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County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town

County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town Photo: Tønsberg kommune County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town Photo: Tønsberg og Omland Reiselivslag County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town Photo: Renate Blindheim
County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town Photo: Tønsberg kommune
County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town Photo: Tønsberg og Omland Reiselivslag
County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town Photo: Renate Blindheim

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Tønsberg, founded in the Viking Ages, is Norway's oldest town.
The world renowned Oseberg ship which was found just north of Tønsberg centre
bears proof of this. In the Middle Ages Tønsberg was one of the centres of
power. The towns oldest seal is from 1230-1250. Tunsberg castle, the churches
and monasteries and the Earldom of Jarlsberg, have influenced Tønsberg which
was, until 1671, Vestfold's only town. As well as being a commercial and
shipping town since the Viking ages, Tønsberg is renowned as a Hansa town and
also as a whaling town. Tønsberg is Vestfold's county town and commercial
centre. It is also the seat for Tunsberg bishopric which was founded in 1948 and
which covers the counties Vestfold and Buskerud. Tønsberg's area is 106 km² and
the number of inhabitants is 34.700. There is a large variety of shops, an
active cultural life and excellent possibilities for sport and recreation. Since
1990 the town has been involved in the project "Cycle Town Tønsberg-Nøtterøy".
Furthermore the town is working towards being a modern ecological town.

A look back into history
In his saga on King Harald Hairfair, Snorre Sturlason writes that the town of
Tønsberg was in existence before the battle of Hafrsfjord, which is dated 872.
It is because of this that the town's 1000 years' jubilee was celebrated in
1871, and 1100 years' jubilee in 1971. The archaeological excavations underneath
the premonstratensis monastery ruins in 1987-88 revealed several Viking graves
which have confirmed the age of the town. Nature itself made perfect conditions
for a settlement here at the narrow sound between Nøtterøy and the mainland. The
king or his ombudsman resided in the old court Sæheimr, today Jarlsberg Manor,
and on the farm Haugar, which can be assumed to be Tønsberg's birthplace. Haugar
became the seat for "Haugating", "Ting" for Vestfold and Norway's second most
important place for the proclamation of kings. The place has probably been named
after the two hills, kings' graves which tradition binds to King Olav, who was
king in Vestfold, and King Sigrød who was king in Trøndelagen. Both are presumed
to have fallen in battle on Haugar against their brother Eirik Bloodaxe and to
be buried on the same spot. Yet another of the son's of Harald Hairfair is
presumed to be buried in Tønsberg, Bjørn Farmann. Farmannshaugen lies in a field
south-west of Jarlsberg Manor. Vestfold's royal family stems from the
Ynglingeætten, which dominated in the 9th century. The big grave mounds in Borre
National Park and the finds of Oseberg ship and Gokstad ship, prove that this
branch of the royal family lived in luxurious conditions. When he divided his
kingdom, King Harald Hairfair appointed his son Bjørn to rule in Tønsberg. King
Bjørn Farmann spent most of his time in Tønsberg, residing at the court at
Sæheimr. It is said that he traded with many countries, and to a great extent
has influenced the growth of the town. Tønsberg was always a king's town -
sometimes carrying out the functions of the capital. Castle Rock dominates the
town - a 63 m high rock with steep sides. Castle Rock was besieged by King
Sverre in 1201-2, the longest siege in Norway's history. His grandson Håkon
Håkonsson was the sole king in Norway 1217-63. Seen in a European connection, he
is Norway's most famous king during the Middle Ages. King Håkon Håkonsson built
CASTRUM TUNSBERGIS, Norway's largest medieval castle with ring-walls, watch
towers, castles and a king's hall. He was also responsible for excavation of the
canal, so that it again became navigable for larger ships. He built his court at
the foot of Castle Rock, and instigated the foundation of a Franciscan monastery
in the middle of town and a hospital at Gunnarsbø. His daughter, Princess
Kristina, travelled from here to marry a Spanish prince in 1257. Her sarcophagus
is in the church in Covarrubias, Spain. During his reign the Norwegian state
covered Greenland, Iceland, The Faeroe Islands, Shetland, The Orkney Islands,
The Hebrides as well as the Isle of Man. Evidence of a settlement dating from
the Viking Ages has also been found in North America. Kungälv in Båhuslän was
the border with Sweden. Jamtländ and Härjedalen and large parts of Värmland also
belonged to Norway. Håkon's son, King Magnus Lagabøter, was born in Tunsberg
castle. He built a four to five storey high keep on Castle Rock, but was best
known for his legislative work which was accepted by the four "lagting" during
the course of the late 1270's. In 1270 his son, who later became King Håkon V,
was born at Tunsberg castle where he died in 1319. It is probably here that his
grandson, King Magnus Eriksson, married the French-born Princess Blanca of
Namur, who received Tunsberg castle with the whole of Tunsberg municipality as a
wedding gift from him.

Churches and monasteries
When Christianity came to Norway at the end of the 10th century, the first
church in the county - probably a wooden church - was erected at the king's
court Sæheimr. By 1100-1200 the town had several churches built in stone. 1. St.
Lawrence's Church, where the present Cathedral is. 2. The Church of Our Lady,
which was where today's market is. 3. St. Olav's Church, an impressive round
church, which was a part of the Premonstratensian Monastery. The ruins can be
seen near the library. 4. The Franciscans monastery and church, where the
so-called "Sættargjerden in Tunsberg" was agreed, was situated in the square
Torvgaten, Gråbrødregaten, Øvre Langgate and Tjømegaten. 5. St. Peter's Church,
which was revealed during archaeological excavations in 1972 and 1985 in Ø.
Langgate 50/67. The west entrance to the church has been re-built in the
Archaeological Section of Vestfold County Museum. 6. St. Michael's Church on
Castle Rock, which was a place of pilgrimage. 7. Sem Church, Vestfold's and
possibly Norway's oldest stone church which is still in use. 8. St. Stephen's
Church was situated beside the hospital at Gunnarsbø. 9. St. Thomas' Church is
also mentioned in the Sagas, but was probably a wooden church. 10. In addition
the Oslo bishop had a summer residence with a chapel at Teie Manor on Nøtterøy.

Fire and Plague
The Black Death in 1349 and the following plagues dealt a severe blow to the
population and the active church life. In 1503 Tunsberg castle was plundered and
burned, and in 1536 the town was reduced to ashes by fire. Large properties
which had belonged to St. Olav's monastery were rented out to "lensherren" at
Auli, which earlier had been St.Olav's monastery's main farm. "Lensherrene"
later lived at the Royal Court of Sæheimr, and in 1671 the area was changed into
a county.

Hanseatic Town Tønsberg
From 1250 - 1530, Tønsberg was one of Norway's three Hanseatic Towns with
it's own Hanseatic Trade Office. Tønsberg's main trading connections were with
Rostock, Wismar and Stralsund. In the year 2000, Tønsberg participates at the
Hanseatic Days in Zwolle, Netherland.

Shipping town
The 17th and 18th century were influenced by the control of the Dutch and the
English over the seas and the importance of the timber trade. The importance of
the town's own ship-owners increased, and in 1806 Tønsberg was the third largest
shipping town in the country. The increase in shipping was the cause of several
shipyards being established and also other industries like Tønsberg Rope
Factory. When Denmark/Norway entered into the Napoleon War in 1807 new crises
arose. About 1850, Tønsberg customs district had the largest fleet in the
country based on timber. Because of the success of the sailing ships Tønsberg's
tonnage increased by four times. Oceans all over the world became the
meeting-place for the ships of Tønsberg.

Whaling town
Tønsberg district's prosperity increased in the 1850's because of good
international market trends for shipping. On top of this a new industry began to
create income for the town. In 1847 Svend Foyn sent the seal-catcher "Haabet" to
the Arctic Ocean, more ships followed afterwards and eventually proved to be
highly rewarding. In the 1860's Svend Foyn thought that the competition for
seals was getting hard, and he began to look around for alternatives. In 1863 he
had the world's first steam-driven whaling boat "Spes & Fides" built. There
was a grenade harpoon mounted in the bows. He received the patent for this in
1870, and in turn this meant that he had monopoly for the "strong whales" (Blue
whale, fin whale and sei whale) for the following 10 years. By the time that his
patent expired, there were new whale hunting companies established, especially
in Tønsberg but also in Sandefjord. In Vadsø, Foyn had built his first plant for
the processing of the catch. The Finnmark coast became the centre for this type
of whaling until it was forbidden in 1904. When Svend Foyn died in 1894, he was
Tønsberg's richest man. Far-sighted as he was until the end, just before his
death he sent an expedition to the Antarctic Ocean to research catch
possibilities down there. The monument to this important man in the town's
modern history is at Tønsberg Cathedral. Foyn left most of his fortune to the
missions. After catching whales from the Finnmark coast, Tønsberg-men
established themselves on Iceland (Foyn's foster son Marcus Bull) and other
islands in the north in order to catch whales in all the world's oceans where it
was economically sound. The Antartic Ocean, with centre in the British island of
South Georgia, later became the main area of activity. On South Georgia the
company "Tønsberg Hvalfangeri" was established with a land base "Husvik
Harbour". "Leith Harbour" was run by the Norwegian/Englishman Salvesen. He had
bought Marcus Bull's company and so became, amongst others, to become dependent
on expertise from Tønsberg. After "world catch" we go over in the 1920's to the
pelagic whaling. Then there were large, floating factory ships with slips where
the whales could be pulled up on to the deck , which meant that one could catch
and process the whales on the open sea, independent of any single country's
approval. In this area Tønsberg had a competitor but also an important partner
in the neighbouring town of Sandefjord. In 1928 Anders Jahre, Anton von der
Lippe and Svend Foyn Bruun founded the companies Kosmos, Pelagos and Antarctic.
Ships belonging to the last two mentioned companies had Tønsberg as home port.
The companies Hector and Victor, administered by Bugge and Krogh-Hansen were
also important and managed to adapt themselves to the new times. These companies
began to co-operate with the English and entered into the large, English
registered company, Union Whaling. Contrary to Sandefjords pelagic whaling fleet
an important part of the fleet which was connected to Tønsberg, began to sail
under the English flag. In the 1950's Sandefjord ship owners registered 6
factory ships in Sandefjord. In Tønsberg approximately the same number of ships
were equipped, but Salvesens "Southern Harvester" and "Southern Adventure" as
well as Union Whalings "Balaena" sailed under the English flag. Svend Foyn's
home town maintained, therefore, its position to the last, even though they
actually openly co-operated with foreigners.

Tønsberg District's Important Men
We have discussed the whaling pioneer Svend Foyn. His uncle, Mathias Føyn,
founded Tønsberg Rope Factory. The Tønsberg man, Morten Wilhelm Wilhelmsen,
founded in 1861 the world's largest one-man shipping company. Halfdan Wilhelmsen
and the Tjøme shipowner Otto Thoresen were the pioneers for the change-over from
sail to steam-ship. In the 1870's the first practical useable tankship was
lanced in Tønsberg by Captain Even Tollefsen from Nøtterøy. The statesmen Count
Wedel Jarlsberg and Carl Stoltenberg participated in the making of the Norwegian
Constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814. Tønsberg's most famous sculptor is Carl E.

Inventions which have made the Tønsberg-district famous
1. Grenade harpoon. Project in co-operation with Hans Morten Thrane Esmark,
Svend Foyn and Henriksen Mechanical Works.
2. The tanker of Captain Even Tollefsen, Nøtterøy
3. Bergans rucksack frame, Ole Fredrik Bergan
4. Orange lemonade "Solo", Theodor Holmsen ("Solo" celebrated 60 year's jubilee in 1994
and production to-day is 40 million litres)
5. "Saba de Luxe". Arne Gravdahl was behind the development of sanitary towels made with cellulose and cotton in

Tønsberg's Friendship towns
Isafjørdur, Joensuu, Linkjøping, Roskilde Association of Nordic Countries,
Tel 33 39 93 62 or 33 32 42 08
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County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town - Photo: Tønsberg kommune

County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town

Tønsberg, founded in the Viking Ages, is Norway's oldest town. The world renowned Oseberg ship which was found just north of Tønsberg centre bears pro...

County Capital Tønsberg - History of the town

Source: Visitnorway


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