The history of Hven and it’s three harbours

The history of Hven and it’s three harbours

The history of Hven is really interesting. Hven is called the pearl of Öresund and is a popular tourist destination during the summer. Approximately 300 000 tourists visit the little island every year, but only about 400 lives permanently on Hven. The difference is huge, but it has not always been like this. Once upon a time Hven’s three harbours did not exist and during the 18th century 1200 people lived on the Island, what happened?

The first scheduled boat traffic – Bäckviken’s harbour

We start our tour of the history of Hven in Bäckviken’s Harbour. This is the harbour where the ferry from Landskrona arrives. In the harbour, you will find a small ice cream factory, a cosy restaurant and small shops. The majority of the tourists arriving with the ferry will continue up along the steep hill and rent a bike at Vens bicycle rental. The walk up the hill offers stunning views over the beautiful houses and gardens as well as the coastline.

Bäckviken was once a small fishing village without a harbour. The village hade a great location with short distance to Landskrona and the Swedish mainland. During the 17th century plans were therefore made to build a harbour. In 1876, the scheduled boat traffic initiated with the steam launch Svea. The steam lunch was not as comfortable as the ferries are today, with lounges and sundecks, but it did its job. The harbour in Bäckviken was completed 1886 and Svea was replaced by other boats. In 1990 the ferry M/S Stjerneborg was purchased and the harbour rebuilt for a price of 50 million Swedish crones. If you travel from Landskrona to Hven today you will be travelling with M/S Stjerneborg or the new ferry M/S Uraniborg.

The military takes over – Kyrkbacken’s harbour

Right across the island you will find Kyrkbacken’s harbour. Kyrkbacken was also a small fishing village in the beginning. Kyrkbacken translated into English is Churchill and it got its name from the medieval church that is located on the hill – Sankt Ibb. The church was built in approximately the 11th century. During the 17th century, 300 of the Islands 1200 inhabitant lived in Kyrckbacken. The majority worked as angler and used a long bridge to reach the sea. However, it was difficult to get a bigger source of income on the small fishing – bigger boats were needed. In 1878 the Kyrkbacken’s harbour was built. The fishing industry flourished and in 1915 Hven had a fleet of 50 ships. The ships were not only used for fishing but also to collect stones and for shipping coal. The stones were used to build houses on the Island.

During the Second World War the Island was put in isolation. The inhabitants of Hven were only allowed to leave or enter the Island twice a year. The military took over the Island and built fortresses and barbed wire fence all over the island. The tourism was equal to zero and the fishing industry was in jeopardy. The trucks out concurred the ships and in 1964 there was only one ship left of the fleet – Tuna of Kyrkbacken.

The extensive brick industry – Norreborg’s harbour

Last and actually least we have Norreborg’s harbour, which is an important part of the history of Hven. In the north, we find Hven’s third and smallest harbour – Norreborg. The history to this harbour solves the mystery about Hven’s drastic population reduction. To start, the name Norreborg can be translated into the northern fortress. During the 12th and 13th century there were four fortresses on Hven, according to historic maps. Norreborg was the location of one of the fortresses, the most northern one. The purpose of Norreborg’s harbour differs from the other two harbours.

While Bäckviken’s harbour was mainly for traveling and Kyrkbacken for the fishing industry, Norreborg’s harbour was the centre for Hven’s extensive brick industry. On Hven, the inhabitants lived on agriculture and fishing, but when that wasn’t sufficient they needed to find a new source of income. In Backafallsbyn, they found that the grounds clay could be of use for bricks and the sea was deep enough for large ships. Furthermore, they found that the necessary machinery to make bricks was not particularly expensive. Therefore, in 1850, the brick industry on Hven took form, and it started in Norreborg.

The harbour in Norreborg was built in 1883 and it made Norreborg the centre of the brick industry. The company Hvens tegelbruk AB, located in Norreborg, grow to be Skåne’s larges brick factory between the end of 1800 and the beginning of 1900. The factory also out concurred the rest of the factories on Hven, in total 14. The brick industry came to an abrupt end in 1948. Because of high costs on shipping, it had become too hard competing with prices on the mainland. The last factory on Hven had to close and the brick industry ended on the Island. Due to this, and the fact that there was not a lot of choices for people to get an income on the Island, many of the inhabitants left to work and live elsewhere. The inhabitants on Hven reduced from 1200 to about 400, the same amount as today.

Is it able to see traces of the brick industry today?

The furnace, used in the factory in Norreborg, was supposed to have remained as a memorial but became a ruin. The ruin was used to repair the roads on Hven. What is left of the brick industry is the machine house, which today is a private residence. The big holes, from where clay was retrieved, is also visible, especially at Norreborg’s campsite. However, the clearest track is all the bricks that you will find all over the coastline. If you want to learn more about the brick industry on Hven, visit Nämndemansgården.


Source: Jönsson, Åke. 1999. HVEN – från sagornas värld till turisternas, Historien om en ö.