History of the town
The earliest relics of the past found in the area of the town are from the Roman era, though perhaps the fact that the Amber Road once ran close by suggests that there was a settlement here before the Romans.
Lenti first appears in written documents in 1237, though it was called Nemith in those days. However, the marshland fortification, built in the early 13th Century on islands in the flood plain of the Kerka River in the neighbourhood of the settlement, had much more significance as it was regarded as impregnable. King Béla IV seized the area from the then land-owner Buzád, so that, in 1275, the place was already known as the king’s hunting seat. In 1343 King Louis the Great bestowed the fortress along with the village upon Miklós Lendvai. After his death the Bánffy family owned the land for a long time.
The place became a market town in 1381. The fortress of Lenti was later besieged by the Turks on several occasions. Although the fortress was not conquered, the lower settlements lost most of their population at that time.
In 1768 in a landlord’s decree enforcing serfdom the Esterházy family deprived the town of its privileges which hindered its development for a long while. When the elementary school was founded in 1770, the town had a population of only 567.
The Zalaegerszeg – Lenti – Csáktornya railway line completed in 1890 brought remarkable economic growth to the town. The new border of Hungary defined by the Trianon Treaty was right next to Lenti which left Alsólendva, the chief town of the district, in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Therefore Lenti needed to overtake the governance of the area. The town became the chief town of the district in 1925, though, owing to the lack of the necessary institutions it was unable to fulfil the tasks of an administrative centre in a satisfactory manner until 1950.
Industrialisation in the town started in the 1920s. In 1922 the Kerkavölgyi Faipari Rt sawmill was established which was the biggest company of the region in those days. In 1923 a factory making coffee substitute was built. In 1924 a technical school, in 1928 a nursery school, in 1933 a higher elementary school and in 1938 a Catholic church school with four classrooms were opened in Lenti, by now the chief town of the district.
After the Second World War Lenti did not see any major development until the 1960s when,based on a decision of county level, the authorities sought to establish here the third industrial centre of Zala county. It was then when the local factories of the Zalaegerszeg Clothes Factory (Zalaegerszegi Ruhagyár) and the Forestry Osier Basket Weaving Factory (Erdőgazdaság Fűz- és Kosáripari Vállalat) were built. The grammar school was opened in 1961. Lenti was raised to a municipality in 1969. In 1965 Mumor, and in 1977 Lentiszombathely were attached to Lenti.
On January 1, 1979 Lenti was given the status of a town and at the same time three communities, Bárszentmihályfa, Lentikápolna and Máhomfa were attached to it and the town has developed rapidly since then.