Gävle is one of Sweden’s largest maritime cities, dating back to the 15th century. The port was originally located on Alderholmen, close to the current city centre. At the end of the 19th century, the port was moved out to Fredriksskans, and in 1905, the port was opened at its current location.
History of Gävle
Gävle’s first armed fortress. The first stronghold mentioned in the Gävle area is Gadöborg Castle in Valbo parish. The purpose of the stronghold was to monitor the city and the new communication route through Gästrikland, not to protect it. When Kopparberget was built in the 14th century, the purpose was to protect the city. The enemy had taken Stockholm at that time.
Sweden’s third largest port city. At the end of the 16th century, there was unrest between King Sigismund and Duke Karl. Since an attack was feared from Finland, where Sigismund had the most supporters, fortifications were set up at the mouth of the river in Gävle. On May 5, 1599, a rumour circulated that the Finns were on their way to Stockholm, and Gävle sent a number of naval ships to help defend the capital. At that time, Gävle was one of the most important cities in the country, with shipyards for the crown and exports of copper, wood, tar and iron. As a port town, only Stockholm and Lödöse were larger.
The block house. In 1612 a new terror spread over the Gävle area. This time it was the Danes who brought their fleet to the Stockholm archipelago. However, the Danes sailed home at the start of autumn. Gävle decided nevertheless to build an armed block house on a small, rocky outcropping in the sound, between the inner and outer bay. The building was called Blockhusharen. Queen Kristina, who was the widow of Karl IX and mother of Gustaf II Adolf, donated cannons to the blockhouse. She lived at this time at Gefle Castle and had Alderholmen and other islands in the Bay of Gävle as pension insurance. The Blockshusharen never came to be tested in battle. Russia was blocked from the Baltic Sea, and Denmark was weakened by its participation in the Thirty Years War.
Fredriksskans fortifications erected. During the early 18th century, fortifications at Fredriksskans were built. In 1788 when Gustaf III was at war with Russia, the southern entrance became unusable, and eight canons were set up at Holmudden cape for protection.
Reconstruction for the Second World War. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson considered the Swedish defences to be in good condition, and in 1940 the commander reported that the area of Gävle did not need any coastal defence. He had his staff in Gävle and managed the local defences. When it turned out that the defences were not in that good condition, the army started to expand the defensive facilities in the area of Gävle. I14 mobilised and sent their field units in different directions, while the defence companies had different geographic areas to defend. They built concrete fortifications. On certain islands, such as the Leharen and Granskär, cannons were set up with bulwarks and underground shelters to be able to fire out over the sea. The section of coast between Billudden-Harkskär was important to defend.
In 1944, fortifications for the army were built on Furuskär, and in 1945 it was ready for battle. There was also a fixed blockade of mines across the northern entrance to the port and mines out at sea. This was largely the defence situation at the end of the war.
The Cold War. When the Cold War’s arms race started, Sweden experienced the threat of invasion. Ports, airfields and landing sites were classified as targets and would be defended. Now, a period of expansion began, which lasted until the middle of the 1980s. Now the coastal defences would be expanded. The Gävle defence battalion would be organised and expanded. It would consist of an improved mine blockade at Holmudden cape. Canons were set up, including at Gråberget and Furuskär, while firing radar was set up on the islands of Limön and Eskön.
The facility was completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity, water, heating, dehumidification, food, medical care, accommodations and workshop. The level of protection was high with protection from gas attacks and shock waves. The facility would withstand a direct hit by a 250 kilo demolition bomb. The battery hit targets from 20 km away, while the light battery was slightly closer.
In mid-1980s, Sweden’s defences included war plans and expansion on top. Then the decline began. After defence preparations in 1992, the fortifications were taken out of service and is now fully phased out. The entrance and canon holes in the rock are filled in.
History of Fredriksskans
All of Finland, Estonia, Livonia (part of present-day Latvia and Lithuania) and Ingria (northern part of present-day Estonia and Russia) were occupied by the Russians at this time. Brandenburg and Hanover had occupied Western Pomerania and Bremen. However, Karl XII did well in the war and had several victories. Now, his fortunes in war turned around. After the Battle of Poltava, he lost the entire army, and 30,000 men became prisoners of war in Russia, Denmark, Brandenburg, England and Hanover. Discussions were held about putting defences on Limön, Bilskaten or Flisskärs cape.
Governor Hugo Hamilton proposes the Blockhusharen. The regiments in Hälsingland built the fortress, which is equipped with 15 cannons and a crew of about 100 men, including artillerymen from the Jämtland regiment.
King Karl XII dies and peace negotiations begin. Sweden refuses to accept the peace terms.
To speed up the peace negotiations, the Russians burn Norrköping, Nyköping, Södertälje, Nynäshamn, Norrtälje, Öregrund and Östhammar. They also burn down some 40 factories, seize livestock and crops and burn all of the farms.
On July 30th, a Russian naval fleet of 26 galley ships and a number of cutter boats is spotted out at sea. Since they did not pass by the fortress, cavalry and infantrymen landed in the Bay of Harnäs. Then they started marching and burned down Grinduga, Furuvik, Holmsund and Kastet. At Hemlingby, they were stopped by regular troops and civilians. One third of the city’s population was out fishing on the northern coast. A new attempt to take the city was made at Järfsta, but it was also stopped.
Troops also came ashore at Engesberg, which was burned down, as were Gröndal and Kullsand. When the Russians approached Strömsbro, Swedish reserve troops at Tolvfors rushed to the area and could stop the advance. The Russians were being constantly shelled from the fortress and eventually withdrew toward Åland.
7,000 troops gathered in Gävle for a potential attack against the Russians. The Swedish fleet manages to stop the Russians and sinks a Russian flotilla with galley ships at Åland. That year the Russians only managed to burn Umeå.
In the spring the defence forces were well prepared, which was a good thing. Again, the barracks at Limön and 33 galley boats were set aflame, and a number of cutter boats sailed past Gävle, just like the events two years earlier. Instead, the Russians landed at Hamrånge and burned down everything they could along the coast, including Axmar and Vifors cabins, Söderhamn, Hudiksvall, Sundsvall, Härnösand, Umeå and Piteå. Fires also burned Medelpad, Ångermanland and Västerbotten that year. Now the Russians had forced a peace. Sweden got Finland back, while the Russians kept the Baltic countries. The Russians approved a Russian-friendly king in Sweden, Fredrik I.
1721, 1749 and 1752
Repairs and reinforcements were made to the fortress, which was first called Hugo Skans, after the county governor, Baron Hugo Hamilton. It was then renamed Fredriksskans.
War with Russia. The cannons are moved to Waxholm. Gävle resident Samuel Valley paid for the new cannons himself.
New war with Russia. 130 men protect the fortress.
The fortress is disarmed.
The city of Gävle buys the island for SEK 20,000.
The fortress was demolished when the port was built.
The port of Fredriksskans is opened.
The upper depot area at the Energy Port is opened.