Living Figueira 12 months a year

140 years. The Birth of a City


Figueira da Foz Joao Paulo Cruz

At the end of the 18th century, the agglutination of several couples called Paço, Abbadia, Monte, Valle, Lamas, and others, gave rise to a single village, with approximately 2000 inhabitants, which, by decree of March 12, 1771, was elevated to the category of village with the name of “Figueira da Foz do Mondego”. This village grew very quickly and, 111 years later, on September 20, 1882, it rose to the category of city, with the current name of “Figueira da Foz”, “given that it was one of the most important villages in the kingdom for its population and wealth”.

Forty-eight days earlier, on August 3, 1882, King Luís I, accompanied by Queen Maria Pia de Saboia, Prince Carlos, Prince Afonso and several ministers, was in Figueira da Foz to inaugurate the section of the railway line that connected us to Pampilhosa.

The lawyer and businessman Dr. Francisco Lopes Guimarães was then the Mayor, a position he held from 1880 to 1886, belonging to the Progressive Party which at the time was opposed to the government of the Regenerator Party of Fontes Pereira de Melo who ruled almost uninterruptedly from 1871 to 1886.

Between 1870 and 1890 Figueira da Foz developed intensively. The export trade in wines to Brazil and France, salt to Newfoundland, timber to southern Spain and oranges to England allowed capital to accumulate.

The tourist flow increased and many investments were made in the hotel and entertainment sector. Figueira da Foz has developed like never before! There was a strong development, with strong urban reflexes, highlighting:

  • The emergence of the glass, ceramic and mining industries;
  • Port upgrading works;
  • Construction of the Old Lighthouse began in 1855 and was completed in April 1858;
  • The construction of the Bairro Novo de Santa Catarina, an initiative of the Companhia Edificadora Figueirense, founded in 1861 by Francisco Maria Pereira da Silva;
  • The installation of the glass factory at Cabo Mondego in 1872;
  • The inauguration of the Teatro Príncipe D. Carlos on August 8, 1874;
  • The AMERICANO was inaugurated in December 1875 and began carrying passengers on August 28, 1876 (in 1888 two extensions were added to the line: one linking the new pier to the Salmanha lime kiln and the other from the latter point to CP);
  • The construction of the road to Leiria in 1875;
  • The founding of the Mota de Quadros metalworks in 1878;
  • The foundation of the Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1882;
  • The arrival of the train in Figueira da Foz on August 3, 1882. On this day, 30 years after the royal visit of King Ferdinand II, King Luís I visits Figueira da Foz, accompanied by Queen Maria Pia de Saboia and several ministers of his government, in order to inaugurate the section that would connect the town of Figueira da Foz to Pampilhosa and the Beira Alta line (Pampilhosa – Vilar Formoso). Forty-seven days later, Figueira da Foz would become a city;
  • The inauguration of the Teatro-Circo Saraiva de Carvalho, predecessor of the Grande Casino Peninsular, on September 3, 1884;
  • The formation of the first shipping company in 1885;
  • The adjudication of the water supply in 1886;
  • The arrival of the Western Railway in 1888;
  • The creation of the Industrial Design Class in 1888 and in 1889 the Industrial School;
  • Gas lighting in 1889;
  • The foundation of the Oficinas do Mondego in 1891;
  • The construction of the Municipal Garden in 1891;
  • The construction of the Municipal Market between 1889 and 1892;
  • The constitution of the Associação Naval 1.º de Maio in 1893, succeeding the extinct Associação Naval Figueirense;
  • The opening of the Museum in 1894;
  • Construction of the Paços do Concelho began on May 5, 1894 and was completed at the end of 1897;
  • The foundation of the Gymnasium in 1895;

These were the facts that merited the elevation of Figueira to a city on September 20, 1882:

“Considering that the Villa of Figueira da Foz, in the district of Coimbra, is currently one of the most important in the kingdom for its population and wealth; and wishing, on the occasion of my recent visit to that villa, to give the inhabitants of it a solemn testimony of appreciation for the honorable efforts they have employed for its progressive development: I am pleased to do the said town of Figueira da Foz the honor of elevating it to the rank of city with the denomination of City of Figueira da Foz; and I am pleased that in this capacity it enjoys all the prerogatives, freedoms and franchises that directly belong to it, and the respective Municipal Chamber should be sent the competent letter, in two copies, one for the title of that corporation and the other to be deposited in the Royal Archives of Torre do Tombo. The Minister and Secretary of State for the Affairs of the Realm has so understood and enforces it. Paço, on September 20, 1882”.

Figueira da Foz then had just over five thousand inhabitants (in 1878 Figueira had 1080 dwellings and 5676 inhabitants and Buarcos 800 dwellings and 3182 inhabitants), in today’s eyes a small town, as the photos of the time show.
Four months later, in January 1883, the magazine O Ocidente wrote:

“Figueira is one of the villages in Portugal that has developed the most in recent times (…). Even at the beginning of the last century it was only a village with 300 inhabitants and had little more development, when in 1771 El-Rei D. José elevated it to the category of village. (…) Today, Figueira is a city that is growing by leaps and bounds, organizing building companies that have considerably increased the number of buildings, already amounting to no less than 1600 dwellings, with about 6000 inhabitants. It has notable buildings, including a magnificent theater and its port is defended by a recently built dock (…). Its appearance is cheerful and festive and delightfully picturesque, along with its beautiful climate. This set of attractions draws a large number of bathers, in the proper season, to its magnificent beaches.
Its trade is important and it has a magnificent seaport through which it exports a large quantity of salt, olive oil, wine and cereals, etc.
Now the Beira Alta railway will give it more elements of life and development ensuring a prosperous future for this good land.”