Flekkefjord is a town and municipality in the county of Vest-Agder, Norway.
The town of Flekkefjord was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). The rural municipalities of Bakke, Gyland, Hidra, and Nes were merged with Flekkefjord on 1 January 1965.
Flekkefjord is the westernmost town of the geographical region Sorlandet. The municipality is bounded by Sokndal and Lund in Rogaland county to the west, by Sirdal to the north, and by Kvinesdal to the east.
The municipal center lies near European highway E39, approximately midway between Kristiansand and Stavanger. In addition there are population centers at Sira, Gyland, Rasvag, and Kirkehavn.
Flekkefjord was a landing place from early times. It was mentioned as a town as early as 1580. In 1589, James VI of Scotland landed there before travelling overland via Tonsberg to Oslo, where he married Princess Anne of Denmark, daughter of Frederick II. When Kristiansand was founded in 1641, Christian IV wanted to assure the economic survival of his new city by moving Flekkefjord residents there. Twice it was sentenced to extinction by royal decree. But many of the Flekkefjord inhabitants remained and continued to trade.
Norways plentiful stone was a Flekkefjord commodity. In 1736 over 300 Dutch ships are reported to carried paving stones from Flekkefjord. By 1750 the herring fishery began in earnest, such that herring and timber dominated the trade. In the 1750s Flekkefjord was the most important Norwegian herring export harbor.
In 1760 Flekkefjord petitioned Frederik V to grant a town charter. At that time several ships were home ported there and both sailors and herring fishermen had their homes in this small town that was not officially recognized. Barrel making (cooperage) was also an important local trade that served the fishing fleet.
During the Napoleonic Wars Flekkefjord found a new life as a smugglers port, exporting oak to the Napoleon-occupied Netherlands during the period prior to 1807. The unusual tidal condition, the local timber abundance, and a long-term relationship with the Dutch were the reasons behind Flekkefjords then serving as a smugglers headquarters. They specialized in the lucrative oak trade, the warship timber in those days. Ships could come and leave Flekkefjord at any hour of the day, without concern for the tides.
Prior to 1807, Denmark-Norway had followed a policy of armed neutrality, using its naval forces only to protect trade flowing within, into, and out of Danish and Norwegian waters. But this changed for the last phase of the Napoleonic Wars when, in the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807, the British preemptively captured large portions of the Danish naval fleet to prevent the French from doing the same. As a result, the Danish government declared war and built small gunboats in large numbers to attack the British. The Gunboat War (1807–1814) was the title given to naval conflict between Denmark-Norway against the British navy. It was natural for Flekkefjord to move from a smugglers haven to blockade runners headquarters. The unusual tides there were unknown to the British warships that were blockading the Norwegian coast against Napoleon-supporting ships and this provided the blockade runners a considerable advantage.
After the war the Dutch maintained a strong presence in Flekkefjord, and continued exporting oak and pine. The pine was used mainly to make foundations for the boom in Amsterdam house construction; as a result most of Amsterdam’s houses from the 19th century are constructed of pines from Flekkefjord exporters. A section of Flekkefjord called ‘Hollenderbyen’ (town of the Dutch) dates from the 18th century.
Xenotime, a rare yttrium phosphate mineral whose chemical formula is YPO4, was discovered in 1832 at Hidra (Hittero), Flekkefjord.
The herring fisheries deserted the coast in 1838, depriving Flekkefjord residents of their main export. Tanning replaced fishing and by 1866 five tanneries were operating in Flekkefjord.
The Flekkefjord Line railway ran between Sira and Flekkefjord from 1904 to 1990.