Feyer's pottery

Johan Feyer was the founder of the first industrial enterprise in Egersund. He was the son of the local magistrate in Dalane and lived in Egersund. Johan Feyer had an interest in geology and travelled around Dalane searching for metals and minerals. On the farm Leidland at Eigerøya he discovered clay deposits. Feyer quickly saw the possibilities in using this discovery and got the idea to establish a pottery in Egersund, where the clay could easily be transported from the island to the city by boat. He got his father interested in the project and travelled to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to learn about the production of stoneware. After finishing his apprenticeship in England, Johan Feyer returned to Norway. The clay deposits at Leidland were purchased, and an area north of Lundeelva at Damsgaard in Egersund was bought as a site to build the factory.

Portrait photograph of Johan Feyer

Portrait photograph of Johan Feyer

In 1847, work began at the factory. In 1848, the first buildings stood ready. Feyer had brought with him skilled workers from England to train his workforce in Egersund. The two first English workers were William Baal and Joseph Holmes. When Holmes stowed goods into the ovens for firing, he used his wife as an interpreter. He gave her the orders and she gestured and tried to explain the process to the Norwegian workers. The Norwegians did not understand the English workers and several firings were destroyed. Despite great difficulties in the beginning, Feyer became the sole owner of the factory in 1849. In 1851, the workforce consisted of 2 clerks, 2 English craftsmen at the end of their apprenticeship (mestersvenn), 4 apprentice craftsmen (svenn), 9 adult workmen, 7 boys, 2 women, and Johan Feyer himself – 26 employees in all. In addition to this, two manned vessels had crews of 5 men, and 3 men worked as diggers at the clay deposit. The pottery had become the biggest workplace in the city.

Pottery was a handicraft. The potters worked using potter’s wheels. A young boy or woman sat on the floor turning a crank that rotated the wheel while the potter worked. In addition to making items by throwing clay, the factory had a slip-casting workshop. The English influence was clearly evident in terms that became part of everyday language at the factory. From the earliest period, we recognise words such as tray shop, shop for throwing, foreman’s shop and pressing shop. The pottery showed a steady growth throughout the 1850s, with 55 workers in 1855.

Illustrasjon - Egersund potteri i 1860-årene.

Egersund pottery in the 1860s.

After this, things turned for the worse for the factory and operations stopped in 1860. Producers of brown stoneware had established themselves in several different areas in the country. Competition from the Sandnes area proved especially strong. The clay there was of a higher quality and easy to extract.