The first historical reference of the settlement in Bychawa t (Bicheva) dates back to 1325[1.1]. In the 14th century the settlement was owned by the nobles (Ossoria coat of arms). At the beginning of the 15th century Jan who was Master of the Hunt in Lublin became the new owner. The settlement developed dynamically at that time; however, due to the disputes between the heirs, Bychawa could not be founded as a town.
A route which connected Lublin with Turobin, Szczebrzeszyn, Tyszowce, Przemyśl, Jarosław and Lviv passed through Bychawa at the beginning of the 16th century. Regional roads also passed through the settlement and connected Krasnystaw, Chełm and Łęczna with Sandomierz, Kazimierz, Opole Lubelskie, Kraśnik and Urzędowo. The convergence of these routes was one of the factors leading to the establishment of a town here in future years.
Mikołaj Pilecki, (Leliwa coat of arms) was the founder of the town[1.2]. Bychawa was granted a town charter in accordance with Magdeburg Law in Krakow on the 16th of May 1537. Sigismund I the Elder (Zygmunt I Stary) granted Bychawa the status of a town[1.3] and it also received the privilege to organize weekly markets and two fairs annually.
The Myszkowski family came to own Bychawa at the end of 1551 and the beginning of 1552. The town became one of the centers of the Calvinist movement. The local parish church was converted into a Calvinist temple as early as before 1560 and was opened before the late 16th century or early 17th century. Synods were held there and a Calvinist school was established. From the 1560s onward also Jews, aside from Catholics and Protestands, were beginning to settle down here.
Bychawa was destroyed by fires on many occasions from the second half of the 16th century onwards [1.4] and had approximately 1,000 inhabitants at the end of the 16th century.
The Wierzbicki family become new owners of Bychawa at the turn of the 16th and the 17th centuries[1.5]. In 1648[1.6] the Cossacks plundered the town. In the 18th century there were disputes over the right to inherit Bychawa between subsequent heirs of the town.
After the fall of the Republic Bychawa was annexed by Austria in the partition[1.7]. Karol de Campo Scipio became the owner of the town in 1802. Bychawa became a part of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809 and the Kingdom of Poland (in the Russian partition) in 1815[1.8]. In 1869 Bychawa lost its town privileges, as did many of the other Polish towns[1.9].
The turnover at the market fairs in Bychawa was estimated at 6,000 rubles annually by the end of the 19th century. The markets in Bychawa were the second after Łęczna)in the Lublin governorate.
Bychawa was destroyed by another fire in 1876[1.10], and a typhoid epidemic broke out in the town in 1892[1.11]. At the end of the century Bychawa was starting to recover after the disaster – in the town and nearby villages several educational institutions, a post office, a fire brigade station and a pharmacy were established. A hospital, a community center and the office of the Bychawski Loan Society together with the „Jedność” consumer cooperative were established too. [1.12]. At the end of the 19th century thanks to big efforts devoted by the locals the settlement was completely rebuilt.
In the interwar period Bychawa was a typical shtetl, namely a town oriented to agriculture, craftsmanship and trade and inhabited by 1,870 Jews, 967 Catholics and 5 members of an Eastern Orthodox Church (according to the 1921 census.) In the 1920s and 1930s Bychawa’s economy flourished, wind mills and brick factories were being developed, some streets were paved and part of the buildings gained access to the electrical network. Also Polish and Jewish political parties, various social and cultural organizations as well as educational institutions (including several Jewish ones) operated here at that time.
Before the outbreak of World War I a hospital, a cooperative society building and an old people’s home were built[1.13]. The region came under the rule of the Austrians after the Russians retreated in mid - 1915[1.14]. World War I brought the development of all institutions in Bychawa to a halt
The Germans occupied Bychawa at the beginning of World War II, in September 1939. The town regained town privileges in 1958.
- [1.1] S. Warchoł, Nazwy miast Lubelszczyzny, Lublin 1964, p. 30.
- [1.2] R. Szczygieł, Lokacja miasta i jego rozwój do końca XVI wieku [in:] Dzieje..., p. 41.
- [1.3] R. Szczygieł, Lokacja miasta..., p. 43.
- [1.4] R. Szczygieł, Lokacja miasta..., p. 53.
- [1.5] H. Gmiterek, Dzieje miasta w XVII-XVIII wieku [in:] Dzieje..., p. 56.
- [1.6] H. Gmiterek, Dzieje miasta..., p. 65.
- [1.7] T. Mencel, Od III rozbioru Polski do powstania styczniowego [in:] Dzieje..., p. 73.
- [1.8] T. Mencel, Od III rozbioru..., p. 75.
- [1.9] T. Mencel, Od III rozbioru..., p. 95.
- [1.10] A. Koprukowniak, Bychawa w latach 1864-1918 [in:] Dzieje..., p. 115.
- [1.11] E. Przesmycka, Przeobrażenia zabudowy i krajobrazu miasteczek Lubelszczyzny, Lublin 2001, p. 223.
- [1.12] A. Koprukowniak, Bychawa w latach 1864-1918 [w:] Dzieje Bychawy..., op.cit., p. 117 i n.
- [1.13] A. Koprukowniak, Bychawa..., p. 117.
- [1.14] A. Koprukowniak, Lokalna społeczność gminy bychawskiej i jej aktywność 1864-1918, Lublin 1995, p. 121.