The history of Ołowianka Island
Life in mediaeval Gdańsk harbour concentrated on the left bank of the Motława. There the city gates were located, and wooden piers and loading machines were built alongside them. The space between them was fortified and did not serve any commercial function. The constant development of the harbour made it necessary to build new storehouses and loading berths on the other side of the river.
An important element of the inner port on the Motława is the island on which, during the reign of the Teutonic Order in Gdańsk, the Komturs organised a smoothly-operating harbour. It was located opposite the Crane, and was connected to the left bank of the river by a bridge (near the current Rycerska Street). In the 15th Century, when the harbour infrastructure continued to develop, loading machines and granaries were built on an island called Szafarnia1 (the area belonged to Teutonic officials- szafarze – and was located opposite the Teutonic castle). The magazines held mainly grain, salt, iron, anchors, and millstones. Cloths, spices and southern fruit were stored separately. The island also featured carpenter’s workshops.
The increase in trade turnover in the 16th and 17th Centuries contributed to the extension of the harbour. The Spichrzów (Granary) Island, with its storehouses, formed its centre. The mediaeval Szafarnia, after relocating the storage of lead there (Ołowiowy Dwór – Leaden Manor), came to be called Ołowianka. The island complex existing at the place was complemented by Cieślarnia (East Island), which featured a wood storehouse, and Kępa (North Island). According to sources Ołowianka Island held seven granaries, and the entire Gdańsk harbour, 315. Żuraw and Ołowianka probably operated a ferry crossing from 1687. The island was also connected to the area of today’s Szafarnia Street with a drawbridge that was built near Angielska Grobla Street. At the same time, between the northern end of Ołowianka and the left bank of the Motława, there lay a pole delimiting the area of the inner harbour used for goods loading.
The history Ołowianka’s granaries
The military operations of 1945 brought the majority of Gdańsk’s granaries to ruins. The walls of three such buildings survived the war, and, following reconstruction in 1985, became the main exhibition space of the Central Maritime Museum. The oldest of them is the Gothic “Oliwski” granary, which, until 1677, was called “Klasztorny” (Monastic). The name referred to the Oliwa Cistercians, who used to operate it. The Baroque “Panna” (Maiden) granary received its name from the figure that once stood on its roof (the first mention comes from 1709), and it was built in place of the old mediaeval “Szkarpawski” granary.
The “Miedź” (copper) granary owes its name to the merchandise once stored there. The facades of Polish granaries featured plaques (wooden or stone-cut) with their names. Two such plaques have remained intact on the “Oliwski” granary, with the dates 1677 and 1738.
¹ Szafarnia – today it is the street running along the New Motława channel in the direction of Ołowianka Street
² Szafarz – a Teutonic official dealing in local and international trade. He had a number of subjects who purchased and sold goods at his disposal.