More about Český Brod
The second largest town in the Kolín district in the flow of time…
Český Brod was founded as a market settlement, probably by Jan I. (1134 – 1139), the bishop of Prague, on one of the country’s most important provincial paths, Trstenická, linking Prague with south-eastern Europe. The new market settlement, with the Roman St.Gothard cathedral, and a spacious marketplace, arose on a gentle hillock elevated over the town and across the Šembera brook, where apparently the then bishop custom house also stood. The local ford of great importance, a day’s trip away from both Prague and Kouřim, surrounded by extensive marshlands, guaranteed the settlement not only permanent subsistence but also certain security, and gave it the name of Brod (a ford).
Around 1268, Jan III. of Dražice, the bishop of Prague, designated the local market settlement a town - Biskupský Brod (Broda Episcopalis, Bishopford) and granted it immediately the emphyteutic right (right of succession) and other citizen liberties, namely the right of fortification. The town, boasting sixty-eight middle-class houses, three suburbs (Liblické, Kouřimské, and Pražské), and also houses with the side right of parish in the middle ages, was built by colonists of both Czech and foreign descent. Owing to trading and travelling activities and an extensive agriculture vicinity, Biskupský Brod soon became a significant trading centre and market with corresponding trade and craft businesses, above all inn-keeping.
In 1289, Ondřej of Říčany, a partisan of the imprisoned Záviš of Falkenštejn, burnt down the town of Brod. The bishop of Prague, Tobiáš of Bechyně, restored it, granting it and its burghers, together with certain other citizens, a new title deed. In the deed, he again defined some town rights and liabilities, namely the feudal annuity perpetual bonds of 20 hides (approx. 372 hectares) of farmland and 12 butcher’s shops. By affording the town only minor land acreage, the bishop promoted it as a centre of trade and craft.
With respect to the fact that it was rather complicated to administer and secure the particular manors of the Prague bishopric, Tobiáš of Bechyně incorporated the villages and courts lying east of Prague into a special district, appointing Biskupský Brod its administrative centre. There he built a large fortress, a seat of the bishopric official, the burgrave, to whose administrative district (dominion) Biskupský Brod and 17 villages or their parts belonged to.
In 1315, when the house of Ronn with 500 armour-bearers occupied Brod, the town had already been using the amended local place-name of Český Brod (Broda Bohemicalis, Czechford). This was to distinguish it from the town of Německý Brod (Broda Germanica, Germanford), lying on the same commercial path.
After a nearby settlement of Chouranice had been burnt down in 1323, the local mill and the land-registry of the former settlement fell upon Český Brod, both favourably influencing further development of the town’s economy.
The socio-economic development of Český Brod, in which the 83 local inns had contributed strongly by the middle of the 14th century, enabled the final construction of the town. Aided by the archbishop Arnošt of Pardubice, Český Brod erected stone walls, fortified them with a repaired citadel, and continued building a three-nave St. Gothard cathedral. Apart from the local school, he established an infirmary for twelve of those poor and sick (today’s house number 274), and next to which are the St. Mary Magdalene church and the St. Nicholas chapel. During the second half of the 14th century, the square and the town access road were coble-stoned and the Malechov stone bridge was probably built.
The duke Jan Zhořelecký arrived in Český Brod in 1394 to negotiate the liberation from captivity of King Václav IV with Vilém, the margrave of Meissen.
When the Český Brod burghers finished the construction of the civic buildings between the 14th and 15th centuries, and when the working of the municipal institutions was financially secured by the means of material annuities, they began focusing on expanding the municipal administration, controlled by the landlord’s official – the reeve. In contrast to other Czech towns the fight for self-government in Český Brod was resolved before 1402, when the wealthy and self-confident Český Brod burghers erected a big town hall in the middle of the square (house number 1), where both the borough council and the municipal court were moved from the reeve´s house.
The rights and liabilitiesy of Prague’s Old Town law were confirmed to Český Brod by the archbishop Zbyněk Zajíc of Hazmburk in 1406.
In the first decades of the 15th century, the Prague University professor Ondřej of Český Brod, renowned chiefly for his earlier work „De origine Hussitorum“ (Of the Origin of the Hussites), stood up against Huss’s reforms. Growing rich, Český Brod sided with the Catholic Church and the king. Their partisans convened in Český Brod in 1415 to establish a baronial league, led by Jan of Hradec, against the Hussite Union.
Probably in 1418, when the Český Brod archbishopric district broke up, the archbishop Konrád of Vechta pawned the town of Český Brod to Jan Sekretář of Kostelec nad Černými lesy. Following the battle at Vyšehrad in 1420 Emperor Zikmund occupied the town, as the town pawn holder was killed.
The imperial garrison of Český Brod held out only until 17th April, 1421, when, after a short and ferocious fight, the Prague troops and their Hussite allies conquered the town. The Prague citizens, influenced by their own self-government reforms, rid Český Brod’s burghers of their villein dependence on Prague’s archbishops, installed the borough council and thus recognized the administrative and political autonomy of the town of Český Brod. Simultaneously, they incorporated the town into the military alliance of the Prague towns and in this way Český Brod gained the right of attendance at the provincial diets.
After the defeat of the Prague troops in the battle at Malešov of 1424, Jan Žižka of Trocnov included Český Brod in the Orphan Town Union (also known as the Orphans, the Hussite Union, or the Orphan Fraternity, was a radical Hussite burgher-nobility authority formation). The great Hussite assembly, convening in Český Brod in 1429, set conditions for negotiations with emperor Zikmund. Being besieged by the baronial coalition troops on 26th and 27th May, 1434, the town defenders led by orphan captain Jana Čert, called Anděl, repelled them and the coalition troops marched off to Lipany.
Not long after the battle at Lipany, the representatives of Český Brod concluded an armistice with the baronial coalition. To prevent any of the district noblemen from gaining rule of the town, its citizens opened negotiations with emperor Zikmund. The emperor confirmed their revolutionary liberties, including the right of mile and custom-duty, and elevated Český Brod to the status of a royal town on 4th February, 1437. He also granted it a coat-of–arms: an open gate in a silver wall, with a tower above, sided by both the imperial and town coats-of-arms, all in a blue field.
The new royal town of Český Brod, secured by Zikmund’s privileges and another bail with 16 bastions, had in those times 134 town and suburban houses, 20 granges, 2 mills, and was inhabited by approximately 1,200 citizens. The Provincial Diet of Bohemia was held here in 1444 to discuss the appointment of Jan Rokycana the archbishop. Mainly local brewers flourished in the town exporting their beverages far and wide. The wealthiest of them soon gained control of the municipal administration and the community senior congregation, the presbytery. They maintained their community and council positions as late as by the 1470s, when they were expelled by members of the constituting guilds, namely wealthy maltsters and butchers.
In 1483, an influential assembly of the Utraquists was held in Český Brod. There, the nobility and the towns constituted a Calixtine coalition which enforced religious tolerance in Bohemia.
Even the great fire of 1512 did not bring a halt to the flourishing of the town. The town treasure got great incomes from the custom-duties, that the crafts and businesses carried, as well as from the villein payments which the town invested in the estates of the Public Records (Tabulae terrae, Tables of Land). Český Brod bought the citadel and village of Tismice, the villages of Mrzky, Krupá, Mrzky, Nová Ves, Lhotka, and the annuities in other villages and thus ranked among feudal dominions. King Ferdinand I bestowed two annual fairs upon the town in 1538 and confirmed the earlier privilege of custom and toll duties. In the 1540s, the town and its burghers launched a major reconstruction of Český Brod.
The long-lasting social-economic development of Český Brod was interrupted by Ferdinand I after an abortive anti-Habsburg uprising of 1547 in which the citizens of Český Brod actively participated. The sovereign suspended Český Brod of the right of participation and voting at the provincial diets. The town authority bodies and its social life were subject to the control of the royal reeve who dissolved the guilds, condemned the town to a major financial penalty and to the confiscation of the estates of the Public Records.
In 1549, after the return of the confiscated infirmaries and parishes, and after the reestablishment of the guilds, the town was developing under severe economic conditions. Competition from neighbouring dominical breweries (Kostelec nad Černými Lesy, Škvorec, Uhříněves, Přerov nad Labem) was mounting. The brewing of beer, the keystone of Český Brod’s economy, saw the production of up to 42,000 hectolitres of beer in the 1570s but its output gradually dropped in the following years.
On the other hand, the business of local wholesale merchants grew as they bought cattle and wine in Hungary and sold them in Prague. The wholesalers and brewers, largely members of the literati fraternity, were financially supportive of the Český Brod educational system in which, in the age prior to the battle at Bílá Hora, a whole number of outstanding representatives of the Bohemian humanist movement taught. These excelled not only as educators but also as musicians and poets. Their poems, written mainly in Latin, were published in memorial volumes.
The problems of the town’s economy, to a certain degree caused by the growing crisis of the local brewing, were being solved by the borough council by the means of purchasing further estates of the Public Records and in the development of local enterprises.
To add to the present infirmary and parish property, the town got possession of two citadels in Liblice and Tismice, plus the villages of Liblice, Štolmíř, Tismice, and Vrátkov.
According to the situation in 1615, the town of Český Brod was a feudal dominion for 64 villeins. The purchasing of new estates and the state-compelled loans to defray the wars with the Turks immersed Český Brod in vast debts in the age prior to the battle at Bílá Hora.
Český Brod’s participation in the second anti-Habsburg uprising between 1618 and 1620 brought disastrous consequences to the town. In the confiscation, the town lost its entire landed property, bought in 1623 by the royal governor Karel of Lichtenštejn which he adjoined to the dominion of Kostelec nad Černými Lesy. Fearing plundering armies and for religious reasons, 85 out of 160 owners of the town and suburban houses expatriated from Český Brod between 1624 and 1626. Their belongings were seized mostly by the local representatives of the Habsburg regime or burnt down in the Český Brod fire of 29th April, 1628. In 1639, when the town debt reached 33,000 gross of Meissen groschens, General Baner’s army marched in and plundered it. Another Swede, general Torstenson, ravaged it in 1643.
The impoverished and half-empty town of Český Brod, surrounded by an economically strong Lichtenštejn dominion and affected by re-catholicization, was gradually recovering from all the previous disasters. The sovereign remitted the town all the taxes for long years and granted it a sum of 4,000 Rheinland guldens for restoration. The borough council led by the mayor advanced in repopulating the houses abandoned and burnt down, and sought new sources of incomes to finance the repairs of the municipal buildings. The burghers’ breweries, destroyed during the war, were substituted by a municipal one brewing only for local consumption and launched a longtime lawsuit with the Kostelec nad Černými Lesy dominion to gain back the so-called free hide of the Český Brod land registry, which, by mistake, had not been entered into the confiscation protocol. Prior to the borough council’s managing to sue for this farmland, Český Brod burnt down on 25th August, 1690 and it became necessary to rebuild it again.
In 1706, the state administration bodies subjected the town management of Český Brod to thecontrol of a select inspector following an economic order. As the state tended to improve the working of the municipal administration bodies, from 1734 onwards it demanded that individual borough council members have a command of legal knowledge and only a well-seen jurist could become the town scrivener. The state halted resuming the borough councils in 1737 and membership in those became freehold.
The town’s public buildings and town houses, which were owned and restored by a few wealthy families of Italian descent in the early 18th century, were again ruined in the great fire of 7th November, 1739 and a lesser one of 26th December, 1739.
Český Brod, having turned into a farming-crafts town, spent heavily in restoring its building in the early 18th century but was nevertheless forced to spend disbursements on accommodating troops in the town. Only limited financial means were available for the borough council to spend on welfare and on the local school of which the masters excelled as outstanding musicians and theatrists in the late 18th century.
Reorganizing the municipal administration in 1783, the state abolished the office of the royal reeve and constituted a regulated magistrate municipality. In 1786, Český Brod was classified a free royal town governed in the appellate jurisdiction directly by the district office. So in a town of 159 houses, judicial matters were carried out by a syndic, a clerk, and a beadle, whilst economic matters were looked after by a burgher master, a town councilor and an alderman.
Coinciding with the state’s centralizing policies, the Czech national movement started to thrive, represented in Český Brod at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries above all by the patriotic clergyman Jindřich Hill, the Český Brod dean between 1794 and 1813. The town itself, developing under peace conditions, did not participate in the political process. The local craftsmen, led by the burgher Jan Cimburk, staged several Czech theatre plays in 1838. Český Brod experienced the revolutionary year of 1848 relatively peacefully. In the town where the noted Prague radical Emanuel Arnold was active, a 116-men strong national guard was incepted but it did not interfere with the fights in Prague.
In 1849, the state devolved, according to the municipal law, the entire economic administration of the town and part of its political administration to the mayor, the municipal (town) council, and the municipal (town) committee. The electoral system was a part of this law.
Since the middle of the 19th century, finishing the construction of the railway in 1845 and the abolition of corvée in 1848 both contributed to the town’s development significantly. Still in 1843, the town had, together with its Zahrady gardens, just 199 houses inhabited by 1,877 citizens, but in 1857, it already had 232 houses with 2,400 inhabitants. In 1850, Český Brod became seat of the district court and in 1868, the district commissioner’s (marshal’s) office moved here from Kostelec nad Černými Lesy. Český Brod’s mayor Jan Weidenhoffer and the deputy of the Diet of Bohemia as well as the first chief magistrate of the Český Brod district, Franišek Pokorný played a strong part in this.
The end of the 1860s brought a boost to local industry. The steam mill was set in operation in 1867 and the joint sugar mill followed in 1868. The local brewery came to flourish again. A new modern brewery made 5,500 hl of beer in 1885, while 26 years later it was 40,188 hl. The Černovský a spol. farm machines factory launched manufacture in Český Brod in 1888, exporting to Central and Eastern European countries. The town gasworks opened in 1903, which lit Český Brod’s first gas lamps, namely in the new district hospital, in the very same year.
Concurrently with the development of the local industry, the local banking institution came into being. In 1864, Savings and Loan Office was established, renamed in 1873 Community Credit Bank. In 1882, District Commercial Credit Bank began its business, followed by Český Brod Savings Bank in 1909.
The political and economic rise of the town also influenced the development of the social, cultural and later sporting life. In 1863, the first Czech-German association named Českobrodská beseda was established. Between 1865 and 1868, the local craftsmen staged Josef Kajetán Tyl’s plays “The Rake of Prague” and “The Foundling“ in Alžběta Suttnerová’s inn (house number 36). In 1869, a new amateur association staged their first performance of Felcman´s drollery „Just Mannerly”. In the local social hall in 1875, the Prozatimní theatre gave its first ever tour performance in rural Bohemia. In addition, the famous Czech actor Jindřich Mošna appeared here since 1877. The local amateur association was using a large summer straw hat stage in the garden of the „U Slunce“ inn (house number 215) since 1875.
They had been acting here until 1884, when they merged into the theatre section of the Sokol association. Of the 28 different municipal associations and corporations, the Sokol gymnastics drill was the most the most active. It was founded by the Český Brod citizens, led by the mayor Jan Weidenhoffer, in 1870. The Sokolovna assembly hall, designed by Jan Koula, was built in 1884. The most remarkable event of the Český Brod Sokol association was a Czech-American competition held, in place of the 2nd Sokol festival banned, in Český Brod on 26th June, 1887. It saw the participation of 40,000 visitors of whom 3,000 were Sokol members from Bohemia, Moravia and the United States of America.
Workers from Český Brod founded the Mutual Support Work Labour Association in 1871. This association of workmen, aiding one another, endorsed social-democratic ideals and also supported educational activities from 1882 onwards. The Labour Forum functioned in the town from 1879.
Since the 1890s, when the town housed over 4,000 inhabitants, the citizens of Český Brod participated regularly in all political and national events. These were organized and scheduled chiefly by the local editor Jozef Miškovský, the publisher of the Naše hlasy and Naše listy weeklies, who, as a member of both the district board of representatives and the borough council, played a strong role in the development of the town and district.
The First World War 1914-1918 paralysed the long-lasting, social-economic development of Český Brod and brought its citizens severe tribulation and impoverishment. The citizens of Český Brod publicly expressed their discontentment with the political and economic distress during the jubilee on the 1st May and during the general strike on the 14th October, 1918. Representatives of political parties established the district National Committee during this time of social tension and, on its behalf, solemnly declared Czechoslovak independence at a mass rally in front of the town hall on the 28th October, 1918.
The post-war economical conjuncture that a free and democratic Czechoslovakia was going through in the first decade of its existence, contributed to the development and modernization of Český Brod. Already in 1919, the district authority founded a grammar school, the gymnasium, and the local Sokol association opened a motion picture theatre in 1920. The town then, during the land reform, fought out a grange in Klučov with 125ha of land in compensation for the land appropriation after the battle at Bílá Hora.
In 1923, the town, headed by the social-democratic mayor František Macháček (1874 –1941), completed the electrification of the town. The gymnasium grammar school gained a modern building in 1924, the construction of the Havlíček suburb began, and the Social-Democratic Party opened the Lidový dům assembly house. The KARMA industrial works, producing superior gas burners, was set up in Český Brod in 1926. The buildings of the district health insurance office and of the railway station were built in 1927. In 1928, the first regular bus shuttle service between the town and its agricultural vicinities started operation, the district hospital was enlarged and modernized, and the post office switched on an automatic exchange. Also the local brewery was modernized, producing a yearly 45,000hl of beer, tapped in the 23 pubs of Český Brod. The town also built up further institutions of importance such as the Masaryk jubilee town school in the Vanderky borough, and the Podlipanské museum which became a new centre of the town’s cultural life.
The social-economic development of Český Brod was affected by the economic depression of 1927-1932. After it had passed, in 1935 the Savings Bank of Český Brod built its own branch as another public structure. The Sokol association opened a swimming pool in 1938, and Alois Komárek of Neštěmice near Ústí nad Labem moved the AKO photographic supplies manufactory here.
The Second World War of 1939-1945 inflicted a greater misery than World War One on the citizens of Český Brod, most of whom were mostly small traders, farmers as well as intelligentsia. The Nazi terror and the resistance against it claimed a total of 111 casualties.
Numerous citizens were deported for forced labour to Germany, others were, due to their participation in the resistance groups, sentenced by Nazi courts to jail in concentration camps or German prisons.
The resistance of the Český Brod population against the Nazi occupation culminated in the May Uprising of 1945. On the 5th May, the local Revolutionary National Committee stood forth into the public, gradually taking over power in the town. On the 8th May, the Czech crew saved the Liblice transmitter from destruction. Not far from the transmitter, an exchange of fire occurred with Nazi troops, in which 18 patriots perished. 60 captive Czechs were liberated in Český Brod by the U.S. parliamentarians returning this way from the Velichovka spa, where they had been negotiating with marshal Ferdinand Schörner, on the 8th May. On the same evening, Schörner’s army assignees signed before the deputies of the Czech National Council the unconditional surrender of the German troops in the local gymnasium grammar school. On the 9th May, the first tanks of the Red Army drove through Český Brod.
Following the liberation, the town recovered from the war relatively quickly. It purchased the Dolánky forest of 847ha in 1946, and began constructing the town’s water supply network in 1947. Between 1948 and 1949, the Communists, who had overrun the town hall, nationalized or communized all the means of production in town, and fully subjugated the social life to their ideology. Their activities were accompanied by the persecution of the townspeople, many of whom spent long years in prisons or work camps due to their resistance against the new Communist regime.
The state administration bodies abolished the Český Brod district in 1960, adjoining it to the Kolín one. The Český Brod brewery, producing 42,130hl of beer still in 1966, ceased output due to sales problems in early 1968.
However, in spite of all the changes Český Brod remained an economic and cultural regional centre.
Miloš Dvořák, PhD.