The Medieval Castle Skodborghus
When driving along the north-south heading main road from Skodborg to Vejen, you will pass a huge mound 500 metres south of the traffic lights by Kongeåvejen. Here once stood the medieval border castle Skodborghus.
It was a large and impressive building, where the kings resided when their travels brought them to Southern Jutland. The castle served as the most important border post between the Royal Northern Jutland and the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein
Little knowledge about the castle
Despite the building's considerable size and importance, very little is actually known about the castle and its history. The written sources are not forthcoming, and only a few small excavations have been made in the area.
It is not known when Skodborghus was built. The castle's oldest phases could be placed in the early Middle Ages, when the river Kongeå was called Skodborg Å (Skodsborg River) in a few written sources (Icelandic heroic poem from the 1000s and abbot Nicolaus' pilgrimage guide from around 1150). However, there is no information about where the river's name-giver was located.
The first time Skodborghus is mentioned is in 1368, when the sons of the Holstein count Gert besieged the castle as part of the long-running conflict with the king. At the time, Skodborghus was a royal residence where royalty including Valdemar Atterdag regularly stayed.
Important customs office
The castle was frequently used as a lodge for large hunting companies that took advantage of the wildlife resources in the nearby forests of Farrisskove. In the 1400s and 1500s, Skodborghus was an important customs office for the busy Jutland cattle trading business.
The role as royal fortress continued until 1580, when Frederick II changed the castle into a noble estate. In the following centuries, the estate slowly fell into a state of disrepair, and by the late 1700s it was apparently in ruins.
Skodborghus' appearance is only roughly known from its younger stages. There was a castle courtyard and bridge dam with a farm building above it. All traces of the buildings finally disappeared when the present Skodborghusvej was built over the site in 1862.
So far only made two small archeological investigations have been conducted in the area. The first time was in 1985, when the natural gas pipeline affected the western edge of the area. Some post structures appeared, where the oldest had growth rings dating back to 1362. The timber work could represent the foundations of the castle bank's sides.
In 2009, parts of a bridge and a plank and sheet piling were excavated in a subsiduary brook to the river Kongeå 250 metres north of Skodborghus. The site is called Møllebakken, and the posts and planks here had growth rings dating back to the 1400s. They are thus dated at the same time as the royal border castle. Possibly, the two wall parts made up the rear section of a watermill.
Besides the name of the place, a few written sources from the 1500s refer to a mill that belonged to Skodborghus. This was closed down in 1580 at the same time as the building changed its role from castle to manor. The mill house and the rest of the complex lie safely under the present Skodborghusvej.
Hopefully, in the future there there will be more possibilities for archaeological investigations in the area that can help increase our knowledge of the Skodborghus complex.
Svend Aage Knudsen 1986. Skodborghus – en næsten glemt middelalderfæstning. Museumsavisen1, 1986, p. 8-25.