Hjelmås - Clay brick factory
30 minutes drive north of Bergen there is a place called Hjelmås. What many do not know, is that 150 years ago, this place had a big Clay Brick factory producing as many as 3 million bricks per year at its peak. During diving in the area in 2015, there where found clear indications of industrial activities in the area. A map from 1867 showed a factory for clay bricks marked in the area. There are also ties into Bømlo in the south to Modalen in the East. Locally the history of the factory is well known. Ottar Styve did a lot of work on uncovering the history of Hjelmås Teglverk and what you read here is mainly based on his work and partially on our own research.
It starts in the end of the 1840’s when Andreas Grønning learned that there was Clay in the area of Hjelmås in Nordhordland. An agreement was signed between the landowners of Hjelmås and Grønning on 26-30 October 1850. The brother of Andreas, Berent Grønning started the factory in 1853. He moved from Bergen and built a house on Hjelmås. The factory was raised near the clay area, just south of where Hjelmås quay is today.
They started burning bricks in box ovens, but in 1872 it was decided that new methods had to be introduced to be more efficient. German specialists came and built a “ring”oven with a big pipe. The production now would surpass 3 million bricks per year. In 1863 Berent Grønning signed an agreement for Lime from mines in Moster, Bømlo. This contract was disputet in 1915, when it was claimed that the owners signed without knowing what they did.
In 1877 Berent Grønning dies and Petter Angell Giertsen (1854) takes over. He also owned boats for transportation, we know about “Syva”, “Haabet” and “Svanen”, but there where more in his ownership. The ships had 4-5 people and used 6-12 days getting clay from a new area in Modalen. They made 45 kr per shipment that had to be divided. Giertsen also had an outlet in Bergen where Bricks from Hjelmås where sold.
In the end of 1890's there was problems with clay availability in Stamnes and no other clay source was to be found close enough. The factory was closed in 1903. The big chimney was taken down 25 Oct 1912. Axel Tjodolf Plesner bought the property and removed most of the traces from the factory and built a big house and designed a park. He was also involved in the Delta case.
Today we can barely see the remanence of the factory. The wall along the sea is still there. The stone and wood gate to the property are also still there. However, the starting point and biggest testimony of the factory is found in the sea along the wall. There are thousands upon thousands of clay bricks from the factory time and some pottery most likely coming from ships that has stopped at this port when the factory was operational.
Images from this PRoject
Some pictures from different parts of the project
Exact location: Hjelmåsvågen 25 km North east of Bergen.
Paper in Norwegian on the history of Hjelmås Clay brick factory.
Download the document here.