THE HISTORY OF GÖDÖLLŐ

The earliest available written data on the property rights in Gödöllő date back to the early l4th century. At that time Gödöllő was separated from the community of Besnyő which had a larger population. The settlement was then owned by families of the lesser nobility. By the middle of the l5th century Gödöllő developed into a village. After the disastrous defeat at Mohács in 1526, the invading Turkish troops occupied Buda and then Gödöllő, too. As a result of this, the population decreased to merely a few families. No data on property rights during the 160 year long Turkish rule remain.

By the mid-l7th century, Gödöllő again became a village. Its then proprietor, Ferenc Hamvay, was the first owner who resided in the locality, in his country house in the village centre. At that time the village consisted of a few houses with walls of wattle and daub and thatched roofs in addition to the mansion and the reform church.

A decisive turn in the life of Gödöllő was brought about by Antal Grassalkovich I (1694-1771) who was one of the greatest noblemen of l8th-century Hungary. Grassalkovich, born of an impoverished family of the lesser nobility, began his career as a lawyer in 1715. A year later he was already working with the "Hofkammer" (The Royal Chamber, a body of the Habsburg financial administration in the 16-l8th centuries). In 1727 he became president of the Commission of New Acquisitions (Neoaquistica Commissio) dealing with the revision and arrangement of the chaotic ownership rights after the Turkish rule. It was in this capacity that he first came across the estate of Gödöllő, whose then proprietress, Krisztina Bossányi, could verify her ownership rights.

Increasing in political power and wealth, Grassalkovich planned the development of a large estate, having its centre in Gödöllő. This became possible after the death of Krisztina Bossányi (1737) when Grassalkovich successively purchased the properties from her heirs. He began to build his palatial residence as early as 1741, which, as the greatest Baroque manor house in Hungary is, even today the principle landmark of Gödöllő.

Grassalkovich, who curried favour with King Charles III and Queen Maria Theresa, also managed very successfully the properties of the Treasury. For his economic and political abilities he received first the title of baron and later on became a count.

He took meticulous care in making his properties profitable and in keeping them in good order. On his estates he built 33 churches, including the church in the holy place of Máriabesnyő, and the chapel of the mansion house in Gödöllő. In the centre of Gödöllő he had rows of houses built and settled German artisans and craftsmen there - increasing thereby the number of Roman Catholics alongside the Reformed population. He added a storey to Hamvay House and made it operate as a retreat. In public places Baroque works of art were also made on his initiative (such as the Calvary, the Column of the Holy Virgin, and the statue of St. John of Nepomuk). Owing to his village-planning activities, Gödöllő became a country town in 1763, with the right of holding markets.

The son of Grassalkovich I, Antal Grassalkovich II (1734-1794), who was raised to the rank of prince, cared little for the estate. He leased out the properties one after the other, liquidated the household in Gödöllő and moved to Vienna. Following his death, the estate, heavily charged with debts, was inherited by his son, Antal Grassalkovich III. Grassalkovich III, who continued to increase the debts, died without opffspring, hence the properties were inherited on the female line.

At that time, the mansion house came to be the scene of an important political event. In the course of the spring campaign of the 1848-49 revolution and fight for freedom, the Hungarian soldiers gained a victory in Isaszeg on April 6, 1849. After this, Lajos Kossuth and his generals set up quarters in the mansion house of Gödöllő. Here a war council was held where the idea to dethrone the Habsburgs and to fight for Hungarian independence emerged.

In 1850 a banker, György Sina, purchased the estate of Gödöllő. He, and later on his son, rarely stayed in Gödöllő; they considered the transaction merely a capital investment and in 1864 sold the whole of the property to a Belgian bank. The Hungarian state bought it back from this bank in March 1867 and gave it, together with the mansion house, to Francis Joseph I and Queen Elisabeth as a coronation gift. From that time on, the royal family stayed in Gödöllő mainly in spring and autumn, and this resulted in a significant upswing in the life of the town. The Northern railway line, for instance, - contrary to the original plan - passes close to Gödöllő because the royal summer resort was there. The Gas Factory, destined to produce the gas needed for the railway station and the royal mansion house, was accomplished by 1874. The number of artisans and small shopkeepers increased. Many of them were provided with work by the estate and the court. In 1869 the Gödöllő Savings Bank was established, its first shareholder being Francis Joseph. The country town (that is, from 1864 on, a large village as an administrative division) grew into an increasingly popular summer resort, owing, in addition to the presence of the royal family, to its natural endowments and its benign fresh air. Annually 300-400 families of Pest spent the summer season in Gödöllő, which was growing richer and richer with bathing places and restaurants or village inns. The "Hotel Queen Elisabeth", established in the Hamvay mansion, became the scene of a teeming social life. The Casino was open there and various social clubs and circles often organised their evening parties linked with theatrical performances.

The agrarian character of the village began to take shape at the tum of the century. The legal successors of the agricultural training institutes and model farms established in the territories of the royal demesne are still operating today. Besides, the number of artisans further increased since, partly because the royal summer resort was here; no big industry had settled in Gödöllő: A result of the transport development was the lengthening of the suburban ("HÉV") railway line, originally between Budapest and Kerepes, up to Gödöllő. This line still works well today.

Gödöllő at the turn of the century, also wrote its name into the history book of Hungarian arts. From 1901 to 1920 the only organised artists colony of the period of the Hungarian secession was working here.

This was the time when secondary school teaching started in the community. The Grammar School of the Minorites opened its gates in 1911. And, by 1924, the Grammar School of the Premonstratenesian Order had also been built.

In autumn 1918 important political events again occurred in the mansion house. It was here that king Charles IV recognised the resignation of the Hungarian government. In those days, several politicians turned up in the mansion, among others Mihály Károlyi who, after some discussions which ended in failure, was designated prime minister by the victorious revolution. In 1919 the military general staff of the Hungarian Soviet Republic had their headquarters in the mansion house. From 1920 on there was a time similar to that of the king in the life of Gödöllő since the mansion house became a seat of the governor, Miklós Horthy This era, lasting almost two and a half decades, influenced favourably the development of the village. This manifested itself in the ordered nature of the settlement and also in the relatively higher level of public supply. It is also due to Horthy that in 1933 Gödöllő was the scene of the jamboree of boy scouts when 26.000 boy scouts of 54 nations camped in the village. In 1939 a jamboree of girl scouts was also organised here.

After World War II the development of the community took a new turn. Soviet troops were stationed in part of the mansion house, while in a larger part there was a social welfare home. In contrast to its earlier character as a summer-resort, industry started in Gödöllő. The first step in this direction was the building of the "Ganz" Factory of Electric Measuring Instruments in 1950, which was then followed by other industrial plants. It was in the same year that the University of Agricultural Sciences moved into the buildings of the closeddown institute of the Premonstratenesians. This meant the completion of the community's character as an agrarian centre and resulted in a further expansion of the network of agricultural institutions linked to the university

The role of the ecclesiastical schools nationalised in 1948 was taken over by the general and secondary schools of the state. In 1951 the School of Apprentices started its activities and in 1955 the "Török Ignác" General State Grammar School began its work. The library of the community opened in 1955 and since then it has been extended with departments for children and for music.

On January 1, 1966, Gödöllő was promoted to the rank of a town. The present face of the town began to take shape at that time. The old rows of peasant houses disappeared one after the other, giving place to housing estates and public institutions.

In the cultural life of the town a new era started in 1981 when the "Petőfi Sándor" Cultural Centre was inaugurated which, with its varied programmes, soon attained nationwide renown. During this decade the face of the town centre changed a lot. In the main square a bank and a travel agency were built. The present Town Hall was finished in 1986. Opposite this the new building of the Grammar School was inaugurated in 1988. It was in this year that Hamvay House, which held the Collection of Local History since 1978, received the rank of a Museum. At the same time the collection of mechanical machinery of the Agricultural University was opened.

Political changes which came about at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s brought about significant changes in the life of Gödöllő, too. Some of the industrial projects settled here in the 1950s closed, while others which were viable were privatised. The number of industrial and service units in private ownership increased and quickly transformed the appearance of the town.

The influence of the changes also made itself felt in education. The church schools re-started their activities. In 1989 the Capuchins and the Salvator Sisters received back their monasteries; in 1990 the Premonstratenesians returned to Gödöllő and, after having opened their school, built their church in 1993.

In 1990, after the departure of the Soviet troops, clearing the almost ruined Grassalkovich mansion house started, which was essential if the restoration programme begun in 1985 was to be accelerated. As a result of this, the mansion house may, after a few years, receive guests visiting the town in its full splendour.

Beside the mansion which is, without doubt, one of the most attractive tourist sights of Gödöllő, other scenic spots of the town can claim the interest of Hungarian and foreign tourists. With our book we wish to help them become discovered and appreciated.


AdmInfo@gau.hu(15 March 1999)