germany was drawn south of Kolding, but 8 parishes immediately south of Kolding, which had earlier been part of Schleswig, were given to Denmark. The inhabitants there had until then traded in Christiansfeld and Haderslev, but now had to go to Kolding. It was, furthermore, an important condition for the increased trade that the East Jutlandian railway line from 1866 had a station in Kolding. From the 1870s there was also a railway connection to the new export harbour Esbjerg. In 1898 Kolding received its first private railway, the Egtvedbanen, which was followed by two further private lines, in 1911 the Troldhedebanen to Mid Jutland and in 1917 the two Kolding Sydbaner, to Hejlsminde and Vamdrup respectively. They were all shortlived, however. The Egtvedbanen was abolished in 1930, the Kolding Sydbaner in 1949, and the Troldhedebanen was the last to be closed in 1966.
The town's growth from the 1850s created the opportunity for considerable new housing developments. Several new quarters were established in the years between c.1850 and the turn of the century to both the east and west of the old town centre. The Konsul Graus Gade Quarter and the Vesterbrogade Quarter stem from the second half of the nineteenth century. Låsbygade, the town's old approach road from the west, was regarded until the beginning of the 1870s as the town's most important trading street. Here lay most of the merchant's houses, but when the state railway station was placed by the harbour and the tracks were laid through the southern part of the town, the centre of trade moved little by little to the Jernbanegade/Østergade Quarter.
At the same time there was a change in the character of the trading. Earlier it had taken place in the shops adjoining the merchant's houses, where people had shopped both wholesale and retail. Now some merchants specialised in wholesaling certain goods, others in the retail trade. Alongside this countless small shops sprang up on the town's shopping street. As a result of developments in industry some craftsmen began, instead of practising their trade, to sell the corresponding factory produced goods in their shops. Other shops were established by the many people who moved to the town, either from the hinterland or from North Schleswig, which many youths left to escape German military service. In this period the town became more ‘enlightened'. The communal gasworks was built in 1861, and in 1898 the power station followed. The town received street lights, first gas lamps, later electric lights.
Extensive Building Projects
From 1880 to 1911 the number of inhabitants doubled yet again, from 7,141 til 14,219. The many newcomers found work in trading in particular. Kolding was during this period a centre for the exportation of livestock, particularly to Germany. The export of eels and trade in seed, fertilzer, and feed was also an important business activity. Amongst the most important industrial companies in this period were De Danske Mejeriers Maskinfabrik and S.W.Bruun's tobacco factory, which was for a time Denmark's largest tobacco factory, located where Føtex supermarket now lies.
The increase in population made the need for new housing almost insatiable. From the beginning of the 1880s the entire central part of the town saw rebuilding work. Old half-timbered houses were replaced by new brick-built, presentable houses of several storeys, just as new quarters – particularly south of the river – were developed. A number of talented architects built monumental buildings, Hotel Kolding on Akseltorvets north side – a worthy counterpart to the new Town Hall – Sct. Nicolai School and the Technical College, and the town's parish church were all thus rebuilt.
Until 1908 there was only one bridge across Kolding å river for motorised traffic, Sønderbro, but that year the so-called Nybro (New Bridge) was built. At the end of the 1920s Østerbro and Vesterbro followed, and finally Bredgadebroen was built during the Second World War.
While most of the town's population had earlier lived north of Kolding å river, there lived in around 1930 equal numbers north and south of the river, and since then the housing expansion has been greatest to the south. The allotment societies, which stood for loans for the purchase of grounds and building of smaller villas on the edge of town, are largely to be thanked for the fact that so many people from Kolding could afford their own house and garden.
The housing crisis during the First World War led to the building of the first properties designed for letting in Kolding, amongst others the council development Udsigten, built by the architect Ernst Petersen. He had come to town to build the Domhuset (police station and court) following a large architecture competition, and in the following years it was he who was responsible for numerous public buildings: Harteværket, Denmark's first water power station; the rebuilding of the Town Hall; Nationalbanken's branch office, which now houses the council's tax department; Sparkassen Kolding; the Library; Købmandsskolen on Haderslevvej; and Sct. Hedvigs klinik, a Catholic hospital in Domhusgade.
Investment, Industry and Education
The considerable public investments which were implemented in order to reduce unemployment during and immediately after the First World War resulted in a particularly heavy tax burden on the town's inhabitants in the 1920s. The number of inhabitants fell, but the population in the surrounding parishes rose. It was an unfair situation that many people enjoyed the fruits of the activity in Kolding without paying for their share of it. Therefore, an annexation of the built-up areas of the neighbouring parishes was implemented in 1930. The town's total number of inhabitants rose to just under 22,000, and the town's area was doubled.
The positive effects of the annexation soon became apparent. The town was only to a lesser extent hit by the great unemployment of the 1930s. On top of this, the Lillebæltsbroen bridge, which was completed in 1935, was advantageous for Kolding's location as a centre of trade and traffic.
A number of older industrial concerns, amongst them S.W.Bruun's tobacco factory, had to concede defeat around 1930, but others experienced growth, in particular factories with links to farming and the manufacture of agricultural products. Kolding Hørfabrik, active 1939 to 1965, was after the war the concern which employed the largest number of people. At the end of the 1940s several new steel industries were established, including Diesella which produced scooters and, so to speak, got Denmark moving. The great industrial upswing first occurred, however, with the boom at the beginning of the 1960s, and the laying out of purpose-built industrial estates where many companies working with stainless steel have set up shop. Furthermore, a number of firms working with the applied arts, for example Georg Jensen Damaskvæveriet A/S, Hans Hansen Sølvsmedie A/S (now Georg Jensen Kolding, part of the Royal Scandinavia group), Anni og Bent Knudsen, and Bent Gabrielsen Guldsmedie, are grouped in Kolding.
Efforts to make the town a centre of education in Southern Jutland have resulted in Kolding today being a university town featuring a department of Syddansk Universitet (University of Southern Denmark) developed on the basis of a polytechnic department to which the subjects Danish and English have been added. There is also a college of pedagogy, a ‘specialarbejderskole' for the training of semi-skilled workers, and the Technical College from which Designskolen Kolding has sprung, one of two design colleges in Denmark. A teacher training college was established in 1953, but closed again in 1992 in connection with general cuts in state education.
From Demolition to Redevelopment
Traffic problems in the town have been debated heatedly since the 1930s. A main road along the castle lake, which was part of the town plan of 1947, wasn't given up until the 1960s. Instead, a ring road system has been constructed, and the motorway bypass has spared Kolding from unwanted traffic at the same time as it has connected the town to the great European motorway network. Today, Kolding has motorway connections to all four corners of the world.
The boom of the 1960s and early 1970s was to the detriment of Kolding's old town centre – as has been the case in many of the country's other market towns. The Vestergade Quarter was pulled down to make room for a centre encompassing a Town Hall and businesses, but these plans were later given up. Parts of Søndergade were pulled down to make room for a supermarket. But the large-scale demolitions are over. Instead Kolding has shown the way as regards redevelopment. The Konsul Graus Gade Quarter has been rebuilt according to the old patterns of development. Large parts of the buildings along Låsbygade have been cleared and included in the redevelopment works. The wound which was opened with the removal of Vestergade has been healed with the Cityarkaden and Midtgården. Kolding can once more present itself as a whole town. At the end of the 1980s the town's traffic system was reconstructed through the opening of the ring road. The town centre was thus made peaceful as regards traffic at the same time as a comprehensive modernisation of the buildings and streets was completed. Today, the town centre appears well-kept and attractive. The entire town centre was furnished with an uniform pavement of brick and granite.
In the same period the town has focused strongly on culture. Koldinghus has been restored through two decades (reopened 1989), and the castle today exists as a unique mixture of historical monument and exceptional new architecture, an impressive setting for a cultural historical museum with international special exhibitions. A Danish Silver Museum is being built up at Koldinghus. With Trapholt the town has gained a museum of modern art in an interesting building (opened 1988, expanded considerably 1997 with the founding of the Danish Furniture Museum). And with Kolding Theatre next to Hotel Comwell Kolding (previously Scanticon Kolding) the town has received the large hall for theatre, music, and conferences which it has lacked during most of the twentieth century. The hall was opened in 1991 and has led to a revitalising of the theatrical and musical life of Kolding.
In 1993 Kolding Storcenter was opened on a piece of land between Kolding and Bramdrupdam. Beforehand, there had been a heated debate about whether to support the town centre or to build a new shopping mall. With Kolding Storcenter, Kolding gained a retail magnet which attracts many customers from the whole of Southern Jutland. Simultaneously, the town centre experienced, as expected, a small downturn which has, however, more or less been won back. The area around the Storcenter continues to attract the types of shops which will attract further trade to the town.
Many businesses are established or open branches in the Kolding region, and with the opening of the Great Belt bridge it can be felt that the town lies at the centre of the Danish traffic network. Particularly transport firms and firms in need of centrally placed warehouse facilities come to the town and the surrounding area.