Friday, June 25, 2010

Villestrup (Willestrup) Himmerland, Ålborg amt.

Villestrup, ab. 15 km northeast of Hobro
Astrup sogn, Hindsted herred, Ålborg amt.

Villestrup suddenly arrives in the landscape with its red walls mirroring in a small lake among pretty old trees. The man behind Villestrup was Axel Juul of the Lilie-Juul-family. In the year 1535 he claimed the farm as an inheritance from his father Søren Juul of Hedegård, but at that time the farm was according to his wife fru Kirsten Lunge no better or different from an average farm. But it was this modest farm Axel Juul in a few years made into a large and stately manor. After having told about his acquisition of Villestrup Kirsten Lunge says that he improved it with field, forest and property and bought Krobkær and its forest. This forest must be Kirkeskoven (church forest) northwest of the farm, which Axel Juul bought from some citizens in Astrup village. Krobkær is a meadow between Birkeholmen and Mølledammen. (Mill Pond). He early decided to build new buildings , he wanted the best. He was already Christian III's trusted man and one of the men of power in Denmark. The old building place was given up and he found a new place north of the farm building, where he built his new farm.

Like many other manors Villestrup changed place during its history. Axel Juul built a dam across the meadow where Villestrup Å (river) runs, which formed a real lake. The islet in the earlier meadow was shaped as a low square bank suitable for a four winged castle plan. In 1538 he let lay out a base bank on all four sides, and in a few years the great building rose - four equally high houses built-together, closing around the castle yard. Later was built a short wing to the west. The east wing was broken down and the steep roofs were replaced by low roofs. The gate wing has lost both tower and bays.

Villestrup has no more its original look, but in spite of this the old red-washed manor is still broad and strong, and together with a painting from the 18th century it is easy to imagine how it looked in its best days. The strong walls rise on solid foundations of raw granite boulders only a few steps inside the edge of the castle bank. The stones are in a light yellow colour lwhich is common in the Limfjord-area, and it is possible they were burnt by Axel Juul himself in the old tile work outside the manor, where there are visible traces of a clay-pit.

When Villestrup was finished, it was among the largest castle plans of that time except for the royal castles. The same ornamental taste as used on Villestrup is evident in Axel Juuls parish church Astrup, which he let rebuild in 1542, and he has probably used the same building master in both places. The building works were supposedly finished in 1542, the year in which Axel Juul was both betrothed and married. He let wall-in a sandstone tablet above the gate with his and his wife's names and coat of arms and an inscription telling about the wedding. He placed upon the building, and probably also at the gate tower, two still preserved sandstone reliefs of himself and his wife - a unique touch at that time and a witness about self-esteem and proud self-satisfaction of the structure he had just fimished. Two almost similar reliefs are now walled-in at the gable of one of the farm buildings. They are very pretty made portrait heads with a finer characteristic than the two first mentioned.

Axel Juul succeeded in making the common farm a manor with a large ladegårdsanlæg (farm buildings). The neccessary accessory, the water mill, was furnished - and a fruit orchard and fish pond were established. Kirsten Lunge tells that her husband let Villestrup build and improve with house, moats, orchard, mill, fish water, meadow and much other splendour. There are detailed informations about Axel Juul as to his vasalries and offices and his public activities, not at least as a High Court judge in Jutland - but it was his estate-aquisitions, which formed the base of his family's social postion. It is obvious that he, supported by a rich marriage , by royal favours, by exchange of property and buying, added peasant estate from the nearest parishes to his farm, first of all from Astrup parish. He also bought another Jutland manor, Mejlgård in Randers amt, and being a cantor he had his own farm in Viborg, where he died in 1577. His widow retained undivided possession of the estate until her death at Villestrup in 1588.

From the couple's 13 children the second youngest son Iver Juul inherited Villestrup. He was born in 1563 at Villestrup, he had attended Viborg school, studied in Wittenberg and made a journey abroad for several years, according to customs, in order to enter the chancellery as a secretary, when he was 25. He inherited Villestrup and became High Court judge in 1598. In 1591 he married Maren Sehested, a daughter of Malte Sehested, at Villestrup, but she died already in 1600 and two years later he married Ingeborg Parsberg, a daughter of Christoffer Parsberg and Dorthe Munk. Iver Juul felt as his father's heir. He was a keen estate-collector and added still more peasant-estate to Villestrup. He became like his father also one of the leading men in Nørrejylland. As a High Court judge he was at the day of his funeral given this testimonial that he had been a just judge, who did not treat rich people better than common people and never let himself be deceived by "Machiavellian" advisers.

In 1616 Iver Juul became a member of the rigsråd.(State's council) He collected great riches. Besides Villestrup he owned 6 other manors, like Quistrup, Volstrup, Strandbygård, Gjessinggård and Lundbæk. Towards his peasants he had a good reputation as landlord for his"fatherly heart". Without doubt he was the devout man, who furnished the northern part of the east wing as a chapel and built pretty vaults (now broken down). During the emporial army's arrival in Jutland in 1627 he left Villestrup with his family like many other noblemen left their home - the landlords did not have enough troops to defend themselves against regular armies. He never returned to Denmark. When sailing to Zealand he got off course and was stranded in Norway, where he died in Kongselv in 1627. His and his wife's coat of arms are seen in the magnificent sandstone decoration at the door of the south wing. It was probably originally a mantel border.

His widow returned to Villestrup, where she lived until her death. The exchange of property was held in 1666. From Iver Juuls two marriages were 13 children, which made the exchange difficult. The new ovner Over Juul, third generation-male, was of more public dignity than the two previous owners. When Axel Juul first of all was the Jutlander and his son Iver Juul as a rigsråd was a man of the kingdom, his son's son was the widely travelled man of the world, who in his spare time engaged in art and books. He left a diary, which is kept at Ravnholt manor. It delivers a superb image of the life of a Danish nobleman both abroad and at home in the State's service and in his own estate management.

In the summer of 1666 Ove Juul took over Villestrup and moved there from Lundbæk with his wife Kirsten Urne, a daughter of the famous Frederik Urne of Bregentved. Ove Juul's work allowed him only few and short stays in his home. He had studied abroad and served at foreign courts, and he now became Danish delegate in Sweden, besides his offices as a chancelly-assessor, assessor at High court, vice regent in Norway and several district offices. He became also a gehejmeråd and white knight and belonged to the section of the old Danish rigsrådsadel (noblemen who were at the State's council) , who joined the kings of Enevælden (absolute monarchy). His daughter Anne Cathrine was married to Christoffer Gabel's son Frederik Gabel. Ove Juul was a simple and outspoken and a very "old-fashioned", but clever and experienced diplomat. In his long life he owned besides Villestrup also the manors Lundbæk, Pandum, Udstrup, Wiffertsholm, Rammegård, Herpinggård, Kragerup, Bregentved and Ottestrup. He died in 1686 at Villestrup. His wife had died already in 1672, and in his diary Ove Juul has given an emotional picture of the disease and death of his "dearest". The coat of arms of the married couple, surrounded by a garland of leaves held by two lions, are now placed as a large sandstone relief at the gable of the barn building.


His second surviving son Frederik Juul, born in 1661, inherited Villestrup. An addition to the original estate were during time 2 churches and 3 kongetiender (royal taxes.) Frederik was originally an officer, but 4 years after his father's death he left the army and lived at Villestrup for the rest of his life. He became an etatsråd in 1717. His only estate was Villestrup. His father's large estate went to the eldest son Christian Juul, who became friherre of Rysensteen and whose male line died out in 1907 with trafikminister, lensbaron Chr. Fr. A. Juul-Rysensteen. Frederik Juul became the ancestor of the Ravnholt-family-line, since his son Ove was willed this manor by fru Charlotte Amalie Gersdorff, and when his paternal grandson's paternal grandson in 1869 bought Villestrup, the two manors were united in the ownership of Axel Juul's descendants.

Villestrup disappeared out from the ownership of the Juul-family at Frederik Juul's death in 1721, since his widow Elisabeth Sehested owned it until her death in 1725; and then it was sold at auction to her brother-in-law major Frederik Sehested of Rydhave, who died the following year. His widow Birgitte Sophie Sehested owned Villestrup till her death in 1755 - remains of chapel inventory with two coat of arms of the Sehested-family and the year 1727 proofs that she has decorated the chapel. She probably also let put up the tower clock and possibly also the two strange bells , one a small late medival bell, the other larger and very pretty, cast in bronze in 1510. Birgitte Sehested willed the farm to her daughter Else Margrethe and her husband, gehejmeråd Verner Rosenkrantz of Krabbesholm.

Villestrup went from the Juul-family to the Rosenkrantz-family, and in that period it became a friherreskab in 1757 at the same time as its other big extension and rebuild. The barony included Villestrup and additions and what was added later. It was decided that the vasalry was forfeited by civil marriage. The title of baron was inherited of the descendants of Verner Rosenkrantz = all now living Danish Rosenkrantz-members. The old farm was thoroughly rebuilt, since it was very dilapidated. Verner Rosenkrantz rebuilt the interior, and it still stands today as his work. In one of the halls are pretty loft-stuccos with the names and coat of arms of the owner and his wife. The garden was laid out in the same period northwest of the farm - it became a grand plan in French Baroque.

Villestrup Å(river)

Verner Rosenkrantz owned Villestrup for 23 years, but his office prevented him from staying there or manage the farm, which was rented out. He was already an elderly man (born in 1700) and a typical example of men from the old nobility, who in the period of the absolute monarchy entered the State's service as legal officials after having served as army officers in their youth. He resigned as a major, when he was 43 years old and held district offices in Jutland for thirty years -he went through the new social ladder and ended as baron, gehejmeråd and white knight. He owned a considerable estate, the entailed estate Kærbygård, which he sold, Krabbesholm and Skivehus. Not until 1773 he took residence at Villestrup, where he died in 1777, two years after his wife.

The eldest son Frederik died before his father, and the barony went to the other son, baron Ove Rosenkrantz, born 1740. He was the owner in 25 years, until he in 1802 at gehejmeråd Frederik Christian Rosenkrantz' death inherited the entailed estate Rosenholm. He handed over the barony to his son Christian from his marriage to Marie Lente-Adeler. The barony was abolished, and after this time the farm was drawn into the rough estate-speculations of that period. In 1811 Chr. Rosenkrantz bought it from his father, but sold it already in 1812 to a partnership. The main farm with the estate in Astrup and Rostrup parish came to generalkrigskommissær Johan Conrad Schuchardt. This owner was of the opinion that Villestrup looked like Viborg Prison, and he deprived Axels Juul's house of its old castle-look. He removed the tower and the bays from the gate tower and broke partly down the east wing, and the high gables and roofs disappeared. He died in 1819, and the State took over the farm in 1822. It was sold in 1836 to colonel Hans Adolph Juel from the Stjerne-Juel-family. He was born in 1789 , he was a horseman in the cavalry and took part in the war 1848-50. At his death in 1874 he was major general. He set Villestrup on its feet again and made it a model farm.


He handed over the farm to his son cand.jur. Niels Juel in 1855, but he died young in 1683, and his father took over the farm , which he in 1865 handed over to his second son, cand. polit. Frederik Ferdinand (Fritz) Juel, but when he also died shortly after, the estate left by him sold it in 1869 to kammerherre (chamberlain) Ove Sehestedt Juul of Ravnholt. The farm was now again in the ownership of the Lilie-Juul-family. Shortly after in 1869 kammerherre Sehestedt Juul sold a large part of the peasant-estate. A considerable work was done at Villestrup by kammerherre Ove Sehestedt Juul and after his death 1882 by his son kammerherre Christian Sehestedt Juul. From 1922 the last mentioned's son løjtnant Axel Juul held Villestrup on a lease, until he in 1933 bought the farm from his father. The landlord Axel Juul was married the first time to Thyra Ingeborg Schmiegelow and the second time to Bodil Richter.

In 1928 the northern wing of the main building was rebuilt and restored. In 1964 the bottom floor of the south wing was re-furnished. In 1941 it was necessary to do a repair after a fire, and the old loft-beams in the dining room with the coat of arms were brought to light and the floors were covered in oak parquet. The farm buildings were modernized and a large fish farm was established. Villestrup manor has changed character during the latest two centuries. It is an impressive forest estate, its forests are together with the Lindenborg forests and Roldskov a part of the widespread forest land of Himmerland with its untouched Jutland nature with lakes and springs, among other the clean lake Madum Sø and the spring Blåkilde, from where the river Villestrup Å rises.

Kilde: Danske slotte og herregårde, bd.11, Himmerland og Ommersyssel, 1966; Willestrup af lektor dr. phil. Vilh. Lorenzen.

photo: 2004/2007/2009: grethe bachmann