There were times when vast forest was as far as the eye could see.
Wild animals, ghosts and hideous monsters dwelt in it.
It was not them that struck terror into people's hearts, though.
They had a terror of a cruel brigand...

Szydło was his name. He was the leader of a band attacking merchant caravans and other travellers. The high road was considered dangerous because of the highwaymen. They robbed travellers of valuables which they stashed in nearby caverns. One time Szydło's bunch attacked a royal retinue and a fighting ensued between highwaymen and royal troopers. The king knelt down on a nearby hill and began to pray. He vowed to build a church there, if the God brought a victory. And the attackers were crushed down. Szydło was taken prisoner and led the king to a cavern with robbed treasures. The king made a donation of the treasure to erect a church and founded a settlement that was named after the highwayman Szydło.


The first written remark about Szydłów dates back to 1191. It read that Szydłów's denizens were obliged to pay tithes for the collegiate church in Sandomierz. The chronicler Jan Długosz mentioned Szydłów in the context of Tatar invasion: In 1241, troops from Little Poland fought a battle with Tartars "at the village of Chmielnik near the town of Szydłów." It is the evidence that Szydłów was considered a town as early as the beginning of the 13th century.

On the 1st of July 1329 the king Ladislaus the Short granted Szydłów a foundation charter according to the Środa law. It was the date when the town started to develop dynamically. In the middle of the 14th century the king Casimir the Great encircled the town with town walls, turned the royal residence into a fortress and erected a stately church. The town became one of strongholds that protected Little Poland. The town could be accessed by the Cracow Gate, Opatów Gate and Water Gate. The town flourished thanks to frequent visits of the royal court and the fact that it became a seat of a townless Starosty.

Panorama of Szydlow 1869
Panorama of Szydlow from the South West, "Kłosy", 1869.

The beginning of the 15th century probably saw the first guilds of craftsmen who manufactured all kinds of goods for the needs of the local market. An advantageous location of the town was the reason for more extensive trade relations. Shipments of wine, hop and herds of cattle went through the town, which was a significant source of revenues. Merchants and clothiers of the town travelled with their goods to Sandomierz. It brought about a conflict with dwellers of the town on the Vistula River. The dispute was about trade stalls on the market square. In 1488 the king Casimir the Jagiellonian resolved the dispute for the benefit of merchants from Szydłów who were obliged to pay for the place on the market square and did not have to pay for trading on a yard outside the town where they sold their goods.

In 1523 the king Sigismund the Old confirmed existence of a collective guild of farriers, blacksmiths, boiler-smiths, sword-smiths, bit-makers, saddlers, capmakers, carriage-builders and coopers in Szydłów. There were also guilds of bakers, cobblers, tailors and potters. The town was famous, first of all, for manufacture of wooden cloth. In the middle of the 16th century the tailors' guild built a cloth hall.

In 1528, thanks to a charter given by the king Sigismund I, townsmen built a water supply at their own expense. Water was brought from the valley of the Ciekąca River to the level of the town by means of so-called "ruhrhaus" - a building with a water scoop wheel. There was an additional tank for storage of water reserve in the building. Water ran in an open duct or an underground pipe to the main tank in the town and then it was distributed to tapping points. There was a ruhrmaster, also called aquaeductor who was in charge of proper operation of the water supply system. Townsmen who used the water supply system had to pay a rent that was used for the ruhrmaster's pay as well as repairs and maintenance of water supply equipment. The water supply system allowed for building town baths that could be accessed only upon payment of a baths admission fee.

In the second half of the 16th century Szydłów's population was 710. The town dwellers lived in 180 building, the majority of which was made of wood. That period saw a remarkable settlement of Jews. There were 14 Jewish landholders. In 1534 - 1564, they erected a stone synagogue in the town. Since 1588, under a royal charter, they were allowed to buy goods on the same conditions as Christian merchants.

In 1565 a fire broke out and the fortress, town walls and a number of houses burnt down. Another fire destroyed the town in 1630 when hired, yet unpaid troops plundered and set fire to buildings.

Hardly had the town been rebuilt when the Swedish Deluge came in 1655. Swedish and Hungarian troops destroyed most buildings, the fortress and some town walls. The town baths and water supply system were destroyed, too. Only 350 dwellers from the population of 1,300, including 100 Jews, survived and 34 houses remained.

After the Swedish Delude the town did never recover to be as flourishing as the turn of the 15th century. To the contrary - a series of calamities affected the town: During the Great Northern War a pest decimated the town's population. The fortress was further damaged - plundered by an armed troop.

Ruins of the Treasure House, 1869 r.
Ruins of the Treasure House from 16-th century, "Kłosy", 1869 r.

In the second half of the 18th century, the Starost Maciej Sołtyk took unlawful possession of Szydłów's townsmen's land and tried to do away with the town self-government. As a result, a conflict between him and town dwellers ensued in 1777. About 300 townsmen and peasants from nearby villages resorted to armed resistance against the Starost. The conflict prolonged for a long time and was settled unfavourable for townsmen. The king Stanislaus August reprimanded them severely and ordered obedience.

Despite the fact that the town lost its significance, it became a seat of land court in 1793. After the 3rd partition of Poland Szydłów was in the sector annexed by Austria. In 1809, the town fell within the borders of the Duchy of Warsaw and became the Poviat's seat.

In 1822, the town walls were put to an auction, yet no buyer appeared, so they were not demolished. In that period the city population was 1,600, including 450 Jews. The main source of dwellers' income was agriculture, some of them were engaged in crafts. In 1850 Szydłów ceased to be the Poviat's seat and the Szydłów district was annexed to the Poviat of Stopnica. The town's decline came to its culmination when town charter was forfeited in 1869. World Word One's military operations did not result in significant damage to the town. In 1928 the population was 2246, of which 30% were Jews.

The last tragic chapter in Szydłów's history was World War Two. In October 1942 Nazis displaced Jewish population to death camps. The town was severely damaged as a result of military operations in 1944 and 1945.

The rebuilding began immediately after the war, in 1945 - 1946. Monuments of the past were renovated. Economic situation of the town was positively affected by development of the sulphur industry in the 1960's in the nearby Grzybów. The turn of 1980's saw construction of a number of new buildings and quite a few municipal investment projects.

Opportunities to improve municipal infrastructure and revitalization of historic sites opened up after the Polish accession to the European Union. It is mainly thanks to EU funds has been built the sewage treatment plant in Grabki Duże and Szydłów. Town's most precious monuments has been revitalized and renewed - as medieval walls, Cracow Gate and main market.