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mandag 1. november 2010

Sandefjord: the First Intellectuals

The term “intellectual” is probably not so well chosen; it somehow aims far too high compared with the reality that was Sandefjord before the 19th century: a small village located in a larger agricultural parish and attached, legally in some contexts, to the proper town of Larvik 10 miles away.

Nevertheless, the material available identifies a few individuals whose work must have been primarily of the head rather than of the hand, and this is an attempt to remember them – by simply mentioning them one by one and in public.

The earliest possible among these was a gentleman called Søffren Pedersen who lived in Sandefjord and died there in 1680[i]. His position in life is described as “Borger til Lauervigen”, that is, citizen of the town of Larvik. That sounds rather grand, but basically means he is allowed to trade there – and in Sandefjord. A man of this background was bound to have some literacy if for no other reason to be able to conduct commercial business.

Others with similar background, but later, included Hans Christensen who died around 1742; Iens Holch, 1743; Hans Christiansen in the same year; Poul Conrad Bøchman in 1754; Iohannes Mørch the same year; Anders Andersen who missed the French Revolution by dying early 1789; Christopher Weyer, 1798; Wilhelm Hvidt is mentioned 1794; so is Johannes Nielsen Grøn; Abraham Bøckmann died 1808; and perhaps others. The 18th century was the period of the Enlightenment, and surely these men and their families will have been aware of the new ideas that spread across Europe.

There  were others, too, less visible in this particular material: Ejler Brun is mentioned in 1790, with a remark that he was married to a daughter of Vicar Kielman and Stine Eeg: the Vicar would surely not have allowed his daughter to marry an illiterate peasant! Niels Olsen Hilderslev – not unlikely, judging by the name, to be of Danish extraction, was the “klokker” in Sandefjord when he died in the mid-1750’s. It was not uncommon for this category of church official to be tasked with the teaching of children – to prepare them for confirmation or for more secular purposes.

In 1701, we find 78 persons identified as living in Sandefjord[ii]: 72 men and 6 women; in other words, this is a list not of inhabitants but of taxpayers – primarily. Among the men we find two who are described as “Borger”: One is Borger til Lauervigen, Allexander Knudssen, aged 37; the other is “Borger til Sandefiord og Lauervigen” – which is a curious construction as Sandefjord at this stage did not have the quality required to have citizens. Or am I mistaken? In any case, he was called Hans Anundsen and was 59 years of age.

Others in this census were Simen Christenssen, a customs official of 39 years; Anders Amundssen, “klokker” – who complained at not having an official residence – and, vey early for Norway, Niels Bentzøn, aged 38 and described as “skollemester” – “school  master”. How many people were there in Norway at that time, whose occupation would include the word “School” – outside the major cities, that is?

Another census taken for tax purposes[iii] - an additional tax in this case – provides a larger sample but less detail about the people. A total of 217 individuals are included; 131 women and 86 men.

For some of them a designation was recorded, but not very many and in those cases there was one finds a mixture of occupations and courtesy terms: of the 19 recorded two are blacksmiths; five are referred to as “Mr” – which might be an abbreviation of “Monsieur” or “Monsignor”;  one is “Ædle M” – and since the given name is missing it is not know whether this is a man or a woman, but as” Ædle” means “noble” one would assume a fairly high social status is indicated.

There is also “Mad Mag Sal Hellevads”; presumably the widow of “Sal Hellevads”, the sainted Hellevad, so to speak.  She is “Mad”, one presumes for Madame, not in reference to her mental condition (and they wouldn’t have spoken all that much English in any case at this time) but the interesting bit is the “Mag” before Hellevad:  it would not be entirely unreasonable to consider the possibility that this is an abbreviation of “Magister”: in that case the earliest known Sandefjordian with a university degree?

Among the 373 individuals mentioned as living in Sandefjord parish in 1801, the occupation of 188 are indicated in the census of that year[iv].
Standardising the professions in English, 22 have income from handicrafts; 32 are able-bodied seamen; 47 are in service; 7 are merchants; five do weaving; there no less than 6 apprentice blacksmiths; 6 are “sailors”, the same number are “day labourers”.

Peder Jensen Møller combines the roles of shoemaker and police officer, a role he probably would not be able to play without some bookish learning; Engel Syvertsen Wold was, at the age of 56, a customs official and also not able to function without a basis in some minimum education.

Malene Grav, at the age of 27 and unmarried, is noted as “jordmor” – midwife – which is relatively early if she was a properly trained (they were trained in Copenhagen where the relevant institution accepted Norwegian students since about half a century earlier, but the profession was not properly regulated till later).

Bent Lindberg, 71 years old, was “Consumtionbetient og brandmester” – the latter term means Fire Chief, the former is a term related to the customs service; both would require a bit of bookish learning.

At the same time Mathis Hansen Raastad – Raastad being a farm in the neighbouring parish of Sandeherred – is listed as “Seminarist og skoleholder” – having theological training but making a living providing schooling: whether stationary or ambulatory is not indicated.

Jens Mathiesen, Premier Lieutenant in the 2nd Aggerhussiske Infantry, is another whose education might qualify him for conversation; just like Jonas  Christian Rosenvold who had retired from “land etaten” – the land survey?

Hans Tveten was the organist in the local church which, as locals will know, was only a few years old at this time: a marvel of modern architecture and, one presumes organ technology. Hans was 34 and married to Gunnild Susanna who was 49: perhaps best described as a marriage of convenience.

Jens Pedersen Bøeg was only 22; but he is described as “Studiosus og informator” – which at least means he was a student at the university in Copenhagen (Norway didn’t have one till 12 years later), possibly trying to make some money to finance the continuation of his studies, or just biding his time till he could obtain a suitable position.

Johanne Elisabth Schelven was a relatively young widow at 47, having been left in that condition by the death of her husband the Provost, for which reason she has a pension from the clerical pension fund.

In additional to these who have been mentioned there are a number of ship-owners, merchants, skippers and others who will have been exposed to and interested in the scientific, philosophical and theological developments that took place in the 18th century: they will have known of their own, and even more as a result of their links with Larvik, of the major intellectual trends in Europe.

If they did not exactly discuss these matters in the inn kept by the blacksmith establishment of  Mrs Maren Sophie Knudsdatter’s in Væstre Gade, they would have talked about it with their peers: the establishment in Sandherred, Larvik or Tönsberg.

In other words: the community was small; the world large. Like in 2010.

[ii] Ketil Firing Hanssen: 1701-manntalet frå Larvik grevskapDigitalpensjonatet, Digitalarkivet

[iii] Ekstraskatt 1762: Larvik m/Langest. og Sandefj.; available at
[iv]  See the 1801 census for Sandeherred at