Cultural Entities 

Land Kehdingen

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1. Overview


Land Kehdingen


River Elbe, River Oste, River Schwinge, neighbouring entities Altes Land, Land Hadeln and Ahlenmoor


Approx. 441 km²

Location - map:

Tidal river marsh of Lower Saxony, Lower Saxony, Germany

Origin of name:

Not known

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Strip fields as in Land Hadeln, Kremper-Marsch, and Altes land, brickworks in the Elbe-marshes.

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

Plantation landscape, rural house forms, linear settlements, brickworks in the Elbe-marshes, dwelling mounds, dykes, drainage ditches, lighthouses, strip fields.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The cultural entity of Land Kehdingen originally stretched as far as the mouth of the Oste in the north and in the south to the mouth of the Schwinge, which flows into the Elbe close to the town of Stade. To the east the River Elbe and to the west the River Oste form the natural boundaries.
Geologically this region can be subdivided into deposits derived from mud flats, brackish water areas, fluvial tides, as well as peat marsh and raised bog areas. The Kehdingen marsh areas developed after the end of the Ice Age due to silt gradually covering the gravels and sands deposited by the river Elbe. The fact that Land Kehdingen is located between the two parallel rivers, the Elbe and Oste, gives it its special character. Both rivers are tidal, which has led to the formation of a highland along its banks. As a consequence the drainage form the lower land in between the rivers is poor and this has led to the formation of the nearly 25 km long Kehdingen Moor. The land drops from about 2m above sea level in the area of the highland and the foreshore of the dyke to 1m below sea level on the border to the fen.

2.2 Present landscape
The Land Kehdingen is located in the administrative district of Stade and consists of the modern administrative areas North Kehdingen and the community of Drochtersen.
The present image of the Land Kehdingen is marked by the historic dyke-lines of the Elbe-dyke in the north and by the Oste-dyke, the so-called Süderdeich, in the east. The landscape of the north-westerly area is shaped by strips of land orientated according to the dyke, by scattered linear settlements on the dykes and by single farms, some built on dwelling mounds (settlement mounds).
Within the entire area, the appearance of the cultural landscape of the Land Kehdingen is dominated by strips of land, which are still clearly visible today, due to the unchanged settlement forms (here marshland settlements). Other elements of the cultural landscape which have been preserved are the dwelling mounds, the dykes along the rivers which separate the cultivated land (polders) against the marsh by means of the inner-dyke, Wettern (drainage ditches) and the “Doppelhallenhöfe”, which are typical of Kehdingen. In comparison to the Altes Land, there is a greater variety of visible field- and settlement forms in Kehdingen, due to the un-planned land development here since medieval times. In spite of some degree of superimposition and interference with the historic original, due to the modern settlement expansion in the 20th century, the situation regarding preservation is very good in comparison to other cultural landscapes of Lower Saxony. The area of Kehdingen has an outstanding position amongst other cultural landscapes in relation to the unity of its natural space.

Barns of an historic farmstead of the Land Kehdingen nearby Drochtersen

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
The large scale investigation of the North German mud flats has progressed considerably, due to the efforts of the Institute of Historical Coastal Research and the municipal, regional and local archaeologists. As a relatively recent geological area the Elbe-Weser area is marked by quarternary deposits. The tidal river marshes of the Land Kehdingen and the fen, which used to mark Kehdingen’s boundary with the geest, have developed from the end of the Ice Age until today.
Archaeologically, the exact date when the Land Kehdingen was settled can only be determined indirectly. On the basis of comparison with surrounding areas, it can be assumed that Kehdingen was affected by wider prehistoric developments. At the beginning of the post-Ice Age, today’s southern North Sea coast was dry land and the North Sea coast was in the area of the Dogger Bank, and it can be presumed that Kehdingen’s tidal river-marshes were frequented in the late Palaeolithic and the Mesolithic by hunter-gatherer groups. It is possible that evidence for this and later phases are located below the river marsh with its millennia of sediment deposits.
The subsequent Neolithic settlement of the area is well represented by the megalithic grave sited near Hammah, close to the road to Sternberg.

Numerous Bronze Age sites, such as tumuli and urn cemeteries, can be verified in the Elbe-Weser area. The same applies to the Roman imperial period and to the period of the migration of the people following it. However, from the 6th until the late 7th century, reforestation occurs and the earlier agricultural areas disappear.
Intensive development of land appears to have begun with the colonisation of marshes in the 12th century, during which the marshland-farmers were able to gain a far-reaching autonomy and self-government.
Due to the fusion of two parishes in both Elbe marshes, Kehdingen and Altes Land, regional communities developed in the 13th century, whose most important uniting aim was certainly the common dyke-protection and the preservation of political, social and economic rights. Political representation and administration consisted of seven Kehdingen leaders, who were elected on the Schinkelplatz till 1852, situated on the Hollerdeich in Oederquart on the border between North and South Kehdingen. The politically effective division of Kehdingen, within whose two parts separate court- and administrative districts developed, was still operating in Modern Times.

3.2 Early Modern Times
At the beginning of the modern era the autonomy of Kehdingen ended under Archbishop Christopher (1511-1558), due to the introduction of the archiepiscopal regional order. The privileges linked with it of self-government were preserved until the 19th century.
The Thirty Years War burdened the region greatly, due to its occupation by various armies, and the period after the Westphalian Peace of 1648 caused further impoverishment of the population. The Swedish occupying forces turned Agathenburg into their government-seat and Stade was turned into a fortress. In 1712 Swedish rule was replaced by Danish supremacy, and in 1715 the Danes sold the area to the electorate of Hanover.

The economy of the Land Kehdingen was based on agriculture with the Oste- and the Elbe marshes supplying agricultural products to the markets of the coastal towns. Declining yields and competition with producers from overseas led to further decline in profits and to numerous farms being abandoned. The population frequently had no other choice but to emigrate. In this phase a changeover occurs from the production of grain to grassland-agriculture.

3.3 Modern Times
The administrative reforms of the mid-19th century saw the introduction of the administrative unit of Land Kehdingen. In 1885 the district of Land Kehdingen emerged from this administrative unit. This has been a part of the district of Stade since 1932. Between 1969 and 1971 community-reform took place, which produced the community of Drochtersen and the administrative unit of North Kehdingen.
For a long time, the regional development of the Land Kehdingen has been influenced by the growth of the towns in the vicinity, notably Stade and the independent and Hanseatic city of Hamburg. These close ties found expression in the architecture. Modern ways and forms of building found in Hamburg are also recorded in the Land Kehdingen, although this urban influence disappears the further you go into the hinterland.

The development of brick-making was an important economic influence in the area in the 19th century, with the focal point in the Elbe marshes being in South Kehdingen. An example of this is the monument Ziegelei Rusch dating to 1881 sited in Drochtersen-Ritsch. The preconditions for the brick industry were the clay soil of the marshes and transport waterways in immediate proximity. At times the production of bricks was the most important source of income of the areas west of the Elbe, but it also depended on economic and building developments in Hamburg. Re-construction after the burning of the city in 1842, the years of rapid industrial expansion (period of promoterism/ Gründerzeit) and the linking of Hamburg to the German Customs Union, which included the construction of the warehouses in Hamburg (from 1885) were particularly influential here. During that period the number of brickworks in Kehdingen rose from 92 to 103. However, by 1900, many of the businesses depending on part-time labours had disappeared.

A further important source of income was grain-growing, which was the dominant industry as late as the 19th century. North Kehdingen was the most important supplier of grain for the big coastal towns. However, when the demand declined, the arable land was converted into meadowland and horse breeding and cattle fattening gained importance again.
The Land Kehdingen (together with the Altes Land), had a rather bad road-network and transport was traditionally via the waterways. This explains the very early development of the profession of boatsman in South Kehdingen. Between 1899 and 1930 the railway-network in Kehdingen was expanded by the Kehdinger Kreisbahn (a narrow gauge railway), which had negative consequences for the waterways.

Typical barns of the Land Kehdingen nearby Balje

4. Modern development and planning

In its regional planning report for 2005, the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning classifies the Land Kehdingen amongst those regions which are marked for a small increase in the development of the population and employment. This growth is encouraged by further infrastructure measures. The future of the Land Kehdingen will include further use of space for housing estates, which will be accompanied by a great increase in traffic (Suburbanization).

4.1 Land use
The Land Kehdingen is a plantation landscape, marked by unfavourable natural and economic conditions of production. In view of the intensive agricultural use of the marshy soils it can be assumed that farm enlargement will continue, to the disadvantage of other farms. At present the proportion of those working in agriculture is between 14 and 24%; due to further developments it will decrease even more. This development is to be seen in connection with the intensification of agriculture which will lead to the enlargement of farms in this sector and to the adaptation of the area used, to business constraints.
This is in contrast to the increase in tourism in Kehdingen, which is particularly based on the historic, agricultural landscape including: historic field structures, agricultural buildings, dykes, drainage-ditches and also technical monuments such as sluices.

4.2 Settlement development
In comparison to the average population-density of the administrative area of Stade, which in 2004 was roughly 154 inhabitants per square kilometre; the Land Kehdingen is much less densely populated. Thus the population-density in North Kehdingen is only 43 inhabitants per square kilometre. Today, the main agricultural areas are located off the arterial routes in the area of Stade, which are represented by the railway-line Hamburg-Stade-Cuxhaven and the B 73 (up to 26.674 cars per day) running from Hamburg via Stade to Cuxhaven. The only nationally important trans-regional road to be mentioned is the B 495, which forms the west to east connection to the ferry across the Elbe near Wischhafen. The most important secondary road for local traffic is the L 111 (Stade-Freiburg-Itzwörden) with 4.000 to 17.000 cars per day.
From a tourist point-of-view of the Land Kehdingen is part of the travel area of the Cuxhaven coast – Lower Elbe. Although the number of overnight-stays in this region is rather low in comparison to the coastal region, there were 1900 overnight stays per year in 1994.

4.3 Industry and energy
The Land Kehdingen has no important industrial locations of its own. It is located on the periphery of the significant industrial locations of Hamburg and Stade/ Bützfleht with their focus on petrochemistry. In addition there is the city of Stade in the south of Kehdingen as an energy-location with a nuclear power-plant and a transformer station in Rollern. The Land Kehdingen is not crossed by any pipelines.
In addition to the planned wind-farms in Land Kehdingen, there are already some to the south of Hörne, south of Balje-Wetterdeich, between Oederquart and Wischhafen and south-west of Drochtersen.

4.4 Infrastructure
Traditionally the traffic in Land Kehdingen was by water. Thus the direct proximity of the Elbe and the Oste always enabled a linkage to more important business routes.
At the beginning of the 19th century the Land Kehdingen was not linked to the national road system. This occurred indirectly in 1863 with the extension of today’s B 73, on the eastern side of the Oste. In 1893 the linkage to the B 73 occurred via today’s B 495, the only road of trans-regional importance, which provided access to the ferry Wischhafen – Glücksstadt. The secondary roads 111 and 113 are meant purely for regional traffic. At present the Land Kehdingen is not yet connected to the Federal motorway-network. This is to happen via the A 22 and A 26.
In 1899 the linking of the Land Kehdingen via Stade to the railway-network of those days took place. Today there is no direct railway-connection anymore. The connection is via the line Stade – Cuxhaven and then by share-a-ride taxi. The nearest airports are in Hamburg (international) and in Stade.

5. Legal and spatial planning aspects

The Land Kehdingen is a historical unit, which is bordered by three rivers: in the north and the east by the Elbe, in the west by the Oste and in the south by the Schwinge. Today it includes the administrative units of North Kehdingen and Himmelspforte.
In terms of regional planning, Kehdingen is subject to Lower Saxony’s land planning programme as well as the regional area or land use planning programme put forward by the communities. Nationally Kehdingen is regarded as an especially weakly structured area. From the point-of-view of trans-regional planning instruments the region is one of the specific concerns of the Regional Development Concept for Hamburg as well as being part of the area to which the regional planning concept for the coastal waters of Lower Saxony applies. In addition, the region belongs to the Landschaftsverband (regional authority) of the administrative district of Stade.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Spatial planning
The biggest problem for the preservation of the historical cultural landscape of the Land Kehdingen is likely to be changes in the use of space and growing claims on it, already evident, which might become more severe in the future as a result of infrastructure improvements and expansion of settlement from urban conurbations. Spatial planning needs to recognise the areas rich historic landscape and integrate the cultural heritage into future developments.

6.2 Settlement
The commuter-radius will clearly increase with the construction of the A 26 and the A 22. This could lead to the Land Kehdingen being further fused with the conurbation of Hamburg i.e. the Elbe crossing close to Drochtersen could make Kehdingen attractive as a dormitory town for the northern part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. The entire Land Kehdingen could develop into a dormitory town, thus destroying the inhabitants relationship with the traditional working-structures and thus also to the local identity would be lost. In addition a parallel movement away from the Land Kehdingen of businesses and educational institutes could develop which could increase the loss of identity still further. The addition of new inhabitants, with their own needs, could also result in changed demands on space, increasing this process even more. A “side effect” of the better linkage of Kehdingen will be an increase in population-figures in certain regions leading to the possibility of an expansion of new building areas and the establishment of big hypermarkets on the edges of places, which could lead to a ring-shaped enlargement of the present core-settlements and thus to an extensive urban sprawl. In addition, a shift in the population figures can be expected from the periphery of Kehdingen (for North Kehdingen a decline in population figures is expected) to better developed regions, which could also result in negative consequences for the image of the areas historical landscape.

6.3 Agriculture
Pressure from international competition, resulting from globalisation, to optimise agricultural land use will result in the intensification of agricultural production. At the same time, the use of measures to increase yields are limited by EU regulation (Ramsar agricultural guidelines) The result of these parallel processes are likely to be efforts by farm businesses to expand their farming area, in order to stay competitive. The historic fieldscape, such as the long strips of land typical of the Elbe marshes, and other landscape features would be threatened across a wide area as a result. Farm re-structuring will also lead to farms being abandoned and redundancy of historic farm buildings.

6.4 Tourism
Apart from the Altes Land, the rivers Elbe and Oste with their dyke footpaths, the Elbe Island Krautsand and the Land Kehdingen, the administrative district of Stade is a focal area for tourists. The sports boat harbours of the community of Drochtersen and the harbours in Freiburg and Wischhafen are of regional significance and Drochtersen-Krautsand is a recreation area with the special task of developing tourism. Although in the regional planning-programme (RROP 2004, 126ff) there is a reference to the expansion of tourism, the future of tourism and holiday traffic is likely to burden the community of Drochtersen considerably because of changes in traffic access.

6.5 Infrastructure
The planned development of infrastructure in the area will destroy the still largely existent unity of the historic landscape of Kehdingen. Proposed changes to the areas infrastructure, such as the extension of the road-linkage to the German motorway-network by the new motorway A 22 (Coastal Motorway) as a continuation of the A 20 and by the new motorway A 26, could have a serious impact on the cultural heritage. In addition to areas being cut through, which up to now have been little subdivided by traffic, the interchange planned near Drochtersen and the further planned route of the A 22 as well as the A 26, threaten to destroy the Ritsch sea-dyke and the northern part of the Assel sea-dyke, which can both still be recognised in the countryside as levelled embankments, as well as the Hallenhäuser (typical farm housing) on the estate of Hohenblöcken. The clay-deposits available in the area of the planned motorways may be removed, which could also lead to the destruction of archaeological sites.

Further infrastructure changes include a possible extension of the existing harbour areas of Ruthenstrom (Drochtersen), Wischhafen and Freiburg / Elbe, an important precondition for which is the widening of the shipping channel. This signifies a potential danger, which is difficult to quantify, to the archaeological sites concealed in the marsh soil. The main threat in relation to this is the permanent dredging of the Elbe shipping-channels. This leads to an increase in the speed of the current in the Elbe shipping channel, and to quicker drainage of the water within the tidal cycle, which accelerates the erosion process on the banks of the river. It cannot yet be foreseen what consequences this will have for archaeological sites (shipwrecks, settlement layers) that may survive in the Elbe and in the area of the Elbe estuary. In the long term the harbour extension could also mean that other industrial areas will be extended.

6.6 Energy and industry
Mechanical peat-digging endangers surviving archaeological sites and palaeo-environmental evidence including pollen archives, which will be lost without record. The area of the Neuland Moor (peatland) has been designated as a digging-area and in autumn 2005 peat-digging was started there. Beside the Neuland Moor (peatland) commercial peat-digging also takes place on the Wolfsbruch Moor (peatland), as well as in the Aschhorn Moor (peatland) and on the Königsmoor (peatland). No more commercial digging is to be expected in the remaining areas; most of the Kehdingen Moor (peatland), formerly roughly 109 square kilometres in size, has been developed into agriculturally productive land.
The expansion of renewable energy-sources is a declared aim of regional and federal politics. Accordingly the expansion of wind farms in the marsh areas of Kehdingen is gaining in importance. Whilst the impact on the wider landscape is acknowledged e.g. in the regional planning-programme for the administrative district of Stade, the aim is to concentrate the wind turbines in a number of regions and to restrict the maximum height of the wind turbines to 100 m, to minimize the disturbance to the landscape as much as possible. Apart from the visual disturbance to the wider landscape, expansion of this industry would also cause considerable disturbances to the ground (setting up and dismantling of the wind turbines including anchoring them in the ground, cable trenches) and hence a threat to archaeological sites.

7. Potentials

7.1 Spatial planning
Land Kehdingen is of regional and trans-regional importance as a greenbelt area.

7.2 Settlement
The Land Kehdingen has maintained its historic pattern of settlement, which evolved in tune with life in the area of the Elbe marshes, to the greatest possible extent. Thus, the marshland villages of the 12th century with their long-narrow fields and houses with combined living and working areas, constructed from the 17th to the 20th century all survive well.

7.3 Management of the cultural heritage
In the future, North Kehdingen, located on the periphery of the area, seems to have a good chance of preserving something of the historical landscape of Kehdingen by its continuing association with its own heritage, which is shaped by agricultural use, coastal protection and fishing. In addition there are still numerous historic architectural monuments and field monuments (dwelling mounds, dykes, lighthouses, buildings connected with agriculture and fishing). An important pre-condition for the maintenance of this historic landscape structure is its use by private individuals, agriculture and tourism. In all of this the biggest challenge is in the integration of the different claims on use and of the various administrative bodies involved, but also in the participation of people living in this area in these processes.

7.4 Tourism
The area has great potential for tourism as it has an interesting variety of cultural heritage features within a relatively confined space and the natural and human processes by which these landscapes, from the mud flats to the geest-scenery and the river marshes and moors, and their component parts such as the churches, fields and paths, have come into being is relatively clear and can be understood by visitors. The history of the Land Kehdingen can also be accessed via its numerous museums in which the material culture of the region is presented. Kehdingen offers numerous and many-faceted opportunities, by which the historical evolution of the plantation landscape can be highlighted and interpreted for both visitors and local residents.

8. Sources

Author: Ulf Ickerodt

Albrecht, H. (1997): Denkmaltopographie Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Baudenkmale in Niedersachsen Landkreis Stade. 26.1. Landkreis Stade ohne die Städte Stade und Buxtehude, bearbeitet von Heike Albrecht. Hameln.

Behre, K.-E. (1995): Kleine historische Landeskunde des Elbe-Weser-Raums. In: Geschichte des Landes zwischen Elbe und Weser I. Vor- und Frühgeschichte. Schriftenreihe des Landschaftsverbandes der ehemaligen Herzogtümer Bremen und Veren 7. Stade, 1–59.

Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung (BBR; 2005): Raumordnungsbericht 2005. Berichte 21. Bonn.

Dannenberg, H.-E. & Schulze, H.-J. (1995): Geschichte des Landes zwischen Elbe und Weser I. Vor- und Frühgeschichte. Schriftenreihe des Landschaftsverbandes der ehemaligen Herzogtümer Bremen und Veren 7. Stade.
Hoffmann, H.-C. (1986): Bremen, Bremerhaven und das nördliche Niedersachsen. Kultur, Geschichte, Landschaft zwischen Unterweser und Elbe. Köln.

Hofmeister, A. E. (1979): Besiedlung und Verfassung der Stader Elbmarschen im Mittelalter I. Dies Stader Elbmarschen vor der Kolonisation des 12. Jahrhunderts. Hildesheim.

Kahle, A. (1989): Bericht über die archäologischen Untersuchungen der Jahre 1984–1985 in Krummendeich-Stellenfleth. Stader Jahrbuch 1989, 7-21.

LANCEWAD (2001): Landscape and Cultural Heritage in the Wadden Sea Region – Project Report. In: Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (Hrsg.), Wadden Sea Ecosystem. Wilhelmshaven.

Raumordungskonzept für das niedersächsische Küstenmeer. Herausgegeben vom Niedersächsisches Ministerium für den ländlichen Raum, Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz - Regierungsvertretung Oldenburg - Landesentwicklung, Raumordnung. Stand 2005.

Regionales Raumordnungsprogramm für den Landkreis Stade 2004.

Salesch, M. (1998): Der „Feldhof“ in Balje. Geologie und Besiedlung. In: Nordkehdingen. Tradition und Geschichte, Freiburg, 199-206.

Thieme, H. (1997): Älteres Paläolithikum aus dem Gebiet zwischen Weser und Elbe. In: L. Fiedler (Hrsg.), Archäologie der ältesten Kultur in Deutschland. Materialien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte von Hessen 18, 328–356.