GamlaVærket and the Whistling Cuckoo of Sandnes
Lauritz Smith Pedersen waited excitedly after the application to the King was submitted . Finally, an official document was received and declared: “Exclusive Privileges for Lauritz Smith Petersen of Stavanger ‘to establish a Brickworks and Roof-tile Factory in Sandnes’.” It carried the seal and signature of King Christian VII and was dated April 28, 1782, in Christiansborg, the royal residency in Copenhagen.
After exploring the hills near the Gandsfjord, Pederson saw the pale grey waters and examined the silt clay banks of Tronesbekken stream that inspired him to create the first-rate raw material for a tile factory. After convincing ten local merchants and public officers to provide the investment capital and support, Pedersen drew up traditionally Danish construction plans and hired a Danish crew to run the factory.
Sandnes Teglverk (Brickworks), or GamlaVærket (the Old Factory) as it has always been called locally, started production in 1783. It was the first industrial enterprise, not only in Sandnes, but in all of Rogaland county.
The clay mill was literally run on horse power, but most of the work still had to be done by hand. Initially, firewood from the Ryfylke district heated the kilns, then peat from the Stokkamyra marshes. A group of “toiling men” headed by Tjøl Larsen Søiland as foreman for 60 years assumed control in 1807.
The next industrial company at Sandnes was established in 1852 – Gravarens Teglverk. It was the dawn of a new age, and soon other companies were founded: Altona in 1856, Ullendal in 1860, Nynæs and Ganns in 1873, and Lura Teglverk in 1900. Altogether seven companies produced goods of fired clay, selling vast quantities of bricks, pots, drainage pipes, ceramic weights for fishing nets, and much more.
It was considered a woman’s work to transport bricks and pile the products in the huge drying houses. Teams of four and were expected to run with heavy three-wheeled wheelbarrows, moving heavy loads at impressive distances. In addition to the brickworks, several small potteries were established. Until 1889, there was no other type of industry in Sandnes, except for a few minor workshops. In 1897, the local newspaper declared that there was “certainly enough clay for a thousand years.” Today, however, only two or three minor potteries remain.
Sometime in the 1790s, Christopher Zimmermann, a Swede, received a summons to GamlaVærket, where he was asked to start up their pottery production. It was probably he who made the first whistling cuckoo, for which Sandnes is famous. His son took over in 1812 and worked closely with local potter Ole Idland. In 1822, a 15-year old came to Sandnes from Hardanger and joined their team. He eventually became known as Simon “the Potter” Haustveit. In the course of 80 years from 1842, he and his successors built up the Simonsen business, which comprised all of five potteries in Sandnes and one in Strømstad, Sweden – before the adventure ended in in 1925.
Today, the old factory’s history is literally embedded in the walls of the GamlaVærket Hotel. The history is documented throughout the property transporting guests back to the very days that established the hotel. The Archaeological Museum in Stavanger and the new Science Factory feature a complete study of the industrial history of Norway.
Gamla Værket, a charter member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2011, dates back to 1793.