BIELEFELD, a town of Germany, in the Prussian province of Westphalia, 68 m. S.W. from Hanover on the main line to Cologne. Pop. (1885) 34,931; (1905) 71,797. It is situated at the foot of the Teutoburger Wald, and consists of two portions, separated by the river Lutter, which were first united into one town in 1520. Among its public buildings and institutions are the old town church, with a curious carved altar-piece, the town hall, the gymnasium and the provincial industrial school. On the height above the town is the old castle of Sparenburg, built in the 12th century by Bernhard, count of Lippe. It was for a long time employed as a prison, but was restored after its destruction by fire in 1877 and now contains a historical museum. Bielefeld is the centre of the Westphalian linen industry. It has also important plush, silk and hosiery manufactures, as well as extensive bleaching works, and does a very large export trade to all parts of the world in these branches. Engines, automobiles, biscuits, glass, pianos, furniture and paper are also manufactured.
Bielefeld is mentioned as early as the 9th century, as Belanvelde, but its first recorded mention as a town is in 1233. It belonged at this time to the counts of Ravensberg, who often resided in the Sparenburg. It joined the Hanseatic league in 1270, and about the same time began to engage in the linen manufacture, which was greatly extended during the 16th and 17th centuries by a number of refugees from the Netherlands. In 1347 the town passed with the countship of Ravensberg to the duchy of Jülich, and in 1666 to that of Brandenburg.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)