Foldingbro as a customs border
The building at Foldingbro was named after Foldingbro, which in ancient times connected Folding Parish in the Kingdom of Denmark with the Duchy of Southern Jutland on the other side of the river.
Foldingbro was one of the few places on the border, where it was permitted to bring goods in and out of the kingdom. Therefore Foldingbro was a natural resting place for wayfarers. Already in the oldest known document, which refers to the name Foldingbro, it mentions an inn at the site.
For a long time there was no control apparatus to control the border, but in 1570 the vassal was commanded by the king that the crown farm at Foldingbro from now on was to provide housing for a bridge man to make sure horses and cattle were not taken across the bridge without duty being paid on them.
With the exception of a short period between 1850-64, where the customs border was moved south, there was customs supervision in Foldingbro right up to the Reunification in 1920.
In the period 1580-1790, when Foldingbro got a proper customs office, the bridge man's supervision was limited to counting the animals that came over the border, after which he filled out a passing form - the actual collection of customs duties took place in Ribe.
It was often the inn keeper who was also the bridge man who carried out the customs supervision. You can imagine the problems this dual role must have involved, having to inspect the travellers and act as host to them at the same time. The system would inevitably lead to a rather lax control at times.
In a plan to prevent customs swindling at Foldingbro, it was noticed in 1784 that the bridge man's farm was arranged with gates that allowed smugglers to pass around the actal customs office, which was located in the farm's main wing. It was suggested that this arrangement was quite deliberate by the bridge man so he could have "his oath free that nothing has passed through the royal customs office."
Mounted patrol officers
In 1790 the consequences were implemented and the bridge man was phased out. Instead, a proper office was established in Krogården, which the crown bought from the then bridge man and inn keeper. The office was staffed with a customs officer, an inspector and a tollbar worker.
The inspectors were to keep horses and have a sworn servant in their service. Ten mounted patrol officers were also employed. The newly recruited inspectors and patrol officers were to be led by the new customs officer in Foldingbro and his colleagues in Ribe and Kolding.
Corruption among the customs officers
A study in 1817 revealed widespread corruption among customs staff at the border. During the subsequent trial, both the customs officer and customs inspector at Foldingbro were sentenced to a lifetime of hard labour in Viborg prison.
A couple of years later, attempts were made to employ a customs revenue officer. The actual customs inspection would now be exercised by a border customs inspector. It was hoped this would reduce the risk of corruption. But three years afterwards, cash shortages were identified in his accounts and he consequently lost his office.
It was only after the defeat in the war in1864 that efficient customs control was established at Foldingbro.
Author: Peter Munch Jensen, former museum curator at Sønderskov Museum