Home | Introduction | Download e-book | Conference 2001 | Special thanks | The note of law | Contact
Articles: Poland | Małopolska | Mazowsze | Ziemia Łęczycka | Żuławy | Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska | Ziemia Kwidzyńska | Ziemia Walichnowska | Ziemia Sieradzka | Ziemia Wieluńska
Articles --> Ziemia Łęczycka

The village type and layout

Colonization of Ziemia Łęczycka, including its range and number of villages and settlements established over the centuries was primarily determined by geographical conditions of that area. Due to these conditions, the process of colonization as well as its range acquired certain distinguishing characteristics.[1]

Ziemia Łęczycka is located in the northern and central parts of Wyżyna (Upland) Łódzka, which is divided into two watersheds, that of the Wisła and Odra rivers. The area is abundant in small rivers, the estuaries of Bzura, Ner, Pilica, and Warta, which contribute to the marshy character of the entire land. These rivers flow from a central point in all directions towards vast river valleys of large rivers.

Such lay of the land was responsible for the fact that the oldest administrative centers and agricultural settlements were concentrated in lowlands located in the central part of the area, especially in around Łódź and on the valley slopes, where soils were richer and easier to cultivate. From the valleys of small rivers: Ner, Grabia, and Moszczenica, the settlers were moving towards the uninhabited areas located on forested uplands establishing trading, farming, wooded, and ancillary settlements within the royal, church, and private estates. However, this medieval colonization (under the German and Polish laws) did not extend beyond rims of valleys and did not cover vast forested and marshy areas that stretched along rivers and streams.[2]

Since the 2nd half of the 16th century, the upper sections of the river valleys, which bordered the wilderness areas, were colonized as a result of the development of the feudal system. But these areas were still located near rivers, which were necessary to transport crops, especially grain. Even so, up until the mid 1800s, this movement went through a stagnation caused by natural disasters and wars that devastated existing villages and halted normal economic development.[3]

And precisely at that time, that is, at the end of the 18th century, the Dutch colonization came into play. The owners of previously uncultivated land were looking for new opportunities to increase their revenues not only from existing villages, but also through development of fallow land. The colonization under the Dutch law, after it had been tested in other areas of Poland, reached not only the marshy areas of Łęczyca, Zgierz, and Łódź located near large rivers, but also Ziemia Sieradzka and Ziemia Wieluńska, where the Dutch primarily developed forested areas and, less often, the boggy valley bottoms.

A short period of Prussian rule (1795-1806) that followed the partitions of Poland was characterized by favoring not only the Dutch colonization, but also the Frederician colonization one, which resulted in development of both farming and industrial settlements. It is erroneously believed that neither of these trends played a significant role, but in reality they (in the case of the Dutch colonization, a total of 95 settlements were either established or developed) did contribute to clearing a considerable area of wilderness as well as to development of marshy areas or putting under cultivation previously inhabited areas that were subsequently abandoned as a result of wars and natural disasters.

The colonization under the Dutch law had such an impact that it transformed the existing feudal structure of the village into a completely different system of tenant farming, which was not based on serfdom but on an attractive tenancy (later freehold), reasonable rents, as well as considerable civil, economic, and religious freedoms, which were previously unprecedented in Ziemia Łęczycka. As in other regions colonized by the Olęders, the settlers had a lot of freedom; for example, they were allowed to sell and inherit land or waive one's right to it, as it was in the case of moving out when the contract was still biding. They were also able to perform additional work to obtain extra income (e.g. selling cheese or milk). Also, the freedom of worship should not be underestimated.

The establishment and development of the Dutch settlements in Ziemia Łęczycka coincided with the German colonization, which began after 1816 as a result of a decree issued by the government of the Kingdom of Poland, and especially with development of textile industry in the economically underdeveloped and scarcely populated area near Łódź. The German colonists established both the industrial and agricultural settlements and likewise the Olęders colonized wastelands and forests as well as lands that were devastated during the Napoleonic wars. The earlier mentioned crisis of the feudal system and intense parceling out of private estates also created favorable conditions for the colonization. The majority of German colonists came from the Poznań region, Silesia, and Germany. They settled primarily in Łódź surroundings, where they dominated at the time as land buyers. Many of the settlements founded at the time underwent considerable transformation as a result of the proximity of the industrial city of Łódź and its dynamic development and have been incorporated into the largest urban area in this region.

Nonetheless, in spite of the city's proximity, a considerable number of those settlements still present a detectable proof of the colonists' sojourn. This fact also refers to the Dutch settlers, who also founded their villages in the Łódź area. It should also be mentioned that, paradoxically, the traditional character of the Dutch settlements located near Łódź has been better preserved than that of the villages established near Łęczyca or Dąbie.

In the pre-feudal period, a dispersed village was the prevailing type of settlement in Ziemia Łęczycka and settlements with a single-street, oval (with a three-field system), multi-street, or other usually self-generated and irregular layouts had not become established until the 13th century. These later types of villages were a result of natural processes of colonization associated with development and cultivation of the colonized land.

An estate that comprised centrally located manor (frequently a former farm of a village leader) and small ancillary villages inhabited by the manor workers was the most typical settlement type during the feudal period. Frequently, those settlements were former villages transformed into manor estates with peasant acreages decreased as a result of surveying.[4]

The most radical changes in the settlement structure began as early as the second half of the 18th century and intensified at the beginning of the 19th century. This transformation was a result of the village restructuring processes that preceded the property rights granting or it was a direct outcome of the later process.

A linear village with buildings on one or both sides of the road and a small dispersed settlement were the most common types of settlement in that period. Both of those settlement forms were introduced in this area by the Dutch colonists. Colonists founding new villages or settling in villages located on marshy areas near rivers and draining the terrain planed out the settlement according to very specific and traditional guidelines. Each colonist received a narrow strip of land perpendicular to a river; this way, all settlers cultivated the land under the same conditions and were granted the same opportunity for economic success. Homesteads were erected on elevated terrain and were connected by a road that ran across farmland. Buildings were most frequently located on one side of a road (on the side o a river).

The Dutch colonization of Ziemia Łęczycka is unique in the fact that the settlers did not build artificial hillocks for their homesteads. For the village localization, they usually chose natural rises that ran parallel to the river bank and were removed from a river. Such localization protected homes from flooding when a river overflowed its banks.

Villages with dispersed homesteads can be found in areas colonized by the Dutch. Those areas were put under cultivation through clearing forests and bushes. In this case, a homestead was located in the central section of a cleared plot and was linked to other farms with local roads connected to larger communication routes.

Frequently, in the case of the Dutch villages, both of these forms co-existed in a single settlement (e.g. villages around Dąbie) where the outskirts of a linear village had a dispersed layout.

Spread of these settlement layout forms was due to both the Dutch and German colonization. Introduction of these forms contributed to a considerable increase in settlement density, which is detectable to the present day.

However, one should be aware that linear and dispersed villages were also founded in the later period (2nd half of the 19th century), when old villages were consolidated or separated when being transferred. But also in this case, the new settlements were modeled on solutions introduced by the Dutch settlers.

The traditional Dutch villages, in spite of over two centuries that have passed since their foundation, have another essential and very detectable element that allows us to distinguish them from linear villages established in later periods. It is a structure of an internal space, which was formed by historical factors related to the very essence of this colonization system.

The majority of Dutch villages established in Ziemia Łęczycka were small (up to 15 farms); the traditional homesteads with well-spaced buildings were located on one side of a road, on land strips that were wider than in linear villages founded after the mid-1800s. Majority of them is situated on natural rises that run along a river and protect the village farmland from flooding.

Drainage works, such as: canals, ponds collecting excess of water, and artificially planted trees and bushes (poplars and willows) that absorb excess of ground water are equally essential elements of the traditional Dutch landscape that occur in Ziemia Łęczycka. This landscape is particularly prominent in villages located in the northern part of Ziemia Łęczycka, by the Bzura and Ner rivers.

[1] J. Dylik, Województwo ze stolicą bez antenatów, Łódź 1971, p. 157-168.
[2] J. Dylik, Łódź i okolice. Przewodnik geograficzny, Łódź, 1939, p. 78.
[3] J. Lech, Tradycyjny dom chłopski i jego użytkowanie na obszarze środkowej Polski, Kultura wsi Polski środkowej w procesie zmian. Vol. 2, Manuscripts and Materials of the Ethnographic Museum in Łódź, Seria Etnograficzna no. 20, Łódź 1979, p. 17.
[4] Ibid. p. 20.

Home | Introduction | Download e-book | Conference 2001 | Special thanks | The note of law | Contact
Articles: Poland | Małopolska | Mazowsze | Ziemia Łęczycka | Żuławy | Nizina Sartowicko-Nowska | Ziemia Kwidzyńska | Ziemia Walichnowska | Ziemia Sieradzka | Ziemia Wieluńska

Copyright 2005 © jerzyszalygin@wp.pl