The story behind Treschow-Fritzøe

Treschow-Fritzøe is one of the oldest businesses in Norway, with historical roots stretching several centuries into the past. The group currently consists of companies operating in the following key sectors: forestry and natural resources, property management and development, wholesale distribution and logistics, the stone industry and the building materials trade.

Historical documentation allows us to trace the use of sawmills and other mills in Hammerdalen by the Farris river as far back as the 14th century, marking the beginning of more than 600 years of commercial activity.

In the year 1540, local nobleman Iver Jenssøn Jernskjegg began to acquire farms and forest lands in the Larvik area; lands which had previously been owned by the crown or the Church. The Jernskjegg family’s properties were known as the Fresje estate, a name that later became Fritzøe as a result of Danish influence.

After three generations under the Jernskjegg family, the Lange family took over the properties, and set up Fritzøe Jernverk, or Fritzøe ironworks, in 1640, with construction of the Farris dam following a few years later. 1660 saw the beginning of financial difficulties, and after a decade of troubles the business and properties were taken over by creditors. Parts of the property were sold off, but in 1670 it was acquired by Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve, viceroy and commander-in-chief of the Norwegian army, and later count of Laurvigen (Larvik). This was followed by a long period of ownership by the families of Gyldenløve, Danneskiold-Laurvig and Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, ending only with the families’ financial downfall almost a century and a half later. In 1805 the property was relinquished to King Frederik VI of Denmark, who held ownership until 1817. That year local investors, the so-called grevlings (a pun, which translates as both “countlings” and “badgers”), acquired them. When they also ran into financial trouble, Frederik Wilhelm Treschow purchased the property in 1835. It has now been owned by the Treschow family for six generations – 180 years.

The industrial activities at Hammerdalen have always relied on resources from the large forest property. The wood-based industries, such as the sawmill and later cellulose, wood pulp and fibre board production, relied on wood from the forest lands, as did the iron works. Although the ore was transported to the area, local wood was used for the smelting process.

In the following centuries, the sawmills and milling were the principal activities, but in the 18th century railway operations expanded significantly. For a period the Fritzøe ironworks were Norway’s largest industry, and one of the most important industries in Northern Europe, owing in part to considerable production for the Norwegian army, casting cannons and cannonballs.

In the 1860s, technological developments rendered much of the activities at the ironworks obsolete, and the company went through a crisis. There was a need of new business areas where the raw materials found in the forest could be put to use. A new wood pulp factory was set up, and for almost 150 years wood processing became an important operation. Wood pulping operations were developed, resulting in the establishment of cellulose and board production based on the same technology.

After World War II, the Norwegian market was in desperate need of almost all kinds of goods, giving rise to a new golden age for the company, which operated at full capacity and employed many workers. Gradually the need for goods was met, and the company again faced difficult times as Norway’s status as a high-cost producer meant that it could no longer hold its own in international competition.

When Ms Mille-Marie Treschow took over the business in 1986, there were no less than 12 business areas of different sizes, mostly in sectors undergoing great changes. The company has since undergone re-structuring, concentrating its interests in forward-looking sectors tailored to current conditions: forestry, property management and development, wholesale distribution and logistics, larvikite-based operations and the building materials business.

In 2015 Michael Stang Treschow became the owner. As 7th. – generation – Michael wants to keep old traditions but also get a continued development of the company.