The story of Henningsvær

In the latter half of the 19th century, Henningsvær developed into one of Norway’s most important fishing villages.

Henningsvær approx. 1910 Unknown, National Antiquities

Fishing became commercial

Henningsvær’s heyday began at the beginning of the 19th century when the foreign market for fish became larger than the Norwegian one.

Due to the high demand, the state facilitated the development of infrastructure along the coast. Fishing began to become commercial in earnest, and Henningsvær grew.

Henningsvær's first residents

Henningsvær is the last of Lofoten’s larger fishing villages to be built on, which is most likely due to its exposed location. Henning is a Low German name, which can testify that Henningsvær got its name in the time of the Hanseatic League . The first residents we know of are Biørnn Olszenn, who paid 1 vog, and Oluf Bardorszen, who paid 1 pound of fish, as management fee in 1567.

At the first Norwegian census in 1769, Henningsvær had a permanent population of four people.

The weather owners in the 19th century

During the 19th century, Henningsvær had its last three owners, before the municipality took over ownership in 1883. Things started to go well for Henningsvær when Jørgen Zahl became the owner towards the end of the 18th century.

After Zahl, Lars Nicolai Rener took over as owner. Among other things, he contributed to building rorbues and a saltery. While the most influential barn owner was probably the last, Jens PB Dreyer. He managed to make full use of Henningsvær’s growth and the arrival of both fish and fishermen.

During his time as være owner, he ensured upgrades and development of everything in Henningsvær except the lighthouse. The story goes that he secured ownership of the fishing village by proposing to Reiner’s stepdaughter. At the last minute, in front of the noses of several other suitors.

In the last half of the 19th century, Henningsvær developed into one of the most important fishing villages in Norway. In connection with its growing importance as a fishing village, the population in 1875 had increased to 235 inhabitants.

Henningsvær harbor - winter 1945 | Photo: Mittet & CO AS/National Library

Henningsvær in the 20th century and until today

In 1934, the islands south of Henningsvær were connected by a new breakwater. Henningsvær therefore became a good port for the fishing fleets, and became a dominant fishing village and fishing reception in Lofoten.

1947 was a record year, when there were 28 tonnes of fish in Henningsvær, 69 fish farms, 12 distilleries, 3 canning factories, shops, merchants and a bakery.

The population in Henningsvær reached its peak in 1950, the census this year shows 994 inhabitants.

The road connection to Henningsvær came in the early 1980s, and with this increased tourist traffic.

Today, Henningsvær is a vibrant community with galleries, shops, hotels, rorbu facilities, cafes and restaurants. Business is mainly based on fishing and tourism.

Sources

Svein Smaaskjer (ed.), “Henningsvær”. Extract from the history of the weather” , Storsalteriet: 2007.

Riksantikvaren, “Fishing history up close” , retrieved 9.8.23. URL:
Fishing history up close

Store Norske Leksikon, “Henningsvær” , retrieved 9.8.23. URL:
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