Has the town of Vegesack actually been a founded one? Not really.
Its well - protected position at the foot of the moraine slopes remaining from the last Ice Age, the Mouth of the Lesum with the Schönebecker Sand and the Aue Mouth as a natural harbour were ideal requirements for an early settlement, for shipping and for trade. Today Vegesack consists of the former villages turned town parts of Schönebeck, Grohn, Alt-Vegesack, Fähr-Lobbendorf and Aumund-Hammersbeck ( seen clockwise).
Each of these smaller town parts has a rich history of its own which can, however, be rendered only in abbreviated form here.
is also known as “Bremer Schweiz” by the people living around it. This part of Bremen especially reminds of Switzerland. The usual Bremen flatlands end and mountains (or hills) begin. This phenomenon can be seen not only in Schönebeck, but in the whole of Bremen-Nord, for this little piece of land is situated on a sand dune stretching from Neuenkirchen to Osterholz-Scharmbeck.
The natural borders of the glacial dune are the rivers Weser, Lesum and Hamme.
Schönebeck is a mainly leafy part of Bremen. Its main attraction probably is “Schloss Schönebeck” which hosts today a folk museum and, in earlier days, was home to knights. The place got its name from the designation “Schöne Beeke.” “Beeke” is an old German word for stream (or beck) and also played a role in the naming of the neighbouring part of the town, Hammersbeck. But more of that later.
The biggest landlords were the Knights of the Borch who wielded great power and, among other things, exacted unreasonable tithes from peasants, but also gave them protection. Their power reached from the “Freier Damm”, where most of the stewards lived, to the Borchshöhe, Vegesacker Aue, Grohn, to the licensed fishermen at the Lesum.
Although the place has a high building density today, Schönebeck has not lost its attraction. The Aue valley is seen as a popular recreational area in summer and also in winter, because the Aue meadows near the castle will be flooded and the ice made accessible for skating.
The chronicles say that this place had had only three homesteads in 1557. Only after the resident peasants and fisherman became lieges of the Schönebeck lords, has the location been mentioned in written records. The Lords of the borch had the power of jurisdiction from the Freier Damm towards the Lesum. This division has been in existence till today: It marks the current “border” between Schönebeck (belonging to Vegesack) and St. Magnus (to Burglesum).
The border to Vegesack, however, was the Aue at the “Alten Tief” (Old hollow). Today, the stunted alleyway “Zum Alten Tief” near the Grohn community centre reminds of the former Aue mouth, which was modified in its course during the years of the harbour construction.
To get over to Aumund, a simple wooden bridge had been laid across the “ford” in 1778. There is a Stinnes DIY centre at this place today; the Aue is hardly noticed anymore, because the concrete bridge at the Uhthoffstr, which has replaced the wooden one, makes the little stream vanish almost completely between traffic noise and tarmac. The pastures and the overgrown new land beneath the Översberg was designated as “Grohden.” From this word, the name Grohn, official since 1861, originated.
Fishing as an occupation was predominant. An old licensed fisherman is lives in Grohn in the street “Am Wasser” till today. With his boat, people at the Lesum have been ferried upon request to the Schönebecker Sand. If you want to go there today, the Lesumsperrwerk (Lesum barrage), which had been built at the beginning of the Seventies as a bridge and flood protection, will have to be used.
At the end of the 19th century, the face of Grohn was greatly altered though the location of industries. The Tauwerk -( BTF ) and porcelain factories came into being. The “Actiengesellschaft Norddeutsche Steingut AG” firstly used to have its site on the spot where the Grohner Düne high- rise settlement and the New Catholic Church are situated today. In former times, this area had the biggest smoking furnaces in Grohn.
The origins of the spot can be securely traced back to the year 1470. In the years from 1619 to 1623, the first artificially- built harbour in Europe was constructed there. The fast-growing settlement developing around this harbour got its name from the old alehouse “Thom Fegesacke, “ which was said to have existed since the year 1500 or earlier.
The town of Vegesack had become with the passage of the politically unstable time first Swedish in 1653, then Danish in 1712, and in 1715 a part of Bremen, which, however, applied for the harbour area only. In the year of 1741, it was included in the Electorate of Hanover before becoming eventually a full part of Bremen in 1804.
From the 16th century onwards, ships have already been built there.
In present day, Vegesack is a centre for the whole administrative area and, moreover, a regional centre for Bremen- Nord. The Stadtgarten, which has been in the last years enlargened, renovated and made open to the public, is a highly recommended area for walking. It is also very convenient for “shipwatching” since you get a closer view from the beach promenade than from almost any other spot.
But from where hails the quite unusual name of Vegesack ? The place used to consist of a row of houses on each side of the Aue. One part, the current Vegesack, is said to have been called “thom Fegesacke” or “Zum Vegesack” , because the visiting seamen got their money sacks practically swept clean in the numerous alehouses around the harbour. (to sweep = fegen).
The other side of the stream, however, had also been referred to as “Wegesack”, allegedly because their pathways (Wege) were sagging towards the Weser. Both explanations could be true, but the place name “Vegesack” remains still open to interpretations.
This town part is situated between Blumenthal and Vegesack and is can be tracked back in official records until the beginning of the 14th century. It was shaped then by the “Fährgrund”
a deep ravine, which ground water provided a pathway (across the present-day-Schulken-straße) to the Weser. It used to be 800 metres long , 30 metres wide and 15 metres deep. According to the records, a ferry link existed as early as 1599. The road to Blumenthal led around the water in northerly direction.
At the late date of 1800, a long wooden bridge with direction Vegesack was erected which should connect the present-day Gerhard-Rohlfs-Straße and Lindenstraße. The ground has been filled up gradually , and seemed to be a malodorous dump for a time. It is impossble nowadays to notice the formerly 15 m-deep ravine when visiting the adjacent “Fritz-Piaskowski-Bad” or the pleasant green areas around it.
The most important businesses in that small locality were the Bremer Vulkan shipyard and the DMW Diesel engine factory.
Among the most important knights of the arch-diocese were the ministeriales of Oumünde (Aumund). The first of them- called Dietrich- had been mentioned in 1144, and as late as in 1422, a Lord of Aumund appeared in the records. By the exercise of power on the side of these knights, there were burdens for the peasants similar to that in neighbouring places.
The oldest settlement here is Aumund. This very extensive ground was mainly in use for agriculture, later on, small industry and craftsmen’s shops followed. The Borchshöhe,
as a pathway to the so-called “Bremer Schweiz” (Schönebeck) is rich in vegetation.
A brickyard, timber trading and a cigar factory gave empoyment to the fast-growing population.
The township of Hammersbeck was already in the records by the year of 1581 and developed around the little stream “Beckedorfer Beeke” and from an old homestead which was said to have been inhabited by an East Frisian called Hamer.
These are only little tidbits regarding the multi-faceted history of Vegesack, which became incorporated into Bremen in the year of 1939. The objective for the restructuring of the Lower Weser area around Vegesack had been formulated in a clear way: “The communal disintegration must be overcome.”
Despite that, many different opinions about reaching this aim existed. There was the possibility of incorporation into the city of Bremen, as well as the establishment of an autonomous city at the Weser-Lesum banks with the name of Lesummünde (at the mouth of the Lesum). As we well know today, the plan for an autonomous city in its own right did not succeed, and the attractive name “Lesummünde” has been replaced on Feb.23th, 1951 by the more sober “Bremen-Nord.” Still, this name is also able to generate a good-sized amount of local patriotism in Vegesack people when they are talking about their town.
That’s the way it is if you’ re living in Bremen-Nord. ”I’m off to Bremen” people say if they want to go to Bremen City. An out-of towner would raise his eyebrows and ask: “Isn’t Vegesack part of Bremen”? Maybe it is because central Bremen is so far away, and it takes a full 40 kilometres from Rekum to the South-East of Bremen. Or is it because of the fact that present- day Bremen-Nord lost all their old street names in the incorporation of 1939? After all, there had been a double Bahnhofstraße, Bismarckstraße, Bremer Straße, Buchtstraße, Sandstraße and Poststraße (among many others), which needed to be renamed on Bremen’s request.
Or did you already know that the streets called Reeder-Bischoff-Straße, Sagerstraße, Uhthoffstraße, Rohrstraße, Bermpohlstraße and Willmannsberg actually had different names before the Second World War?
All the same: Vegesack’s face stays ever- changing: New roads come into being (Warnemünder Weg near the sports ground), disused shipyard hangars are taken down (Lürssen premises) and new attractions are introduced or renovated (Schulschiff Deutschland) We are rightfully curious about future developments in this former whaling town.
And if the Vegesack people are in a genial mood, Werder Bremen is winning the Bundesliga and a cool Beck’s beer at hand, they can even agree with being a part of Bremen….
by Armin Seedorf
Translation: Helle Kuhlenkamp