Cultural Entities 

Land Würden

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1. Overview


Land Würden (older descriptions: Landwürden, Land Wührden, Landwührden)


River Weser, river Lune, Bremerhaven (State of Bremen) neighbouring entity, Osterstade


Approx. 30 km²

Location - map:

Tidal river marsh of Lower Saxony/ Germany, Western bank of the lower Elbe

Origin of name:

Not known

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Four-post hall house, building of the villages at first on the river embankment without dyke protection, river marshes of Osterstade, Stedingen, Stadland

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

Four-post hall houses, settlements on river embankments, dwelling mounds, brickworks, dykes

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The Land Würden is a flat marshland on the western bank of the river Weser. Next to the river is a slightly higher, 1km wide embankment with sandy, chalky soil. Between this and the Geest is the Sietland, low lying land, which is roughly 1 m lower than the embankment. The sediments here are finer and combined with their high water content, they provided the ideal conditions for the formation of peatbog. The region is drained by various artificial sluices, which channel the water into the River Weser. The mouth of the rivulet Lune was moved in 1985-87. It now flows into the Weser in the southern part of the Land Würden instead of to the north of it. In contrast to the low lying land, the embankment and the Geest border have a great number of trees and bushes.
The Land Würden owes its existence to an affiliation with the lords of Oldenburg. The area was mortgaged to Bremen citizens in the 14th century, belonged to Denmark (1667-1773) and came under the Napoleonic occupation. Only in 1974 was it added to the administrative district of Cuxhaven on the eastern side of the river. It is now a part of the administrative area of Loxstedt. However, the church still belongs to the diocese of Oldenburg. The division of the place of Büttel is a historical oddity: since the Middle Ages half of it has belonged to the Land Würden, and the other half to Osterstade.
The Land Würden has no settlement centre, but rather consists of numerous small settlements, of which Dedesdorf with its former ferry point and one of two churches is the principal one. The second church is located in Büttel and belongs to the diocese of Hanover. The largest place in the Land Würden is Eidewarden with 386 of the total of 1799 inhabitants. The other places are Maihausen, Overwarfe, Ueterlande, Wiemsdorf and Speckje.

2.2 Present landscape
The Land Würden is characterised by grazing land. It is a very flat marsh-landscape, from which only a few high trees, churches and a windmill project. In the north it borders directly on the industrial zones of Bremerhaven, so that there is a very harsh break between the rural landscape and the urban structures.
The majority of settlements are located on the embankment of the river Weser. Normally the houses are built on terpen. The pasture-forms are varied: there are Hammen and Strengen, which were set up at various times. Numerous paths, called Helmer, make the fields accessible.

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
With the ending of the Ice Age the increase in sea-levels increase led to the dposition of sediments, formation of marshes and ultimately the growth of peat-bogs. Due to this process older archaeological layers are considerably below today's surfaces and are only encountered under special circumstances.
Therefore for the older periods it is necessary to consider the archaeological information from a wider area. The oldest finds from the Weser are from the Middle and Late Paleolithic period. The Neolithic period is represented more fully on the adjoining Geest. In particular the striking megalithic burial places demonstrate an intensive use of the land. Some settlement remains found in Loxstedt derive from this time too.
Numerous finds from the Bronze Age, axes, lances, swords, daggers, a rare ridge helmet, appear to have been deliberately deposited in the Weser. The discovery of the Late Bronze Age settlement of Rodenkirchen-Hahnenknopp mill was a sensational piece of luck. It originated in the 10th/9th century BC and was covered by massive sedimentation layers. It remained in use until the pre-Roman Iron Age. Despite periodic flooding the settlement appears to have survived for a long period, but continuing sea-level rises eventually led to its abandonment.

On the adjoining Geest, in the district of Loxstedt, a settlement was excavated which was continuously inhabited from the 1st to the 9th/10th century AD and is probably the direct precursor of today's village. On the same Geest island, so-called Celtic fields can be traced, an Iron Age field form which is wide-spread from Denmark via the Netherlands to Great Britain. Somewhat further to the south, settlement activity begins in the first centuries AD in the marsh as well. Whether the situation was similar in the Land Würden, or only the higher areas of land were used extensively cannot be determined at the moment.
After an interruption in settlement-building, new settlements apparently commenced in the early Middle Ages. In as far as place-name evidence and written sources enable us to make any statements, the settlers appear to have been Frisians. The road to the oldest church in the region in Barmstedt led from the west across the Weser through the Land Würden to the church on the Geest. Today this road is still called Freesenweg. On the Geest, too, there were villages with a Frisian population, as has been proven for Nesse (community of Loxstedt).

Dedesdorf and Eidewarden, too, used to lie the middle of parish land, but due to the loss of land to the Weser, they are now on the edge of their arable and grazing areas. The Land Würden, with its principal settlement at Dedesdorf, belonged to the Dukedom of Oldenburg from at least the 13th century AD. How this happened has not yet been clarified by scholars; according to legend it was mortgaged for a dowry and was not redeemed.
In the 11th century the building of dykes began in the Land Würden. At first these only served as a protection for farm land, because the settlements were built on mounds. Today’s houses are also on mounds, some of which may have a medieval core.
There are no important castles in the area. The names Schwingenburg and the “Burg” (the Castle) close to Oldendorf have not been verified as referring to actual fortifications. The building of castles, a characteristic of lordly rule, did not occur in this area of Oldenburg because of the powerful position of the town of Bremen, which feared for the loss of freedom of shipping on the Weser.
Based on the interpretation of written sources, Overwarfe is a somewhat younger settlement, the mound is high, (in 1717 and 1825 it was above the height of the floods), but 3m below the ground there was a clay floor, which according to Ramsauer testifies to a greater age for the settlement place.
The St. Laurentius Church of Dedesdorf is the oldest building in the region. In the written sources it was mentioned for the first time around 1150, the oldest surviving parts are from the second half of the 13th century. In 1838 the pulpit was renewed and in 1870 the church tower was replaced by a new one. The organ, which is a point of attraction for many people, was built by the well-known organ builder Arp Schnitger in 1697/98.

3.2 Early Modern Times
The storm floods which left their mark on the Land Würden were those of 1717 and 1825. Many houses on the old dwelling mounds survived above the floods, but those in low-lying areas flooded, the fields were salinated and the ground waterlogged. After the Christmas flood of 1717 the dykes were difficult to repair. A feature of dyke building is their constant increase in height. Despite this, on the western bank of the Weser, arable land was lost repeatedly and the hinterland became more intensively cultivated. The moorland of the Geest has been drained and cultivated since the 18th century.
The agriculture in the Land Würden changed in the 16th/17th century, with a decrease of tillage in favour of pasturage. Traders from Bremen bought cattle, for instance from Jutland, and had them graze in the marshes until they reached maturity for slaughter.
In the 18th century the changes to the route of the Weser began, from a freely meandering river with shallows into a waterway. By means of groynes (vertical structures diagonal to the banks) the flow of water was increased in the middle of the river and thus the silting-up of the waterway was prevented.
Since the 19th century there has been a step-by-step expansion of the Weser into a waterway with a depth of 14 m. Further deepening is planned.

There are only very few architectural remains from the early Modern Times surviving. Indiek 20 is an isolated farm belonging to Büttel which has an inner post-structure from 1599. As the house contains wood from trees felled in 1653 it could well have been rebuilt after a predecessor was destroyed in the Thirty Years War. Part of a house in Wiemersdorf dates to 1638. A rare decoration of fanlike rosettes, that is otherwise usual in the upper Weser area, decorates the gable. The two-storey storage house made of bricks in Büttel is completely without decoration. The ground plan and the angle of inclination of the saddle roof suggest that it is very old.
The tombstones in the churchyard of Dedesdorf form an important group of monuments. They were probably made in Bremen of non-local sandstone. Hence every dead person has got their own stone and virtually no additions were made. They are proof of the wealth of the inhabitants of the place at that time.

3.3 Modern Times
Today the Weser is dammed by the new Weser weir near Bremen. There the difference between the low and the high tide is 4m (0.19m prior to the expansion). Weirs near Hunte, Lesum und Ochtum prevent extreme water levels in the tributaries. The dyke-line is fixed and thus the land-water-border is constant.
The Lune Bank, which was surrounded by dykes in the 19th century, was not settled. However there was a shepherd’s house there.
The Lower Weser Railway (Niederweserbahn), which linked the eastern marshland from 1911, was closed to passenger traffic in 1931. After the Second World War it was opened again before it was closed for good in 1964. This marked the end of this line.
In the 19th century numerous buildings were erected which today characterise the cultural landscape. They are built with four posts at the gable end, and the ground floor ceilings are on the same level as the eaves. They have half hipped roofs with characteristic windows and have small round windows in the gable. A building of this type has been preserved in Ueterlande (2 Olderburger Strasse). The barns, too, were prestigiously built. Typically they are built parallel to the road with barns at right-angles to it.
Examples of the architecture of the mid 19th century are found in Overwarfe (25 and 50 Warftenstrasse) The house 5 Minneörterstrasse in Wiemsdorf is from the end of the 19th century.

The customs house from the period of the Napoleonic occupation is an architectural oddity. During the Continental System from 1811-1813 it served as a custom post in Dedesdorf. Later the house was dismantled and rebuilt behind the dyke. A further building without agricultural significance has also been preserved, the village-school of Büttel (around 1900). The school-system goes back to the 16th/17th century.
The windmill in Dedesdorf, actually situated in Oldendorf, is a lordly mill and was mentioned in 1650 for the first time. At that time it was leased and the people of the Land Würden were forced to grind their corn there. In 1847 the old post-mill was sold on the condition that a new mill was to be built. Today’s mill from 1847 is a two-storey gallery windmill with tail and sail wings. The community of Loxstedt is attempting to sell the windmill complex.

In the 19th century there were a number of brickworks on the lower Weser. They supplied Bremen and the new harbour-town of Bremerhaven and the places which were there before it. There were also brickworks in Wiemersdorf, at the Overwarf sluice and at the Büttel sluice. The marshy soil (clay) served as a basic material and peat from the moor areas on the river Lune was used as fuel. The peat could be transported by ship to the flourishing towns at a reasonable price, just as could the bricks from the factory.
From 1885 a steam boat operated the ferry connection which had existed since the Middle Ages. In 2004 it was discontinued. The harbour of Dedesdorf was abandoned in the 1980s.

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use
The region of the Land Würden is characterised by intensive meadowland-use. The decrease in the number of farms is echoed by an increase in size of the remaining examples. Fisheries on the Weser have fallen off and does not exist in the Land Würden any longer. The northern dyke foreland is protected as a bird sanctuary. Stotel Moor and Königsmoor close to Schwengen are nature reserves.
Since the early Modern Times the dyke-line has only changed a little. The bends in the old dyke which had originated from destroyed segments being altered have been straightened by modern dyke building-measures. The old steeper dyke-profile can still be seen in one segment at “Auf der Jührde” in Ueterlande. The rear dyke on the low lying land, called Landwehr, is no longer necessary due to today's continuous dyke line.

4.2 Settlement development
In 2006 1.799 people lived in the Land Würden (16.197 in the entire community of Loxstedt). The growth of the community is greatest on the Geest. There has been a town-to-country movement. A further expansion of the town of Bremerhaven has stopped at the moment at the borders of the federal states of Bremen and Lower Saxony. An expansion of housing and industrial areas is only relevant to the area on the Geest, but there too no further expansion is anticipated
The price of property in the Land Würden is very moderate. In the northern area the vicinity to the airport of Luneort in the city zone of Bremerhaven effects the area.
The flat countryside appeals greatly to bicycle tourists, and Dedesdorf still has a role as a centre of attraction in the Land Würden. The organ in the local church attracts visitors from afar, because it was made by Arp Schnittger, who is famous in the whole of North Germany. The organ was restored in 1998.

The society “Historic Centre Dedesdorf-Eidewarden” has established itself at the so-called “Hochzeitsmühle” (Wedding-Mill) in Dedesdorf. On the one hand the society consists of a network, on the other it organises events around the mill.
The part of the Lune Bank, which has been surrounded by dykes, is an EU-bird sanctuary. The offshore mud flat-surfaces are to be made nature conservation areas and offer restricted tourist facilities.

4.3 Industry and energy
In the Middle Ages only church towers projected above this level landscape with its open skies. In the early Modern Times windmills were added, although there was only one in the Land Würden. Nowadays there are many technical constructions which have altered the look of the entity. Beside the wind turbines close to Stotel, there are the high tension lines which run from north to south. Opposite the Land Würden there is the nuclear power station of Unterweser with its transformer station and further wind turbines. Loxstedt is planned as a location for harbour-orientated industrial estates. In the Land Würden only a small part of the Lune Bank (200 hectare) is included in the plan for it, the other part will remain a protected area.

4.4 Infrastructure
The use of the waterways in the Land Würden has largely come to a standstill. After the closing of the ferry-service Dedesdorf-Kleinensiel, the river Weser does not function as a connecting route any longer.
The Land Würden is connected by the motorway A 27 (Bremen-Bremerhaven) running along to the east and by the federal road B 437 running on its southern border and with the western bank of the Weser by the Weser-tunnel. This link, which has existed since 2004, has not yet led to an economic upswing in the region. However, the number of daily Weser crossings has increased, so that greater integration of the eastern and western bank of the Weser can be seen. Now the eastern bank has improved access to the cultural and commercial possibilities of the town of Bremerhaven. As far as the small region of the Land Würden is concerned the tunnel is a disadvantage. The Weser-tunnel attracts further transit-traffic. This effect will increase even more, if the motorway A 22 is built. It is planned as a relief for Greater Hamburg and Bremen and should at the same time assist the structurally weak regions of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven/Bremen, Oldenburg and the Emsland by giving a better linkage to the major road-network.
Public transport is completely orientated towards the metropolis of Bremerhaven.

5. Legal and spatial planning aspects

In matters of regional planning the communities are subject to the Regional Planning Programme of Lower Saxony and the plans of the communities concerning town and country planning and use of land. In addition the regional development for Bremen-Bremerhaven and the regional development concept for the sea off Lower Saxony’s coast have to be taken into consideration.
Although the Land Würden is located on the developing axis Bremen-Bremerhaven, until now the region has suffered from negative consequences: the construction of the Weser-tunnel and as a result the closing of the ferry-service to Kleinsiel.
At present (2006) the project “Integrated Rural Development Concept – Wesermünde-South” is starting. Here people living in the communities Schiffdorf, Beversedt, Hagen and Loxstedt are to take part in the development of their region. They are also to be the drivers of this development. The Land Würden is a part of Loxstedt and thus part of its planning area. The new master plan for coastal protection has not been published yet.
Proceedings have recently begun to protect the mud-flats off the nature reserve of Lune Bank.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Spatial planning
Spatial plans for the area could pose a danger for the cultural landscape unless they take historic structures and characteristic features into consideration and integrate them into future concepts.

6.2 Agriculture
The adoption of the changed production conditions in agriculture, resulting in the reduction of farm numbers and the re-parcelling of land which is planned for 2006 - 2010, will have significant consequences on the present fieldscape, farm buildings and their heritage value.

6.3 Tourism
In spite of its rural character, access to the Land Würden by car is simple but is more difficult by public transport. The closing of the ferry-service Kleinensiel-Dedesdorf has had a negative effect on Dedesdorf as a tourist attraction.

6.4 Industry and energy
The nuclear power station of Unterweser, electricity pylons and wind turbines have a considerable visual impact on the wider landscape.

6.5 Infrastructure
The area is surrounded by constructions associated with transport which have a negative visual impact on the wider landscape. The ship traffic on the Weser has probably the least disturbing effect in this respect but the motorway and the Weser-tunnel, which is to be developed into a motorway, is more problematic and Bremen airport, which is located on the Lune Bank, is a further cause of disturbance. Further planned deepening of the Weser could destroy archaeological remains in the marine environment.

6.6 Natural processes
The settlement of Crenesse close to Dedesdorf, which dates to the early Middle Ages and was abandoned during the Middle Ages, is endangered by erosion by the Weser.

7. Potentials

7.1 Spatial planning
The planning of the “Integrated Rural Development Concept” and the association Historic Centre Dedesdorf-Eidewarden represents a new type of public involvement with the cultural heritage although its potential remains to be seen.

7.2 Nature conservation
Management of land for nature conservation offers opportunities for the beneficial management of the cultural heritage through the adoption of an integrated management planning approach.

7.3 Tourism
The direct proximity of the Land Würden to Bremerhaven (116.000 inhabitants) offers numerous opportunities, for exploitation of the cultural landscape – including its agricultural use – for recreation close to the city. There are opportunities for establishing self-guided routes for cycling, hiking and riding which integrate the cultural heritage and natural environment. The Land Würden also has a name which can be developed into a brand to help market the area for tourism and to strengthen the sense of place. The location of Dedesdorf and Eidwarden directly on the Weser is attractive and the place continues to attract tourists, despite the closing of the ferry.

8. Sources

Author: Julian Subbert

AUST, 1976
Hans Aust, Forschungsgeschichte des westlichen Elbe-Weser-Dreiecks. Landkreis Wesermünde, Kreis Land Hadeln, Stadt Cuxhaven.
In: Führer zu vor- und frühgeschichtlichen Denkmälern. Bd. 29. Das Elbe-Weser-Dreieck I Einführende Aufsätze. 1976:9-29.

Gerhard Bahrenberg, Angela Hartrampf, Klaus-Martin Hesse und Gerd König, Zur sozioökonomischen Situation im Unterweserraum.
In: Michael Schirmer und Bastian Schuchardt (Hrsg.), Die Unterweserregion als Natur- Lebens- und Wirtschaftsraum. Eine querschnittsorientierte Zusammenfassung. Bremer Beiträge zur Geographie und Raumplanung, Heft 35, 1999:153-178.

BEHRE, 1995
Karl-Ernst Behre, Kleine historische Landeskunde des Elbe-Weser-Raumes. In: In: Hans-Eckhard Dannenberg und Heinz-Joachim Schulze (Hrsg.), Geschichte des Landes zwischen Elbe und Weser. Bd. I, Vor- und Frühgeschichte. 1995:1-59.

Hartmut Bickelmann, Bremerhaven und die Lune, Räumliche und wirtschaftliche Beziehungen zwischen Stadt und Umland im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert.
In: Jahrbuch der Männer vom Morgenstern 77/78, 1998/99:121-209.

BÖKER, 1997
Doris Böker, Landkreis Cuxhaven. Baudenkmale in Niedersachsen, Bd. 19, 1997.

Hans-Christoph Hoffmann, Bremen, Bremerhaven und das nördliche Niedersachsen. Kultur, Geschichte, Landschaft zwischen Unterweser und Elbe. DuMont-Kunstreiseführer. Köln: 1986.

Nicole von Lieberman und Stephan Mai, Küstenschutz an der Unterweser vor dem Hintergrund von Naturraum und Nutzung.
In: Michael Schirmer und Bastian Schuchardt (Hrsg.), Die Unterweserregion als Natur- Lebens- und Wirtschaftsraum. Eine querschnittsorientierte Zusammenfassung. Bremer Beiträge zur Geographie und Raumplanung, Heft 35, 1999:109-127.

Daniel Ramsauer, Chronik von Landwührden und der Kirchengemeinde Dedesdorf. Um Bildmaterial erweiterte Neuauflage von 1925. Bremerhaven: 1991² (19251).

SCHMID, 1995
Peter Schmid, Archäologische Ergebnisse zur Siedlungs- und Wirtschaftsweise in der Marsch.
In: Hans-Eckhard Dannenberg und Heinz-Joachim Schulze (Hrsg.), Geschichte des Landes zwischen Elbe und Weser. Bd. I, Vor- und Frühgeschichte. 1995:221-250.

Karl-Heinz Sindowski, Zwischen Jadebusen und Unterelbe. Sammlung geologische Führer, Bd. 66, 1979.

H. W. Zimmermann, Loxstedt.
In: Hoops Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, Bd. 18, 2001:629-633.