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The history of Villebøl bridge


The bridge between Villebøl and Tobøl was built in 1852 on the initiative of farmer Nis Christensen. He owned the farm by the river Kongeå and now also wanted to make a living as bridge keeper and innkeeper. There were rules for building construction and maintenance even back them and Nis Christensen negotiated with the parish council regarding these conditions.


A meeting with the parish council

February 22, 1851 the parish council were called to a meeting in Kalvslund parish. The parish council were the equivalent of today’s municipal board and consisted of the parish priest, the parish landowners and some elected members.

The occasion for the day’s meeting was the construction of a bridge over the river Kongeå by Villebøl. In addition to the parish council, the farmer Nis Christensen from Villebøl and the road inspector Schmidt were also present. It was Nis Christensen, who had initiated the meeting because he wanted to ”put up a bridge across the Kongeå”. He would pay for the bridge in exchange for getting the rights to have an inn on his farm, which belonged under the jurisdiction of Haderslev County, and the right to charge a toll at the same rate as the one they charged in Gredstedbro.

The leaders of the parish council could see that they would save construction and operational costs for something that would be beneficial to all, and it was decided to proceed with the case.


The construction of the bridge

Although Nis Christensen was the developer and paid for the bridge, the parish council would approve the construction. At the meeting the parties agreed on the following:

”The bridge will have a length of 24 alen (14.5 m), width of 3 courses, poles and timber shall be acknowledged to have a thickness of 8 square inches.

All wood that is in the watershed and under the watershed at different times, should be of oak, with the exception of places that are always be submerged, which must be of beech or pine.

The bridge deck and railing with accompanying planks must be of pine.

Oak covering planks must be of a 2-inch thickness.

Deck planks 2½ inches and railing 5 inches.

The posts should have a length of 10 alen (6 m).

The timber should be good and the bridge construction solid.

The timber for the bridge must be approved before being used.”

When the bridge was finished, Nis Christensen had to demonstrate that it was built according to the agreement, and the parish council had to inspect and approve the construction.



Bridge tolls and road construction

It was not enough just to build a bridge. It was also necessary to build a dam with routes leading up to the bridge, and the meadows closest to the bridge would have to be maintained so that the system remained in good condition.

As long as the bridge was on Nis Christensen's property, and he charged tolls, it was his responsibility to maintain the road dams and the meadows south and north of the bridge. The road dams should be 9 alen (5.4 meters) wide and 1½ alen (90 cm) high.

Nis Christensen was therefore also responsible for constructing the embankments and buy the meadows. The entire construction - including the bridge - was estimated to cost 1,350 rix-dollars.

This money would have to be recouped again and therefore Nis Christensen won the right to charge tolls for 10 years without any intervention from the public authorities.

Then the county and parish council had the right for the next 10 years to redeem the bridge at three quarters of the construction’s current value - just over 1,000 rix-dollars. If the public authorities did not redeem the bridge during this period, it would remain Nis Christensen's private property.


County Office’s approval

Haderslev County Office also had to approve the building, and they had a few additions to the agreement. They demanded that ”the road segment from the bridge's causeway to Kalvslund Church is maintained in good and safe condition and that the road will have such breadth and right direction as required by the Kingdom's laws for a very busy secondary road, which becomes a market town road for several parishes.”

If Nis Christensen was to take a toll, Haderslev County Office demanded that, ”the owner undertakes to ensure that the road from the bridge to Foldingbro, Ribe Landevej, is given a width of 12 alen (7.2 m) between the ditches and is kept in a passable condition.”

Haderslev County Office then approved the project by a letter to Nis Christensen on 3 March 1852. The bridge construction could therefore be started, and the bridge became very important. From 1865 there was also a customs office at the farm at Villebøl bridge.


Author: Johannes Garder, Kalvslund Parish archives


Sources and literature:

Kalvslund Parish Archive contains a comprehensive description of the license, material consumption and bridge tolls, see http://www.esbjergkommune.dk/borger/kultur-og-fritid/arkiver/arkiver.aspx