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Industry before the industrial  revolution

Eikerbygda has a diverse industrial history. The oldest and  mest known industrial companies on Eiker are Hassel Jernverk and Nøstetangen Glassverk.  

But also in the wood processing industry and the brickworks - two industries that were important in the industry's heyday. Eiker's archive provides  en an overview of the motley and exciting industrial development that Eiker has undergone throughout history.

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Diverse industrial development in the 18th century - machine mills, silk saws and factories

Much of what happened in the 18th century was a further development of older technology. Next to the small and simple brook saws came large grit and sieve mills - also called "Dutch mills" or "machine mills". The first grit mill was established by Peder Tyrholm , who bought the farm Borge on Nedre Eiker and renamed it Møllenhof. He was given the royal privilege of operating a grain mill in 1737, and in 1756 this was extended to operate a sieve mill, which was based on the grinding of imported wheat. Later, Møllenhof was taken over by the well-known mill builder Godberg Poulsen from Flensburg. Both grit and sieve mills became increasingly common during the 18th century. There were machine mills by Mjøndalen, on Fossesholm's land by Vestfossen and Hærebro by Skotselv.

At the same time, important improvements were made at the sawmills. This was particularly related to the invention "silk saws", which meant that one had several saw blades in the same frame. Instead of cutting one table at a time, one could then cut many tables at once. However, it was not automatically allowed to increase production. In 1688, quantitative regulations had been introduced, which set a ceiling on how much could be cut each year at the individual sawmill. Some sawmill owners then began to buy up smaller sawmills and transfer the quantity from there to the larger sawmills. Vestfossen and Skotselv consolidated their position as the largest sawmill sites, but also in Mjøndalen, by Hoenselva and at Vendelborg, the sawmills grew strongly during the 18th century.

Other forms of industry also appeared during the 18th century. At Møllenhof, production of linseed oil and green soap was started in addition to the grit and sieve mills.

The term "silk saw" is used for rising saws with several blades. The oldest water saws had only one blade, and one and the same log had to be cut many times. It could take many hours, even days, to cut up a large log for planks and tables. With silk saws, the entire log could be cut in one operation. Among all the important technological innovations in the 18th century, perhaps the silk saw was the one that gained the greatest importance on Eiker.


At Hoenselva, there were both calico stamps, which stamped wool for calico fabric, and field preparation stamps, which stamped leather that were to be used in the tanneries. In many places there were nail hammers, including at Skotselv and in Vestfossen. A small nail hammer in Dørja was moved to Krokstadelva, where it was expanded to a large company under the name Krogstad Spiiger Fabrique. It was in operation for more than 100 years, and eventually also produced other iron products. Even more advanced was apparently the hardware store Friderichsminde, which at the end of the 18th century was established at Stensrudfossen in Bingselva. It was actually located in Modum, but was run by Frantz Neumann, who was the owner of Hassel Jernverk.


Farm grinders and brook saws

Grinders and mills have been documented on Eiker in written sources from the end of the 13th century, but have probably existed since the Viking Age. From Hoenselva we know the name Kverne, close to the place where Eiker Mølle is today. The place name "Mjøndalen" comes from "Mylnardalen" - Mølledalen. At Vestfossen, the noble estates Berg and Foss had their mills, and there were also large mill farms by Krokstadelva and Solbergelva, where the owners certainly ground the grain for many of the farms nearby.

This too was industry, in the sense that hydropower was used to perform the work instead of muscle power. But the difference was of course great in the small mill houses by streams and rivers and in the factories of the industrial age.

Nor were the first water saws particularly large and complicated structures. We reckon that the first rising saws on Eiker were built around 1500, and when the people of Eikvær were required to pay taxes to Akershus Castle in 1528-29, many of the farmers paid in the form of sawmills. Over the course of a few decades, more than 100 large and small water saws were built around Eiker , and the sawmill and timber trade became an important industry for the Eiker farmers.






Noble estates and royal smelting hut










Until 1616, it was free for anyone who wanted to build water saws, but then the authorities intervened and regulated the number of saws. The result was that the largest saws survived, often the farms that belonged to the nobility, the king himself or the king's foremost officials. Vestfossen and Skotselv were established as the two large sawmill sites on Eiker. The farmers' sawmill disappeared or was reduced to small rural sawmills that did not produce for export. For almost 250 years, various forms of "sawmill privileges" governed the development of this industry.

It was the enterprising King Christian IV who was behind the sawmill regulations in 1616. He also played a significant role when it came to another industry, namely mining. In 1602, he had a smelting cabin built at Vestfossen, and he installed a sheriff on the royal estate Sem, who was to oversee the King's mines in Norway. "Det egerske bergverk" was never a great financial success, but the first silver found at Kongsberg in 1623 was smelted at Kongens smelthytte in Vestfossen. Also later in the 17th century, attempts were made to start mining on Eiker, especially copper, but little came of these attempts.

Source Eiker Archive

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