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Text: © Lotte Fang-Borup

A walking tour around some of Roskilde’s old grocer’s yards.

In the 1700s, there were six or seven large grocer’s yards in Roskilde, all located in the middle of the town. In the front of the building facing the street there would be a small shop (really a bazaar) and an inn. It was here that the grocer’s family lived. In the side and middle buildings there were stables, a brewery, a distillery, a stud farm, tanners, candlemakers, storage for the shop and, importantly, agricultural buildings for the land that belonged to the grocer’s and which was run as an ordinary farm.

In the 1800s these businesses became even larger and their functions expanded to include more carpenters, candlemakers and tanners. At the same time, the bazaar developed into individual grocer’s shops – the department stores of their day. Along with the expansion of the larger grocer’s yards, both medium-sized grocery businesses and small family owned grocer’s shops began to appear. In the larger grocer’s yards, between 15 and 25 people could be found working and living alongside each other. Increasingly during this period, it became the medium-sized grocer’s shops which dominated the town picture.  

As the grocer’s were somewhat interchangeable, their stories will be shared between the three grocer’s yards that make up the tour. The 1840s were the beginning of a golden era for the corn trade in Roskilde. The grocers not only sold their own corn, but also resold corn they traded from the farmers. Roskilde was the centre for almost the entire corn trade on Zealand. The majority was sent to Copenhagen, but corn was also exported to England.

Walk from the tourist information office over to Algade.

A little further on the left is the old grocer’s yard,

Algade 9.

The grocers yard was called Djalmar Lunds Gård after its owner from 1908-23. As far back as 1790, it had been owned by the Brønniche family. Together with the families Bruun, Borch and Kornerup, this family owned the large grocery businesses. They were families of some distinction in the town.

It was important for the grocer’s to attract as many farmers, who had come to sell products such as corn, butter and eggs, as possible. Although many of the farms were virtually self-sufficient, there were still items, such as salt, tobacco, spirits, colonial goods and porcelain, which the farmers needed to buy from the groceries in Roskilde . When the farmers and their families arrived in Roskilde, they always lodged and traded with the same grocer. Naturally, there was therefore a great deal of competition between the grocer’s to have as many farming families as possible attached to the grocer’s yard. Naturally, the grocers kept an eye on how many and what kind of visitors there were to the other yards. In order to avoid passers-by being able to peek in, common to all the entrances of Roskilde’s larger grocer’s yards is that they have either been angled a little. At Algade 9, it is clear that you would have to go in quite a way before you could get a clear view of the whole yard.  

The grocer’s yard at Algade 9 is so well-preserved that it is possible to gain an overview of what took place in the individual buildings:

Ground plan of Jacob and Sophie Brønniches’ grocer’s yard in 1858.The bold line marks the boundary with the neighbour’s land. The ground plan has been reconstructed by Ingeborg Christmas-Møller and drawn by Anette Mailand.


1. In the front building facing Algade there were

    five living rooms, the shop and an attached shop room.

    There were two attic rooms    on the upper floor.

    In the basement there was a store room for wine,

    among other goods.

2. A half-timbered annex, where there was a boxroom

    and a granary on

   the first floor. Under the buildings were two rooms used

   for storing milk.

3. A half-timbered building with servants’ hall and adjacent

   room, both with stoves. Larder, a room for storing beer

   and a laundry room.

4. Woodshed, stables, two coach houses and a warehouse.

   On the first floor is a granary.

   The building was torn down around 1960.

5. Stables, stablehands’ quarters, warehouse.

    On the first floor is a feed loft.

6. Stalls for both cows and oxen. Straw and hay were kept

    on the first floor.

7. Pig sty. In the back yard was a well and a large dunghill.

8. Latrines. It is unclear whether they were intended for both

   the household and the servants. The latter often used the stables.

9. Stables.

        10. The building, which dated from before 1791,

             had a brick-built facade facing the street and partially on

             the yard side. Here, there were stables and stablehands’

             quarters. On the first floor was a feed loft.

   11. A distillery and brewery, plus a small chamber, a hallway

        and stables for the horses.

   On the first floor were two rooms and a hallway, with the rest used

   as a granary.

   In the yard directly outside the building was a brick-lined well.

Between 50 and 100 hectares of agricultural land could be attached to the grocer’s yards, with corn being the primary crop. In addition to selling the corn, it was also the basis for one of the biggest sources of income: distilling. In a time when the drinking of spirits was an integral part of daily life, the volume distilled was considerable. In Holbæk, which had fewer residents than Roskilde, 597,127 ‘pots’ (1 pot = roughly 1 litre) were distilled in 1839 alone. The waste from the distillery, the spent grain, was given to the oxen, which the yard had stabled. This made them fat, better tasting and with good, tender meat. The manure from the oxen and the other animals was used to fertilise the surrounding fields.

Walk further down Algade to Algade 15.

After the fire in Algade in 1731, a list was made of the burned property and what should be built in its place. In a time without fire insurance, not everyone could afford to rebuild the new building on the same scale. The owner of Algade 15 had the means, however, and a cellar from the Middle Ages has therefore been preserved. This was used as a wine cellar for many years, after which beer was tapped into bottles on the premises. The cellar is now part of the Bryggergården restaurant.


Go through the narrow passage to the right and into the courtyard.

The front of the house was rebuilt after the fire in 1731 with bricks in between the timbers instead of the clay that had been there previously.

At the end of the 1800s, the grocer’s yard was bought by a candlemaker, who continued with his original trade on top of running the grocery business. When his son was later brought into the venture, he started purchasing hides for tanning. These were primarily of calfskin, which were used for knapsacks, the schoolbag of choice for boys. The heads, legs and tails were cut off, taken through the gate to the right and into the other yard to the pig sty. It was all cooked into a distinctive smelling meat soup, which the pigs dug into eagerly. The dug-up bones and skull were thrown onto the big dunghill in the middle of the yard, where flies, maggots and rats would pick them clean. Finally, the grocer was able to sell the bare bones for bonemeal.  

In 1904, a large part of the grocer’s yard burned down. The front building facing Algade, however, managed to avoid the fire. At this time there were still processed hides in the grocer’s yard, but Algade 15 was primarily a brewery and this is how it was rebuilt in 1905. The grocer’s buildings used for the brewing of beer are still standing, although the buildings that had once been used for tanning are gone and a car park stands in their place. Dansk Tarifforening’s plan shows Algade 15 after the rebuilding. The property had an area of 5587m2.



1. Outbuilding

2. Coaches, workshop, food, malt

3. Rented out to a fishing association,

    Baker’s, Goldsmith’s, Clothes shop

4. Entrance to the yard

5. Shop

6. Beer cellar, house

7. Beer cellar, skyldehus, keg washing room,

    parlour, Cold storage room

8. Entrance

9. Malt kitchen, machinery

10.  Malt house, barley store

11.  Keg  (øltræ) beer barrels

12.  Kiln

13.  Boiler room, Coal bunker, Servants’ hall

14.  Office

15.  Office, Beer cellar

16.  Bottle washing, pasteurisation

17.  Hay barn

18.  Feed, stables

19.  Coaches

20.  Stables, ‘Open’ stables, Granary

21.  Coal bunker, Coaches, Packaging

22.  Hides

23.  Hide salting

24.  Smokehouse

25.  Feed

26.  Coaches

27.  Stablehands’ quarters


Between nos. 19 and 20 there was a large dunghill, while out towards Skt. Olsstræde in the garden was a henhouse.

Go through the entrance to right and straight out onto Skt. Peder Stræde and then right onto Algade. Continue to the right along Algade towards Stændertorvet as far as the fountain. A little to the left is the entrance to the grocer’s yard,

Stændertorvet 2.

In 1749, Peder Kornerup graduated as a grocer and the following year he established this grocer’s yard, which became the family seat of the Kornerup family.

The property, which covered an area of about one hectare, stretched from Stændertorvet to Bredgade. It is so well-preserved that it is possible to gain an impression of the buildings and what they were used for.

Ground plan of Stændertorvet 2 around 1840, reconstructed by Ingeborg Christmas-Møller. Front building made up of 27 panels. The facade facing the street was of brick, and half-timbered towards the yard. The cellar was made up of 24 panels. There were four living rooms, a kitchen, three chambers, a hallway, an entrance hall, the grocer’s shop and the gateway at the entrance. On the first floor, which had a large attic, there were two living rooms and two chambers.

1. One building on two floors made up of five panels.

     It was joined together with the front building and

     comprised two large rooms.

2. Half-timbered, single storey house with one chamber,

    five storerooms and stables.

3. Half-timbered, single storey house made up of 22 panels

    with a coach house, stables and staircase.  Entrance.

4. Latrine made of two panels.

5. Half-timbered, single storey house made up of 22 panels,

   and a 3-panel cellar.

The number of staff who worked in the grocer’s yards could be considerable. These were important workplaces in a town that, in 1750, had 1550 residents, of which many survived on the aid they received from charitable institutions and food donations. The town’s prosperity arrived with the railway to Copenhagen in 1847. From the grocer’s yard at Algade 12 it is known that, in the 1850s, the staff consisted of four-five men for the shop, a gardener, a coachman, two maids, three girls, a maltster, three men in the distillery, two farmhands, three coach hands and two stablehands. These people were primarily attached to the grocery business and for the production of the goods sold there, as well as for daily household tasks. For farming, there was a steward and three to four farmhands. The servants did not have particularly good quarters. The stablehands had to sleep doubled up in bunks, so-called ‘stork’s nests’, as did the girls. They had extremely Spartan alcoves. There were differences in rank however, even in the servants: for example, the gardener and coachman had their own beds, though shared a room.

The daily chores required strong bodies, but “food is a man’s [and woman’s] strength”. The lodgings were not 5-star luxury, but the grocer’s yards were considered to be good places to get a nourishing meal. The grocer’s daughter recollected that, from her childhood in the 1840s in Algade 15, the yard’s servants’ average daily intake consisted of:

Early morning ‘Øllebrød’ porridge or milk pudding and a boiled, salted herring. Open sandwiches with toppings on Sundays.

Late morning A very thick, whole slice of rye bread with lard or butter and schnapps.

Lunch Milk pudding or soup with cabbage or peas, followed by pork, dried cod or meat. On Sunday there would be dough balls of barley in the soup.

Afternoon A piece of rye bread with butter and cold cuts, but only in the summer, when the work days were longer.

Evening meal Heated-up leftovers from lunch.

As everything was preserved through either smoking or with salt, the diet of the time was extremely salty. A jug of beer was therefore placed in the servants’ hall, from which everyone could drink their fill.

Go through the entrance to the second yard and out onto Borchsgade. Turn to the right and walk down Schmeltz Plads out onto Ringstedgade. A little to the left is Lützhøfts Købmandsgård, which is a part of Roskilde Museum. It is open to visit and includes a well-stocked grocer’s shop with goods such as those sold in the 1920s. After visiting the grocer’s yard, turn left onto Skomagergade and then to the right towards Stændertorvet.