1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Crefeld

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CREFELD, or Krefeld, a town of Germany, in the Prussian Rhine province, on the left side of and 3 m. distant from the Rhine, 32 m. N.W. from Cologne, and 15 m. N.W. from Düsseldorf, with which it is connected by a light electric railway. Pop. (1875) 62,905; (1905) 110,410. The town is one of the finest in the Rhine provinces, being well and regularly built, and possessing several handsome squares and attractive public gardens. A striking point about the inner town is that it forms a large rectangle, enclosed by four wide boulevards or “walls.” This feature, rare in German towns, is due to the fact that Crefeld was always an “open place,” and that therefore the circular form of a fortress town could be dispensed with. It has six Roman Catholic and four Evangelical churches (of which the Gothic Friedenskirche with a lofty spire, and the modern church of St Joseph, in the Romanesque style, are alone worth special mention); there are also a Mennonite and an Old Catholic church. The town hall, decorated with frescoes by P. Janssen (b. 1844), and the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum are the most noteworthy secular buildings. In the promenades are monuments to Moltke, Bismarck and Karl Wilhelm, the composer of the Wacht am Rhein. Among the schools and scientific institutions of the town the most important is the higher grade technical school for the study of the textile industries, which is attended by students from all parts of the world. Connected with this are subsidiary schools, notably one for dyeing and finishing.

Crefeld is the most important seat of the silk and velvet manufactures in Germany, and in this industry the larger part of the population of town and neighbourhood is employed. There are upwards of 12,000 silk power-looms in operation, and the value of the annual output in this branch alone is estimated at £3,000,000. A special feature is the manufacture of silk for covering umbrellas; while of its velvet manufacture that of velvet ribbon is the chief. The other industries of the town, notably dyeing, stuff-printing and stamping, are very considerable, and there are also engineering and machine shops, chemical, cellulose, soap, and other factories, breweries, distilleries and tanneries. The surrounding fertile district is almost entirely laid out in market gardens. Crefeld is an important railway centre, and has direct communication with Cologne, Rheydt, München-Gladbach and Holland (via Zevenaar).

Crefeld is first mentioned in records of the 12th century. From the emperor Charles IV. it received market rights in 1361 and the status of a town in 1373. It belonged to the counts of Mörs, and was annexed to Prussia, with the countship, in 1702. It remained a place of little importance until the 17th century, when religious persecution drove to it a number of Calvinists and Separatists from Jülich and Berg (followed later by Mennonites), who introduced the manufacture of linen. The number of such immigrants still further increased in the 18th century, when, the silk industry having been introduced from Holland, the town rapidly developed. The French occupation in 1795 and the resulting restriction of trade weighed for a while heavily upon the new industry; but with the termination of the war and the re-establishment of Prussian rule the old prosperity returned.