Middelfart was named in 1231. The name Middelfart is derived from the early name Melfar which is a contraction of the Danish word for "middle crossing". Therefore, the town is named after its location by the narrowest crossing point in the Little Belt. At least since the 1200s, Middelfart has been a known point of passage to Jutland. In 1872, a railway connection between Fredericia and Strib north of Middelfart was established. The crossing of the Little Belt was still by boat. In 1935 the first bridge across the Little Belt was opened. The bridge also featured a railway which is still today, the only way for trains to cross from Jutland to Funen. In 1970 the second Little Belt Bridge was opened.
Porpoise hunts in Middelfart
For centuries, Middelfart was the centre of organised porpoise hunts on the Little Belt. The porpoiose is the world's smallest whale. No one knows exactly how far back the porpoise hunts go, but it can be traced back to the 16th century, where old records show a delivery of porpoise flesh from Middelfart. Oil was obtained from the blubber of the whales. The oil was used for lamps. At times, there were about 30 men in the hunters guild. Today, porpoise hunts are a thing of the past.
Today, the porpoises are still a part of Middelfart and the Little Belt's identity. In fact, the Little Belt has one of the world's densest populations of porpoises, and they are often seen in the waters between Fredericia and Strib and near the two Little Belt Bridges.
The Old Town
The Old Town in Middelfart is located from the old Harbour towards the church. It is a quaint neighbourhood with cobblestone streets and small town houses. The old part of town is also where you can find Middelfart Museum and the porpoise exhibition in Henner Friisers Hus - a building from 1575.
The industrial age
In the 1880's the known stove factory J. S. Hess & Son began producing woodburning stoves in Middelfart.
In 1888 the State Psychiatric Hospital opened in Middelfart in the facilities called Teglgaardsparken. The history of the psychiatric hospital can be discovered the at the exhibition, Psykiatrisk Samling, which is located on the old hospital grounds.
Since 1899, Middelfart has also been home to NKT which today is Denmark's largest screw and nail manufacturer. The factory is still located in Middelfart, but is now owned by the American ITW Construction.
The industries combined with enhanced infrastructure that the construction of the first Little Belt Bridge and the new railway through Middelfart saw an increase in population in the old harbour town. Today Middelfart is home to about 15.000 people.