Włocławek is one of the oldest cities in Poland. Around the10th Century B.C., there was a settlement of the Lusatian culture here, which was later replaced by a community of the Pomeranian culture, around 5th B.C.
In the mid-10th Century, Włocławek was a fortified town of great significance, as it was mentioned in Gesta Principum Polonorum (The Deeds of the Princes of the Poles) by Gallus Anonymous, and described as one of the most-important towns, after Poznań and Gniezno.
In the middle of the 12th Century, Włocławek became the seat of the Bishop of Kujawy, which had been transferred from Kruszwica.
The majority of the historians dealing with the circumstances surrounding the first receiving of an urban charter (in 1339) agree that there were two towns existing in parallel, around the middle of the 13th Century – one was a cathedral city (a former fortified settlement of the Prince, located in the vicinity of the contemporary Bishop’s palace), and the other a German town (populated by German immigrants, located in the settlement beyond the town walls).
After the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466, the cathedral town underwent significant development, resulting from extensive trade in grain and wood. Starting in 1520, Włocławek had its royal customs house.
Being a cathedral town, Włocławek became a centre of cultural, religious, and industrial life. The wars breaking out in the 17th and 18th Centuries and the Partitions of Poland brought the city ruin and destruction. After the Second Partition, Włocławek became an annexed territory of Prussia, and after 1815 it was incorporated as part of the Kingdom of Poland under Russian rule.
In 1899, the Julian Marchlewski Cellulose-Paper Factory was established on ul. Łęgska (it was originally named the Włocławek Cellulose Factory). Residents of Włocławek would commonly call the Factory America, and it reached the peak of its development in the years 1953-1989, when the cellulose factory employed around 3,500 people. The Factory manufactured cellulose, paper, and school notebooks, among other things. 24 years ago, on 31st August 1994, the Factory went bankrupt.
The Factory became the place of the action of the novel Pamiątka z Celulozy (A Souvenir from the Cellulose Mill) by Igor Newerly, which was later adapted for the screen by Jerzy Kawalerowicz in his Celuloza/Cellulose and Pod gwiazdą frygijską/Under the Phrygian Star. The scenes shot for both these Jerzy Kawalerowicz films are dominated by the high brick chimney of the Cellulose Factory, one of the most-characteristic features of the panorama of Włocławek. It is no longer there – it was demolished in 2009.
Today, there not too many buildings remaining of the former Cellulose Factory, as they have been adapted for different purposes – unfortunately, the majority of the buildings were destroyed.
In 1966, it was decided to establish the Włocławek Nitrogen Plant to manufacture chemical fertilisers. In 1998, the plant changed its name to Anwil, under which name it has operated to this day. It was the nitrogen plant which played in the début full-length film by Krzysztof Kieślowski Blizna/The Scar, for example in the scene where the construction of a new Factory is shown.