Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lerkenfeldt, Himmerland, Viborg amt.

Lerkenfeldt, 29 km north of Viborg
Vester Bølle sogn, Rinds herred, Viborg amt.

There are many manors which through centuries were in the ownership of the same family. It is neither unusual if a manor house for more than 2-300 years was in the ownership of civilians, but it is rare when a manor for more than 150 years was inherited in the same civil family like it happened at Lerkenfeldt. On 19. March 1792 three brethren Kieldsen bought this main farm with belonging peasant-farms - and one brother's great-great-grandchildren are the owners today.

The first name of the farm was Bonderup - actually it was one of three farms, situated upon the later main farms' lands. The other two farms were Kokholm and Overgård. Thanks to a rich collection of documents, hidden upon the farm itself, its history is fairly known back to the 15th century, when it was not yet a center in a large estate, but the owners were lavadelsmænd ( of low nobility), whose birth and family name is not known today. A man Per Gødiksen sold in 1455 all rights his wife had inherited in Bonderup after her late husband Oluf or Ulf Jensen, but the real owner was Jens Haning. His son was Haning Jensen, whose widow Inge Jepsdatter outparcelled the small estate. First she sold in 1496 Kokholm to her brother , Oluf Jepsen, who in 1498 passed it on to a man of a more wellknown family, Erik Ottesen Rosenkrantz.

He had already bought Gedsted Mill and the fishing in Gedsted Å(river) from fru Birgitte Poulsdatter at Refsnæs, those were properties later belonging to Bonderup up till present time. It seems there was doubt if fru Inge in 1496 was allowed to sell Kokholm since she had remarried after Haning Jensen's death to an ufri (not free= a peasant belonging to the lord of the manor) named Christiern Ørn. Thus she had wasted her rights to own free estate. The wellknown high court judge Niels Clementsen of Aunsbjerg got this right, when he bought Bonderup from the husband and wife in the year 1509, but the ownership was here like in many other places questionable.

Enevold Jensen of Visborg appears in 1547 with demands on a meadow in Kokholm's field without being proved right towards Christen Friis of Ågård, who obviously had inherited Kokholm and the mill from his wife, a daughter's daughter of Erik Rosenkratnz, but suddenly, in 1554, Niels Lange (Munk) of Kjærgård was the owner of both Bonderup, Overgård and Kokholm and the mill, and he exchanged all the estate to Mariager kloster. The vasal, who negotiated on behalf of the kloster , the wellknown Jørgen Lykke, was probably not aware that he became owner of the estate himself, but already the next year Mariager kloster transferred both farm and mill and other belonging estate in the neighbourhood as a gift, because he had rebuilt the kloster after a fire, and in 1561 the king confirmed the gift-letter.

Jørgen Lykke (+ 1583) - who in his youth wrote himself of Hverringe manor and was a part of the Funen nobility - became gradually very well acclimatized in Jutland, where he collected much estate. His låsebrev (letter of property) from 1577 delivers a summary of these farms, among others the main farm Bonderupgård (Kokholm and Overgård had disappeared at that point) with belonging peasant-farms, almost 50 farms, especially in the village Svingelbjerg and Vester Bølle. He had bought several fæstegårde (copyhold farms) in an exchange with the Crown. The property-letter mentions also three other main farms with adjoining land, Ovegård in Ove sogn,(parish), Haslegård in Als sogn og first of all Overgård in Udbyneder sogn, which was the head quarters and to which Jørgen Lykke wrote himself.

It is obvious today that he took a special interest in Bonderup. The legend says that he took the stones from the ruined Svingelbjerg kirke. Even though he was allowed to break down Svingelbjerg church to use the materials for a repair in Vester Bølle church, there are still several carved ashlars in the walls of Lerkenfeldt, and they probably origin from a Romnanesque church building. The legend is also right when it tells about Jørgen Lykke and the vicar hr. Mads in Ullits, who had had Svingelbjerg as a parish-of ease and therefore suffered an economic loss, when the parish was transferred to Vester Bølle. He scolded Jørgen Lykke in his sermons and called him a disturber of God's house, a tyrant and much more, which made the lord of the manor take legal action , and the vicar had to commit himself not to talk like that in the future.

He did not keep that promise however, and Jørgen Lykke started a new process and condemned him to lose his head, which was carried out. He was decapitated between his two churches on the heath road between Ullits and Foulum, where the place still was known in 1738. This was told by Christen Sørensen Thestrup ,who was the first to know Rinds herred's Chronicle, and the Jutland author Steen Steensen Blicher later wrote a novel about the case. It is not possible to know today, how the facts are about this claimed judicial murder, since all authentic documents have gone, but it became Jørgen Lykke's undying fame of the neighbourhood. Thestrup was of the opinion that since his descendants were struck hard by fate, it must be God's righteous punishment.

Only one of Jørgen Lykke's sons, Henrik Lykke, attained a high age, so he inherited his father and became a very rich man. He owned Bonderup together with his sister Ide Lykke, who was married to Valdemar Parsberg, and after her death in 1618 their daughters inherited each a third of the estate. One of the son-in-laws Claus Daa (1579-1641), married to Ingeborg Parsberg, who was born at Bonderup, first outbought his brother-in-law Hans Skram and bought the last third from Verner Parsberg, to whom the third brother-in-law Iver Lykke of Eskjær had pawned his rights.

Claus Daa played a role in Chr. IV's rule and became an admiral although he was somewhat in opposition to the king, who was not quite content with his leadership of the navy. His son, the herostraticly famous Valdemar Daa (1616-91) inherited Bonderup. It was here he used alchymi to find lapis philosophorum (philosopher's stone) and both Lerkenfeld in Jutland and Borreby at Zealand were gradually ruined by debt. In 1681 he lost both his main farms. He walked on foot from Borreby, although Ove Ramel, who had levies execution on Borreby, offered him a free stay for life as a brother and friend, but after having lived for period in a farm house near Skelskør (Zealand) Valdemar Daa went to Jutland. In 1677 he had to leave Bonderup.

The high court judge Peder Madsen Lerche (1642-99) had finally reached the goal he had aimed at, namely to became the squire of Bonderupgård. He had bought several debts from the ruined alchymist - and at last he bought the main farm from jægermester Wolf Blome, to whom it had been laid out in 1677. It was in a very bad state at that time. The new owner was born a civilian, he was a son of the rural dean in Nyborg, but had in 1670 achieved royal letter to coat of armors. He was a wealthy man, and he succeeded in gathering the spread estate again - and was not particular about the means. Lerche was often involved in lawsuits, among others with the vicar in Ullits, whom he however was not able to treat like Jørgen Lykke had treated his predecessor. The vicar, magister Stistrup, wrote a venomous spite verse about his mortal enemy Jørgen Lykke, when he was brought to his funeral in Viborg cathedral, while Lykke's wife, who had died a few yars before, had to be content with her grave in Vester Bølle church.

Vester Bølle church, stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan foto

Bonderup has still got its name Lerkenfeldt, which the high court judge was allowed to name it after his taking over, and in 1684 he achieved birkeret (judicial rights) of the estate; in the same year he bought five churches from the king. In 1695 he had Lerkenfeldt estate made an entailed estate, which he willed to his cousin, gehejmeråd Vincens Lerche, (1666-1742), who was not actually in need of this gift. He owned several large manors, Rygård at Funen, Frydendal at Zealand and the barony Rosendal in Norway, and he gradually achieved a superfluity of offices and titles. He mostly resided in the capital and transferred already in 1735 all his Jutland estate to his son Christian Lerche, who in 1742 became the owner of almost all Kalundborg district, an estate where only the county Frijsenborg was larger.

He also achieved the title of greve (count), but thanked no to establish a lensgrevskab (vasalry/county) . Since he had no heirs, his estate would go to the state. Instead he had his Zealand estate made the entailed estate Lerchenborg and was allowed to exchange the entailed estate Lerkenfeldt with a fideikommiskapital.(entailed estate capital) Therefore he sold in 1743 the 650 hectare estate to general Wulf Caspar von Lüttichau (1704-65), and after his widow Lucia Magdalene Ochsen had died in 1775 (they are buried in two marble sarcophagi in Vester Bølle church) it was bought in an auction by the sons Christian Cæsar and Joachim Lüttichau, from whom the first mentioned in 1779 became the sole owner after having outbought his late brother's heirs in 1777.

Christian Cæsar Lüttichau (1745-97) was an officer of the cavalry and had left the military with title of major. Both the major and the general were remembered for a long time in the neighbourhood of Lerkenfeldt - and not for the good.

"God knows where your poor soul has gone
it never came to heaven"

says a song after the general's death and the folklore let him not find peace in his grave either. He haunted Lerkenfeldt. Thanks to the folklorist Evald Tang Kristensen, who visited the farm in the 1880s, many stories have been preserved for posterity. People said about the major that there was a lot of devilish things going on in his time - and they told about the general that he used the horsewhip on a girl, who would not marry the man he had chosen for her, and "that poor girl was wearing very thin clothes".

A fearless farmer was especially remembered by people. He had put Lüttichau in his place. When he came to the manor and was admitted into the strict squire, he went quickly across the floor to the window. "What do you look for you dog?" said the general " Well I would just have a look how far down the ground is, for one of us has to go there!" and then the general dared not lay hands on him. It was told that it was the same farmer who rode the wooden horse at Lerkenfeldt, (and it was the last time the wooden horse was used here). He was put upon the horse and stones were tied to his feet. He sat there for a while. Then he said: "Shame on that hack, it's not able to walk at all. I have never seen a miserable hack like that." And then he broke the head off the wooden horse with his clenched fist and went down from it himself, got hold of a big staff and broke the beast in two. A new wooden horse never appeared. The man who told the story said that the rests of the old horse were kept among some other old stuff on the loft of Lerkenfeldt. The reliability of these stories are supported by all statements. Thestrup, who was a birkedommer ( local judicial rights) at the estate, renounced at one his position, when Lüttichau bought Lerkenfeldt, because he was mean to his peasants and unjust in his judgments of the peasants during the birketing.

It is also told how the major lost his estate against his will. Some dealers came along, they were the sons of a selvejerbonde (a peasant who owned his farm himself) in Gundestrup. They wanted to buy bullocks. They all sealed the bargain with a drink, and when the major was drunk he said:" Now you have bought my bullocks - you can buy the farm too." And he said that several times. "Well maybe we would like to buy that too ,"said one brother, Mikkel. "How much do you want?" The major wanted 70.000 rigsdaler for the whole lot. He never imagined they were able to pay. Later Mikkel told that he would not let this major get off so easily. And the brothers took the bargain. Lüttichau tried to offer them all the bullocks they had bought in order to replace the deal, but in vain. And it is a fact that the three brothers, Mikkel, Jens and Peder Kieldsen bought farm and estate for 73.000 rigsdaler in the year 1792.

Jens Kieldsen was co-owner only until 1795. Peder and Mikkel Kieldsen (1756-1819) owned Lerkenfeldt together until Mikkel's death, but only Mikkel had resided there, and his widow Ane Dorthea Skow became the sole owner after his death. People said Lerkenfeldt was surrounded by mystery, it was said that Mikkel had been just as strict to his peasants as the Lüttichaus - and he had only escaped the terrible death of kissing "The Blue Virgin", because he lied himself dead. "The Blue Virgin" was a mysterious execution machine, only existing in peoples' imagination. When his funeral was, there were only stones in the coffin. He later hid on the farm although people often saw him. But he had to remain "dead" and his wife wrote herself a widow. A story like that is of course pure invention and one of those legends told in other places as well, and a legend which at Lerkenfeldt was connected to both Mikkel Kieldsen and the general - and also to Jørgen Lykke.

Mikkel's son once said that their forefathers had done enough harm - he did not wish to be like them. He managed the estate for his mother until he became the owner himself in 1831. In the 1840s he had villeinage replaced, and from 1844 he sold the peasant-estate to the copy-holders on the best conditions. He was landvæsenskommisær (agricultureal commissioner) but declined the title as kammerråd (councilor). From his 10 children with Mette Faurschou the second-youngest Olaf Hilmar Kjeldsen (1850-1930) inherited Lerkenfeldt after his mother's death. He had been the manager, while she lived, and after his death the farm went to Mathias Kjeldsen (1879-1955), who had been tenant since 1923. Lerkenfeldt was from 1955 owned together by Eva Mette Johanne Kjeldsen, née Kjeldsen, married to first lieutenant Hans Olaf Agerup Kjeldsen.

Lerkenfeldt Å (river) at Lerkenfeldt

The main building is the first building built at the farm from Jørgen Lykke''s period. Besides was a 7 loft high gatehouse at the castle bank. It was probably also built by Jørgen Lykke as a memory of his wife's stay at Hessel (Djursland) for 7 years, while he was abroad - one storey was built each year. People in the community kept their possessions safe in this building during svenskekrigene (war Sweden-Denmark) - "when Valdemar Daa left in one shoe and one boot" as people told. The castle bank is also strange with its plinth stones- the stones said to origin from Svingelbjerg church; it has a rectangular shape, but broader along the main building; upon the corners are curved projections, traces of towers.

The main building is also interesting, oak half-timbered with poles through both storeys. The long narrow wing (ab. 7 x 51 m) stands upon a high barrel-vaulted cellar, where the jails mentioned by the old folks possibly are. The west wing was earlier called the church, because it was built by stones from Svingelbjerg church, and the northern section of the wing really seems built as a chapel with eastern and western gables. The east wing is remarkable, because it is built close to the heavy ring wall which surrounded the plan and which is only preserved here - findings of shaped stones with fresco decorations in yellow, red and black show that it was richly ornamented.

The Rococo fireplace in the great hall has the initials of Lüttichau and his wife. The bridal bed of the general was still in 1930 placed in a chamber, which was said to be haunted. The folklorist Evald Tang Kristensen, who slept there for a few nights, told honestly that he wasn't feeling well about this. There is also a legend of an immured virgin at Lerkenfeldt, and a female skeleton was actually found in a piece of curved wall in a corner of the tower cellar. Lerkenfeldt still has the mark of the Middle Ages, but is mentioned as one of Denmark's few late Gothic mansions with one of the popular circular stair towers from the Renaissance. Jørgen Lykke's old castle is still one of our most picturesque and evocative buildings from the great period of the aristocracy in the 16th century.

Source: Danske slotte og herregårde, bd. 11, Himmerland og Ommersyssel, Lerkenfeldt af forfatteren Mogens Lebech, 1966.

photo August 2010: grethe bachmann

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