Vi gjengir i original språkdrakt en beskrivelse over Brevik fra år 1800. Den engelske «turist» J. W. Edy reiste rundt i Norge og både tegnet og skrev. Hans tegninger og bøker ble utgitt i London. Dette kapitlet er viet hans besøk i Brevik.
Tilfeldighetene gjorde at han besøkte Brevik dagen etter den store bybrannen i 1800. Hele strøket omkring Øvre Torv ble flammenes rov. Foruten Edys generelle omtalelser av Brevik, er det interessant å lese hans betraktninger omkring folket i Brevik, hvor han blant annet sier at her bodde det mange godt situerte personer. Om forholdene ellers skriver han at halve byen lå; ruiner etter brannen, bare skorstener stod igjen i ruinhaugene. Det var grufullt å vandre i byens gater og se de stakkars barna som klynget seg til sine foreldre og skrek etter mat og et sted å være.
Fra Brevik dro Edy videre til Helgeroa. Før han dro fra Brevik, hvor han overnattet, gikk han omkring og gjorde sine iakttagelser av byen og området i dets nærhet. Blant annet har han bemerket fjellformasjonene som i Bedehusbakken og en rekke andre steder i Brevik. Det var kanskje hans interesse for Breviks topografi som gjorde at det ble folkesnakk i Brevik over hva den utenlandske gjesten gjorde her. I alle fall rapporterte postmesteren i Brevik til kommandanten i Fredriksvern (Stavern) at det hadde dukket opp en mistenkelig utlending i byen. Det resulterte i at Edy ble arrestert som spion da han satte foten på land i Helgeroa. Han ble da senere, etter grundige forhør, løslatt. Hans skisser hadde ingen militær betydning.
Tilbake til hans artikkel. Som nevnt dro han videre fra Brevik til Helgeroa. Dengang ble det rodd og seilt på denne strekningen, som var forbindelsen mellom Vestfold og Sørlandet (eller Vestlandet som det het den gang) når det gjaldt landverts forbindelse fra hovedstaden og sydover.
Bortsett fra postbøndene som hadde faste oppdrag på å ro posten denne ruten, var det ingen pålagt skyssplikt mellom Brevik og Helgeroa.
Da J. W. Edy ble rodd over, var det kvinner som utførte jobben, da det het at mennene var opptatt med annet arbeid. Å ro frem og tilbake til Helgeroa var nok en dagsjobb. Fra Helgeroa til Brevik hadde man jo til tider strømmen mot seg, da vassdraget på den tiden ikke var regulert.
På slutten av artikkelen kommer forfatteren inn på nordmenns omgang med brennevin. Hans erfaring på reisene i Norge plasserer datidens norske kvinner og menn på et kulturelt lavmål når det gjelder deres forhold til alkohol.
Som et apropos til artikkelen kan en nevne at i år 1800 hadde Brevik bortimot 1000 innbyggere. Det var en ganske respektabel størrelse på en norsk by den gangen. Til sammenligning hadde Oslo (Christiania) bare 10 ganger flere.
No. XXXIII. Town of Brevig
As I do not presume to offer any details respecting the origin of the Norwegian towns which occur in this work, details which, under correction, I believe are chiefly to be obtained in a confused way from tradition, l beg my readers to form their own conclusions on the subject. Much may be said on the natural advantages of such sites for offence and defence, as presenting the first motives for their selection. Norway, from time immemorial, has had to boast of her warriors, to whom a secure retreat and a strong hold were most desirable. We may also trace some of these establisliments to the peaceable dispositions of their early inhabitants ; for instance, an individual was observed to thrive on a particular spot ; another soon became his neighbour ; he also prospered, and these examples soon attracted a third and fourth ; their joint families growing up, pursued their steps, and iitterinarrying with the interior inhabitants, in course of time a numerous population arose, and agreeing well together, became attached to the parental spot. Thus a colony was formed, which when sufficiently large to be considered a town, was designated as such by the reigning monarch, who introduced certain laws and regulations, seldom neglecting to claim a participation of its revenues, which was patiently and invariably conceded, often indeed without enquiring who was the original owner, chieftain, or resident on the spot. To confirm this remark, there are numerous examples in both antient and modern bistory ; and it is possible that this little sea-port town of Brevig, with many more, cannot boast of a founder more noble or higher in rank than a humble fisherman. The town is partly situated on the point of a narrow inlet of the Fiord. The settlers would be naturally aware of the importance of such a site, as it enabled them to prevent access by water from the two towns, Porsground and Sheene. Brevig is now the residence of many wealthy inhabitants ; it consists of two divisjons, one on the continent, the other on an island, and connected by a draw-bridge. Harbours in Norway having two or more entrances are particularly advantageous, and are always preferred by the mariner, as affording free ingress aud regress in all weathers. When the wind in certain quarters is violent, ships find it impossible to get through the strait for Porsground, and are glad to take shelter in this harbour, until a change takes place. On my arrival at this town I was distressed to see nearly one half of it smoaking in ruins, from a destructive fire which happened the preceding day. The distress of the inhabitants was pitiable in the extreme, as, in addition to their misfortune, the remaining part of the town was found incompetent to afford them shelter and common conveniencies, although to their honour all persons threw open their houses. I with some difficulty procured a lodging for one night, on the express condition of quitting the town on the following day, although it rained incessantly. In passing along thr streets, it was a most painful sight to behold the poor children clinging to their parents, crying for food and shelter, by the sides of the stacks of chimneys, the sad rammants of their former habitations with a heavy heart I ascended the hill, commisserating their untimely fate. Fires in Norway seldom rage to such an extent as in this instance: though destitute of engines, the people are very prompt and expert in extinguishing fire, by means of a strong iron hook, affixed to the top of a long pole, on the sides of which are rings with ropes. This instrument being applied to the house, is forcibly drawn by means of the ropes in many hands, ind by their repeated efforts the building is soon brought to the ground. Thus a conflagration, even in tempestuous weather, is generally prevented. It is to be recollected, tite houses are chiefly built of timber, and few are wilhout such an instrument hanging under the eaves, as a necessary appendage. My attention was soon called to the unusual appearance of some dark red rocks, perforated as if worms had burrowed passages in regular directions through them, about half an inch in diameter, and nearly parallel. The waters of the Fiord washed many of their bases; their heads in numerous instances towered three or four hundred feet above the level of the sea. Others were scattered in large fragments around ; in general, they were destitute of every kind of moss or shrub, and possessed no character to distinguish them of the family of the granite rocks around. It may be conjectured that they are volcanic productions.
The trade of Brevig is not considerable, although there are many shipowners, who collect their cargoes of timber in other places adjacent. The appearance of the town from the Fjord is bold and striking; the large church being whitewashed, is considered and an excellent sea-mark by mariners who visit the safe inner harbour behind it, or avoid the pass toward Porsground. Ferry-boats are always in readiness to convey passengers and goods across the narrow streight either to the westward, or eastward over the Fiord to Helgeroe, a distance of about six miles, at a small expence. This latter passage, although extremely dangerous in winter, is cheerfully undertaken by women, if the men are employed elsewhere; and they safely return with the boat, be the night ever so dark or inclement. The principal inducement, I am sorry to say, is the brandy-bottle, so frequently circulated by the traveller during the voyage; this baneful custom is the never-failing bribe, to induce both man and woman to brave every danger. Thus these poor creatures exist in a continued state of stupid half-inebriation, regardless of the common neccessaries of life, food, and raiment. Thus every noble feeling, even that of self-preservation, is subdued, and the natural anxietics of filial or parental attachment, are totally lost in an habitual and brutish insensibility.
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Brevik Historielag: Årbok 1990
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