The Powder Magazine
Of course powder has always been stored in a fortress like ”Kastellet”, but we don’t know much about the magazines until a two-storey tower was built in the ”Grevens Bastion” (Count’s Bastion) by the end of 17th century. It was poorly built, and thus torn down again already in 1741 and replaced by another two-storey tower with a wall thickness of no less than 2 meters and hawing four massive buttresses on each side, probably due to the very soft surface, since this bastion is constructed on filled seabed.
The capacity was 1200 centner of powder. A “center” was an old measurement that equaled 100 pound, or 50 Kilo. This meant, that no less than 60 ton of powder was stored in this magazine alone. And as we shall soon learn, there was another magazine in the citadel, plus several smaller magazines nearer by the cannons.
There are also sources telling about powder in one of the tower above the ”Kongeport” (Kings’s gate), but the officers understood, that this was a risky place, and less than desirable
Unfortunately the magazine in “Grevens Bastion” no longer exist, as a railway to the harbor was taken directly through the citadel in the 1890’ties, when the fortress had lost its military value. As it ran exactly where the magazine lay, it was torn down.
A magazine quite like the first of the two that was built after the very same drawings still exists in Fredricia.But the other magazine in “Kastellet” still exists. You’ll find it in Dronningens Bastion (Queen’s Bastion). It was built in 1712 by an entrepreneur Pelli. This magazine is in only one storey and measures 15 x 30 alen (old measure, equals two feet or 0,627 meter). This magazine also has walls of 2 meter in thickness.
This tower was equipped with shelves for powder barrels, and could hold 1000 centner powder, or in recent measures 50 ton of powder.
The picture above was taken in 1939, where it still used as a powder magazine, hence the guard.
Black powder is a mechanical mixture of sulphur, charcoal and saltpeter. The latter contains the oxygene, that makes the combustion possible, but it is also the heaviest of the ingredients, so it had a habbit of precipitation and sink to the bottom of the barrels. At one point in this process the powder got unstable and could explode during handling. Accordingly there were very strict rules about the behavior in a magazine. It was forbidden to carry any metal, that could create a spark, you had to wear rush shoes or cloth slippers, and it was strictly forbidden to swear, in order not to insult God, making him let the magazine blow up. Should this happen anyway, then the thick walls were meant to guide the force of the explosion upwards, to preserve the buildings around the magazine.
Yet it did happen in 1779 that a magazine blew up on the city wall, and at that occasion the thick walls did not work as expected. Considerable damage was done to Nyboder, and many people were killed or wounded. Accordingly it was decided, that powder no longer should be stored within the city walls in peacetime. All magazines of the town were emptied, also those in “Kastellet”.
1817 there was a revolt in the prison (hard labor) of Christianshavn, that was so violent that shelling by cannon was necessary in order to neutralize the prisoners. Hereby the Prison caught fire, and was burned down. Now the authorities had a problem: Where to keep these dangerous prisoners? The leaders of the rebellion were executed at once, but for the rest temporary prisons were made in the now empty two magazines of the citadel. The one still existing was divided by a wooden floor in two storey’s, and in each 10 cells were built for each 2-4 prisoners. The same number of cells were made in the magazine in “Grevens Bastion”
Here the prisoners were ripping old tow into fibers that was used for caulking ships. This was the only labor they could do, as they were not allowed any tools.
Without doubt this were the worst prison in all of Denmark, but then it was just temporarily - only 30 years!
The prison was laid down in 1847, and those prisoners still there were taken to a real prison instead.
Lots of stories could be told about this, space not allowing, but do visit the place, and eventually enjoy a guided tour.