Heritage. It’s where you come from, what you’ve done, what makes you, you. Heritage is about the values and qualities you hold dear, and act upon in your every waking moment. For HÅG, Røros is a big part of heritage.
A remote town in the heart of Norway’s hinterland, Røros is steeped in history, in a traditional way of living harking back to its mining roots of the 17th century, and the character and resolve of finding new ways of living despite extreme hardships.
This year HÅG turns 75, and for 61 of those years, HÅG has been proud to call Røros home. Celebrating 75 years of HÅG, we pay homage to Røros and the extraordinary influence this small town has had on the people who live and work there.
Deep in the Norwegian mountains close to the border with Sweden you find Røros. With a population of a little over 5,600 it is a sparsely occupied region faced with harsh conditions for long periods of the year. Temperatures regularly drop below -40 °C in the dark winter months, with averages below 0°C from November to April.
It is a beautiful place though, and the people of Røros are proud of their iconic town. Surrounded by nature, it’s streets are lined with picturesque wooden buildings, still aligned in the same pattern that was set down nearly 400 years ago. The community of Røros have known hardships over the centuries, but it is their ability to take things in their stride, to adapt and to move forward, which makes them unique.
A view of Kjerkgata Street, Røros. Photographer: Lars Geithe
Founded in 1644, the area was previously inhabited only by nomadic Saami herders, and the occasional hunter. The conditions were simply too brutal to farm for most of the year, making settling a daunting proscpect. However, by the middle of the 17th century, the rich resources of the region became an attractive proposition. Initially setup as a logging village, it soon became one of Norway’s most important mining settlements after the discovery of copper. Legend has it that a woodsman discovered the copper during a deer hunt. As the deer tried to escape, it brushed aside a patch of moss, revealing a shiny rock underneath. This quiet corner of Norway would never be the same again.
The establishment of the Røros Copper Works the following year called for hardy peoples from across the country to exploit the rich veins of valuable metal, and to support the hard labour in the related industries. Despite the hardships of labour and the challenging environment, Røros prospered, and a community thrived. However, other difficulties set themselves upon the town in the years to come.
A Saami family, living a traditional nomadic life, photographed in 1900 Reproduction by Photoglob AG Zürich
The Kongens gruve (Kings Mine) was one of Roros' longest running mines, in operation from 1657-1945 | Trondheim byarkiv, The Municipal Archives of Trondheim
Olav’s Mine was Røros Copper Works main mine from 1937 until 1972, and the last mine to be worked in this district. It reopened as a museum in 1979, and is available to visit to this day. Photograph: Lars Geithe, 2008
In 1679 the entire settlement was burned to the ground by invading Swedish troops during the Scanian War. The Great Northern War 40 years later saw the town once again sacked and occupied by the Swedish Army. However, unused to the harsh conditions, over 3,000 troops lost their lives as they withdrew following the death of their King. Both times Røros was patched up, and life went on.
At its peak during the 18th century, close to 600 people worked the mines surrounding Røros, with 1,500 more employed in the related trades. A golden age had arrived in Røros, exemplified by the building of the spectacular Røros church in 1784. Still standing today, this church seats up to 1,600 churchgoers, and is currently the 5th largest church in Norway. For such a small town, it is testament to the importance (and affluence) of the town duing the 1700s.
Røros Church, Exterior | Photographer: Lars Geithe
Røros Church, Interior | Photographer: Lars Geithe
Mining continued right into the 20th century, but a gradual decline led to the Røros Copper Works declaring bankruptcy in 1977. Overnight, mining ceased, and a way of life was shattered. How does a town reinvent itself after over 300 years of tradition?
In the middle of the 20th century, as the decline in mining became apparent, new industry began to take hold in Røros. Local handcrafted products took prominence. Potteries, metalworks and textile industries took root. In 1940 Røros Tweed was established, a company which acted as an outlet for handmade textiles. The town has been making textile since the 1700’s.
Lynild by Roros Tweed is inspired by a textile pattern with roots all the way back to medieval times. The throw has vibrantgradients in a pattern resembling mountain landscapes. Designed by Anderssen & Voll
When Peder Hiort, the childless director of a mine, died in 1789, he bequeathed his entire fortune to a foundation that was set up to provide an education in textile production to the poor people of Røros, as well as providing necessary raw materials. In turn, the foundation purchased the goods made by the apprentice textile workers and every year at mid-summer the same clothes were given back in the form of charity. Often, those who had received payment for the clothing they had made received the same clothing back.
The will of Peder Hiort has been described as one of the most insightful in Scandinavian history, and created a tradition for handcrafted goods that has sustained itself throughout the years, building the foundation which became Røros Tweet.
Peder Hiort, 1715–1 August 1789, by Erik Olsen - from Municipal Archives of Trondheim
Alongside this brand stands HÅG. Established in 1943, HÅG began life as a tubular steel furniture factory in Oslo, founded by Håkon Granlund. Run from a small backyard premises, the company quickly outgrew its location, and was on the lookout for new arrangements.
In 1957 HÅG moved to Røros. The town was funding enterprises looking to relocate in an attempt to revitalise industry in the area; an attractive proposition for a fledgling company.
HÅG established itself in the town, with the factory right next door to Røros Tweed. The two were neighbours for 30 years from 1957 to 1987, and worked closely on many things. The two companies were so close that for a long time during the summer months, a football match would take place on lunch breaks between the two brands.
Today, Røros is not only a seat of crafting, but a picturesque tourist location as well. Just three years after the closure of the Røros Copper Works, the town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a focus on sustainable tourism, it attracts visitors all year round, to take in the breathtaking beauty and see a small town, that has not only endured, but thrived.
After 61 years, the town has become a part of the HÅG identity. The way of life is imbued in everything that the brand does. Hardworking people, making handcrafted products, designed to endure extreme conditions. That is the heritage of HÅG.
Kjerkgata street, Røros. Photographer: Henrik Dvergsdal
Top picture | Photographer: Kjell Morten Klevsand
Richard Ferris on 12-Feb-2018 10:14:26