Ħamrun and its History

Hamrun, Malta.Ħamrun is considered to be one of the suburbs of the Maltese islands and is to be found around 2 miles away from the Capital city of Valletta.

Originally, Ħamrun was born as ‘Ta Braksja’ around 1500, and christened with its present name in 1881. In between, it lived the life of a fragmented village, as it was an area divided between the parishes of nearby Birkirkara, Furjana and Qormi, and was merely known by the Italian name of its main road, Casale San Giuseppe, that is ‘Triq il-Kbira San Ġużepp’.

Ħamrun’s motto is ‘Propera Augesco’ which means ‘I grow suddenly’. The transformation of Ħamrun from a disjointed village into a large busy town began in the middle of the 19th century, with the influx of harbour project employees and people seeking relief from the expensive rents of Valletta. It further matured between 1881 and 1931 with the onset of the Maltese railway system. Malta’s railway system was one of the last railways of Western Europe, yet also one of the more advanced. Though initially established as a private venture, the train evolved into a national institution.

‘Triq il-Kbira San Ġużepp’ was strategically located along the train route, which commuted on one narrow gauge between Valletta and Mdina. It was a major station with its own schedules to and from the new and old capitals of the island, and sported first-class engineering, a workshop and foundry. The end of the line for the Maltese railway arrived on March 31st, 1931, after it was ousted by the bus system.

Except for an influx of refugees during World War II, the population of Ħamrun remained relatively stable since the days of the train. Nowadays it is estimated to host around 12,000 inhabitants.

In the 1860s and 70s, Parish status became imminent, and it was believed that the Patron Saint for Ħamrun would be Saint Joseph. Such hopes were dashed when Saint Joseph’s patronage was given to nearby Msida instead. San Gaetano became Ħamrun’s Patron Saint, even though the feast of Saint Joseph still continued to be celebrated for some years by the old supporters of the Saint Joseph local Parish Band, which had been created in 1889. Today, although the Saint Joseph festa is no longer held, the band still exists, and an intense competition takes place between it and the San Gaetano Parish Band during the festive celebrations of this Saint. During this time, both bands hold marathon marches while their supporters turn the streets of Ħamrun into a sea of blue and red flags.

The building of the Parish Church was completed in 1875, however there are two other main churches predating it. These are both dedicated to Our Lady, one to the Visitation, which dates back to 1745, and the other to the Assumption. The former is a baroque structure also known by the Italianate name of ‘Portu Salvu’, while the latter is also known as ‘Tas-Samra’, meaning ‘the tanned’, named so for the dark complexion of Our Lady in the main painting.

Today, Ħamrun is very different from 60 or 70 years ago. It made enormous advancements in a short period of time and can now almost compete with the Capital City with regards to shopping facilities. Apart from being a commercial centre, in Ħamrun one also finds the general headquarters of various groups and political parties. San Gorg Preca’s religious group, the M.U.S.E.U.M. started out from the locality of Ħamrun. Here the Maltese Saint preached his teachings, which later on spread throughout all of Malta and other countries too.

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5 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    Very good article but apart of the St Joseph feast as already mentioned by other readers, Hamrun unfortunately has lost its commercial strength!

  2. Matthew Vassallo says:

    A great article and really informative, but Ħamrun still celebrates Saint Joseph feast every year in May.

  3. Matthew says:

    Hamrun got another Parish Church in 1968 dedicated to the Immaculate Conception thus making the Immaculate Conception Patron of Hamrun too! A band club was established 1979.

  4. John Stivala says:

    Excellent article, though for precision’s sake, it’s unfair to say that St Joseph’s festa is no longer held. Sure, by no means it is comparable to St Gaetan’s but it is remembered every day in May, with religious functions, as well as a band march in the morning and a procession in the evening.

  5. Mark says:

    Nice article, but the feast of st Joseph is still being held!

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