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Industrialization in Höganäs


Nothing symbolizes the industrialization better than the steam engine. Here is a drawing of the the steam engine in Höganäs 1806. (From Odenkrantz´s diary).
The industrialization of Höganäs is not typical of how the industrialization took place in Denmark and Sweden.
A common perception is that the Swedish industrialization started after 1850 and that it did not pick up speed until the end of the century. In Sweden it is connected to the sawmill industry in Värmland. But the early industrialization did not begin until the middle of the century. But there is an exception to every rule. Such an exception is Höganäs, which in the 18th century was a small fishing village in the northern Sound, but already a few years into the 19th century had been turned into an industrial area.

Pit Coal
Pit coal in usually associated with industrialization, especially in England. In Denmark the pit coal occurrences in Scania important as energy source to lighthouses and limekilns, and in the 17th century pit coal was mined in Helsingborg. Here the occurrences were accessible in the soil on the hills facing the sea north of town. I the lighthouse in Kullen, these pit colas were used. But when Scania became Swedish, the pit coal lost its significance, as it neither could nor was allowed to compete as an energy source with the Swedish forests.
Kullen´s Lighthouse
Kullen´s Lighthouse
Pit Coal in Scania
Pit Coal in Scania

Pit Coal and Clay
The Swedish innovator, Jonas Ahlströmer, who for at time was the consul in London, advocated that the pit coal mining was to be revived. As Scania was the only area in Sweden, where pit coal was found, he started The Scanian Pit Coal Works in 1737. Coal occurrences were discovered in Valåkra outside Helsingborg. The enterprising was not very profitable, and the market still only consisted of the lighthouses.
In 1786 Eric Ruuth took over the Scanian Pit Coal Works. He was a count, administrator, and landowner, and was, by way of his new business, an early industrialist in Scania. He concentrated stubbornly and at times financially daring on the mines of northwestern Scania. Anders Polheimer, a well-known mountain engineer was hired to do some test drilling and he found fine occurrences in the areas around the small fishing village Höganäs, in the Kulla peninsula. This originally happened as the result of a coincidence. Polheimer had spotted yellow clay, which the farmers sold as paint. By drilling deep Polheimer found, not only fireproof clay, but also pit coal of fine quality – according to Scanian standards.
Eric Ruuth
Eric Ruuth
The Pit Coal Mines
The Pit Coal Mines

Engineers From England and the First Swedish Railway
Presumably it did not come as a surprise for a mountain engineer, that there was pit coal where there was plenty of clay. Now (1797) Ruuth procured new capital and an industrial operation began. He employed an English mining engineer, who was from the area around Newcastle in northern England. His name was Thomas Stawford, and he was surprised, when he saw his new underdeveloped homeland, where they had not had enough sense to utilize their fine natural resources with modern technique.
Stawford carried through an almost English industrialization. The first steam engine was installed in 1798 and more followed in the subsequent years. These were used to empty the mines of water. The shafts, which had been opened in Tjörröd, north of Höganäs fishing village and in Ryd to the east, had the advantage that they were situated close to the coast and the transportation to the landing harbours was short. In 1801-02 a channel was built from the shaft to the sea. This channel could be used for several purposes. For one thing the water, which was pumped out of the mines by way of Stawford´s steam engines, could be led away, for another the coal could be transported on barges to the place of call for the landing. A wooden railway, almost 2 kilometres long had been established between the different sites. In 1805 the wood rails were replaced with iron rails and thus Sweden had its first railway.

The Glass Works Industry and the New Division of Labour
In 1801 they started to build a glass works to the production of bottles. The pit coal was an excellent energy source for the glass hut (the melting furnace). In 1805 more than 100.000 bottles were produced here. They were mostly exported to England and France.
The labour force in the company was at first 15 men, but grew quickly and in 1806 294 workers were registered in the company. These were distributed like this:
Official: 10
Miners: 131
Machine operators: 27
Glass works workers: 11
Workmen: 39
Transportation workers: 12
Handymen: 64
The work was partly specialized. The mineworkers were divided into shaft officials, lowering officials, coal cutters and coal boys. The same divisions could be found in connection with machine operation and transportations.

Where Did the Labour Force Come From?
The recruiting of labour was a problem in this period and the rationalization of agriculture had not yet disengaged labour in Scania. The need for labour was so great that the local population was not sufficient and workers came from all over. Glass blowers came from Småland; soldiers were used for the channel building, people from Halland, Blekinge England, Germany and Norway arrived in Höganäs, even Russian prisoners of war were used in 1808-09. But there were problems with this motley crowd. Stawford often noted his worries over the drunkenness and fights in his diary.

Hard Conditions
Stawford was rough with the workers, but was respected by the establishment for his enterprise. The works day for a worker was usually 12 hours. Complaints were often met with the threat of arrest and other kinds of punishment. If they were late, they were forced to work in the mine without lights. The work was hard and difficult in the damp, narrow shaft and accidents and illness were common.
Many fled and child labour was common. According to a register of “The staff of Stenkols Werket” in December 1827 there were 260 workingmen and 85 working boys, which is around 25% of the employees were children. But that was a decrease compared to 1802, when 36% of the labour force were children, but many things indicate that child labour was common in Höganäs.
At the same time schools and hospitals were established. In 1797 the building of workmen´s houses was began. They usually consisted of one room with a kitchen – all in all 18 square metres. In these apartments families of 5-8 persons lived.
Workman´s House 1896
Workman´s House 1896
Workman´s House 1814
Workman´s House 1814

Architecture and Ornaments
In 1825 the company in the pit coal works was converted. It had been more profitable to cultivate the clay than discharging the pit coal. The pit coal was then used for the heating of ovens to the production of earthenware, for instance tile and pottery. In 1856 the Danish sculptor Ferdinand Ring was employed as an ornament sculptor at the Höganäs works and thus the ceramic production started.
The neo-classicist style was very common in architecture and ornaments in abundance characterized this architectural style. Ring had worked for the world famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. He stayed in Höganäs until 1869. In the town middle there are examples of his art, terracotta statues of Ruuth and Stenbock, but also ornaments on several houses. After Höganaäs Ring moved back to Denmark. Here he executed some famous decorations, among other things the fronton group in the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen and his works can also be seen in the Marble Church (Marmorkirken).
Decorated Facades
Decorated Facades

Höganäs and the Concept of Industrialization
The original meaning of the word industrialization is debatable, and there are many theories and concepts of when it started. But if the definition is that industrialization involves the transition to capitalist ownership, investments in capital demanding machines, the hiring of paid workers with a certain amount of special knowledge, large production, new transportation systems and a “clock in existence”, then Höganäs was industrialized in the beginning of the 19th century, fifty years before the industrialization of the saw mill industry in Middle Sweden.
The industry in Höganäs did not rise within the framework of the local agricultural society and was not dependent of this society, when it came to the recruiting of labour or the sale of goods. The workers were recruited, as we have seen, from other places, and the products, glass as well as pit coal, were exported. Höganäs had become a small industry-England with workers, steam engines, pit coal, channel and railway. And this was in full swing as early as 1805!
The risk capital of Eric Ruuth, the surveys of Anders Polheimer, Thomas Stawford´s innovations and enterprise, but first and foremost the hard work of hundreds of workers, had changed the small fishing village of Höganäs to an industrial society. The first of its kind in Scania, perhaps in all of Sweden.

©  Øresundstid 2009