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The Fossesholm oven
from Hassel ironworks

Hassel jernverk.jpeg

Text: Bent Ek

In the 18th century, Hassel Jernverk was one of Norway's leading manufacturers of iron tile stoves. This was before such furnaces became public property, and Hasselverket's customers were primarily Danish castles and manors or the upper bourgeoisie in Christiania and Drammen. The oven plates were works of art, cast in wooden forms carved by outstanding artists. It was probably not every day that such a furnace ended up on Eiker, but it happened in 1763.

The client was the new owner of Fossesholm, agency councilor Jørgen von Cappelen.

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A significant part of the work of producing an iron kiln consisted of cutting out the mold in which the front plate was to be cast. Once this was done, the same mold could be used to cast many kilns. Around 1760 - in the middle of the Rococo period - motifs from ancient mythology were common, but depictions of royalty were also popular.

 

That someone ordered a simple, specially made oven plate was probably rather rare. But that was what Jørgen von Cappelen did. He did not want Greek gods or Danish kings, but his own and his wife's initials - JvC and MD. With a crown over each of them!

Jørgen von Cappelen was nobody. He was the son of the rich Bragernes merchant Gabriel von Cappelen and Maren Neuman, daughter of the Christiania merchant Jørgen Poulsen, who owned Fossesholm at the beginning of the 18th century.

Jørgen himself had made a career as a supplier to Sølvverket on Kongsberg, a revenue-generating business at a time when Sølvverket was growing rapidly and a small number of merchants had the exclusive right to trade in Kongsberg, which had grown to become Norway's second largest city. In addition, the marriage with the rich merchant Magdalena Darjes had helped to increase wealth.

By 1763, Jørgen von Cappelen had turned 48 years old and wanted to retire from the hectic life as a merchant. He wanted to become a landowner in the country, on the old noble estate that the family had owned parts of for two generations. He became the owner of half of Fossesholm by suing the widow of his brother Didrik, and he bought the other half.

But the farm was old and out of date. The first ten years as owner were a construction period, where the main building was extended to an impressive building 50 meters long. At the same time, it was equipped with modern wallpaper, partly procured from abroad and partly painted on site by the Swedish painter Erik Gustaf Tunmarck, who was also given the responsibility for marbling doors and window frames, columns and baseboards both outside and inside.

All the rooms in the new magnificent building were equipped with magnificent furniture, but above all it was Storstua that was to impress the guests. This is where the large iron furnace from Hassel was located.

 

It was probably no coincidence that Cappelen ordered the furnace from Hassel Jernverk. Not only was this the nearest ironworks (together with Eidsfos), it was owned by Jacob Neuman, who was also the grandson of Christiania merchant Jørgen Poulsen. In other words, he was Jørgen von Cappelen's cousin.

 

In 1746 he had become the owner of Hasselverket for a relatively cheap price, and in his time the operation reached new heights - both financially and in terms of artistic quality.

 

The new owners of Fossesholm could thus expect to get a product of the highest quality - and an oven that was not produced before or since.

The Hasselovnen with Jørgen and Magdalena's monograms is still in Storstua on Fossesholm - where it has stood for 247 years. It is no longer used to heat the manor house in the winter cold, but it still helps to give the living room a distinctive character. It is an attraction that is well worth studying further.

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