Mystery Bridge Nr. 162: A House Bridge in Flensburg?

Co-written with sister column:

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The 162nd mystery bridge takes us to the Schiffahrtsmuseum (Museum of Shipping and Rum) in Flensburg and to this 3D diagram of this community, dating back to the 16th Century. Geographically speaking, Flensburg is situated at the tip of the Flensburg Fjord, with much of the city center at the bottom of the hill on the western side and houses on the upper sides of the hill on both sides of the body of water. A mixture of housing and businesses can be found to the south of present-day Südermarkt, going towards the railway station and major highways. Little do we know about Flensburg is that it was once a walled-city.

From the 14th Century onwards, workers constructed a series of walls, gates and towers that would surround the town on the western side of the fjord. It surrounded the two churches, St. Nicolas and St. Mary’s as well as the buildings along the main stretch of street, which is known today as Holm and Roter Strasse (EN: Red Street). The wall was even built near the water below that street and extended toward the tip of the fjord, crossed the Mühlenteich near present-day Angelberger Strasse and went as far south as the point where the parking lot An der Exe is located today. On the north end, the wall extended below the Duburg school and reached its northernmost spot where the present-day Nordertor Gate is located. The city was walled in response to the increase of conflicts with the Danish, but also other intruders. By the middle of the 19th Century, much of the wall had disappeared and with that, the towers and gates, even though some historic markers and relicts can be found at the sites where they once stood. As many as 20 towers and gates existed during the time the city was surrounded by a wall.

Model of Nordertor and parts of the Wall.

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Our mystery bridge gives us a much closer look at one of the gates located at Angelburgerstrasse, near the tip, known today as Hafenspitze. Before going to that, we must look at the definition of a House Bridge. A house bridge was built between the 12th Century and the 17th Centuries and feature a stone arch bridge crossing that held houses on them. They are not covered bridges per se, as they are built solely with wood trusses and have rooves. House Bridges generally are uncovered and have outdoor openings for people to walk in and out of the houses, or simply meander past them. It is unknown how many were built during the aforementioned time period, but one of the well-known House Bridges that had existed was London Bridge, which was built in 1261 and after a fire, was rebuilt as a street crossing in 1831. Another house bridge that exists today in England is the Pulteney Bridge in Bath. In Germany, there are four known house bridges that exist. Most popular is the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt, the other three are known to exist in Bavaria: in Bad Kreuznach, Bamberg and Nuremberg.

Looking closer on the 3D diagram, there is one that may have exist in Flensburg. It’s located at the site where Angelsbergerstrasse is located today. It crossed a river known as Mühlengraben, which transports water into the Fjord at Hafenspitze. It appears that a gate is sitting over the crossing which was built as a stone arch bridge, using stone as the materials. A side view of the bridge can be found here:

Side view of Angelberger Gate and Bridge.

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Even though this is an artist’s depiction of the house bridge, it is unknown what exactly it looked like- whether there were one or more arch spans and whether the house looked like what was shown in the pictures. It is known that it had existed from the 15th Century until its dismantling in 1843. Anything else beyond that is wide open. The site today features a bridge crossing and former bike shop that was built inside the abutment. 100 meters away and towards the Hafenspitze is the Split, where the railroad line crosses Hafendamm with two bridges before terminating on both sides of the fjord. That line was built in 1920 but has been abandoned for almost a decade now.

The bridge with bike shop. Read more about it here.

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The Split near Hafenspitze

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As for the streams that emptied into the fjord, there were three that existed in and around Flensburg, making a confluence before passing through the former gate at Angelberger Strasse. Looking at the rendering of the drawing of Flensburg during the 16th Century, it may have been a lake when the streams met. While only one of them exists, much of was converted into an underwater channel. The rest were emptied and filled in.

Mühlgraben and its confluence with other streams before passing through the former gate at Angelberger Strasse

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The 3D exhibit, which can be found at the Schiffahrtsmuseum in Flensburg, shows what Flensburg may have looked like 400 years ago. While much of the buildings, including the churches, still exist to this day, as with the main street, there are some questions that have remained open pertaining to what actually existed in Flensburg. This includes the bridges that existed prior to 1800 and with that, we refer to this mystery bridge at Angelberger Strasse. While we may be able to seach through the records to find what we are looking for, chances are likely, due to four wars Flensburg was in- two with the Danes and the two World Wars, much of the records may be lost forever, and it would take a time machine to travel back to the days city was once walled.

But since that is all science fiction, I still hold out hope that there is more to the history of the crossing at Angelberger Strasse than what has been shown through displays and photos of the present crossing.

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What do you know about this bridge in terms of its history? What about the history of the river that emptied into the harbor, or the other crossings that existed when Flensburg was a walled town? Tell us about it. Comment in the section below or send an e-mail, using the contact form here.

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If you are interested in contributing photos and/or information for the bridge book project on Schleswig-Holstein’s bridges, here is the information about the project. Feel free to contact me using the contact details here.

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Happy Bridgehunting, folks. 🙂

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