Norway’s last brickworks / Columns / The Foreigner

Norway’s last brickworks. There have been more than 300 brickworks in Norway throughout the centuries since the first bricks were made. There is only one today. It was founded in 1895 in the heyday of Norwegian brickmaking in the latter half of the 19th Century. At the time, it built on a tradition of more than seven centuries of Norwegian brickmaking. Wandering monks brought brickmaking to Norway at the end of the 12th century. There’s no record of when and where monks took to the trade of brickmaking. But the mention of the building of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis suggests that their motivation may have been ecclesiastical. The Biblical account starts by enjoining: And they said one to another, Go, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly’ (Genesis 11, King James Version of the Bible).

norwaybuilding, norwaybricks



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Norway’s last brickworks

Published on Friday, 22nd November, 2013 at 14:48 under the columns category, by M. Michael Brady.
Last Updated on 22nd November 2013 at 16:59.

There have been more than 300 brickworks in Norway throughout the centuries since the first bricks were made. There is only one today.

Trondhjems Aktieteglværk
The brickworks at Bakklandet in Trondheim (picture from about 1890). It is now obsolete.Trondhjems Aktieteglværk
Photo: Wikistrinda


It was founded in 1895 in the heyday of Norwegian brickmaking in the latter half of the 19th Century. At the time, it built on a tradition of more than seven centuries of Norwegian brickmaking.

Wandering monks brought brickmaking to Norway at the end of the 12th century. There’s no record of when and where monks took to the trade of brickmaking. But the mention of the building of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis suggests that their motivation may have been ecclesiastical. The Biblical account starts by enjoining: And they said one to another, Go, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly’ (Genesis 11, King James Version of the Bible).

One century later, brickmaking had become commercial in Norway by then, and Trondhjems Aktieteglværk (‘Trondheim Brickworks Ltd.’) had been founded at Bakklandet, a sector of the expanding city on the east side of the Nidelva River. Bricks had become commonplace by the 18th Century, and Norwegian brickworks produced bricks competitive with those imported from Denmark and Germany.

A breakthrough came in the middle of the next century, with the introduction of the continuous kiln Friedrich Hoffmann (1818-1900) patented in 1858 in Germany. The ‘Hoffman continuous kiln’ vastly improved brickmaking; the first such kiln in Norway started up at the Malde works in Stavanger in 1864. Brickmaking was a viable industry by the early 20th Century.

But Norwegian brickmaking waned in the post-war years. Most of the 56 brickworks in operation in 1947 had been built in the one century earlier. Reinvestment to keep works up to date had been unthinkable in the harsh economic times of the 1920s and 1930s. More serious, bricks themselves were threatened by new technologies that coincidentally came from within Scandinavia.

Autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC), a lightweight, precast building material, was developed in Sweden in 1929 and marketed under the trade-name Ytong in the late 1940s. Light expanded clay aggregate, trade-named LECA, was developed in 1939 in Denmark to make building blocks first marketed in Norway in 1954.

Building with Ytong and LECA was far less labour intensive than bricklaying, an imbalance that became the death knell for brick as a structural element. Today, almost all the brickwork seen in the walls of buildings is a masonry veneer of facing bricks outside a structural element of wood, metal framing, LECA blocks or concrete.

Norway had only seven surviving brickworks by the 1970s, as nearly 50 had closed down in the face of obsolescence and declining markets. Six of those seven closed down in the late 1990s, leaving a sole survivor, the Brattsberg Teglverk (‘Bratsberg Brickworks’) at Lunde in Telemark County. The Works is a subsidiary of Wienerberger AG today, the world’s largest producer of ceramic building materials.

The last brickworks in Norway now is abreast of the latest brickmaking technology and offers a range of more than 50 varieties of facing bricks, as well as roofing tiles and other ceramic building products. That said, it faces the new challenge of a declining preference for brickwork in buildings. That may be offset by increasing environmental awareness with time. As it comes from a kiln, brick is a natural product. Moreover, brick, though initially expensive, needs almost no maintenance; the cost of brick facing over the lifetime of a building is less than that of any other material.

The cultural heritage of brickmaking in Norway is today meticulously preserved by brickworks buffs online in the Teglverk.no database (in Norwegian).



Published on Friday, 22nd November, 2013 at 14:48 under the columns category, by M. Michael Brady.
Last updated on 22nd November 2013 at 16:59.

This post has the following tags: norwaybuilding, norwaybricks.





  
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