Collett Reunion in Norway – August 2009


The four-day event began on Thursday 20th August when the overseas visitors arrived in Oslo and commenced with a welcoming dinner party at Gimle Terrasse, the home of Peter and Vera Collett.  Also in attendance was Peter’s brother Knut and their cousin Ove Collett with their partners, and a great evening was had by all.


On Friday morning the overseas visitors took the tram to John Colletts Plass where they were met by Peter who escorted them to the nearby Waisenhuset at Ullevål Gård.


Pictured here (left to right) are birth Colletts:


Helen Remfry nee Collett

Brian Collett

John Brian Collett

Margaret Chadd nee Collett



In Oslo, in addition to John Colletts Plass, there are also streets named Camilla Colletts Veien and Colletts Gate.


Waisenhuset at Ullevål Gård was the home of John Collett 1758-1810 (Ref. 24L2) and was just one of the many farms owned by him.  John is noted in Norwegian history as the man who introduced new farming methods to Norway from England.

The report of Sunday of the reunion explains how Ullevål Gård came to be John’s.



Today the main building (above) is used as a school and the current curator gave a very interesting talk on the house and grounds which once enjoyed superb views over Oslo Harbour, now obscured by centuries of growth of the large trees in the grounds



It was a lovely sunny day and ideal for a chat in the garden.  This picture includes Phyllis Collett (second from left), Catheryne Collett from Australia, and Peter Collett (far right).  Missing is Helen’s husband, John Remfry, who took the photograph.


Following a walk around the grounds and outbuildings, the party entered the building where lunch was served and where we were introduced to Doctor Stein Halvorsen and his wife who were to be the guides for the early afternoon session.


From Ullevål Gård, the group proceeded to walk through the land that had previously been John Collett’s farm, to see (a) the monument raised in his honour, (b) passed a nursery bearing his name and in the background the tower blocks that were built for the 1952 Winter Olympics Athletes’ Village, (c) passed a ‘smaller’ house of John Collett, and onto (d) the Ullevål Hospital Museum built on the former Collett land.









At the Hospital Museum we were served cold drinks and cakes before leaving for the next phase of the day.  It was at this time during the mid-afternoon that the party split into two groups, with the larger group heading for Collett-gården and the Norwegian Folk Museum at Bygdøy on the outskirts of Oslo, the site of the rebuilt 18th Century Collett House which had originally stood in the city centre - see further details later.


The remainder of the group made their way by bus to Vigeland Park to see the 212 bronze, granite and cast iron statues created by sculptor Gustav Vigeland which show the essence and emotions of human life from the foetus to old age.



Friday finished with the two groups meeting up again at Aker Brygge on the bustling Oslo quayside, before a well-earned rest at the end of a very full and extremely enjoyable day.


That same evening in another part of Oslo, the families of the ninth generation of Norwegian Colletts enjoyed a wonderful party at the home of Rosa Collett and her husband Per Jakhelln.


The sun continued to shine on Saturday as everyone made their way to the former Collett residence at Gulskogen Gård near Drammen.  This was originally the home of Anne Cathrine Collett 1768-1846 (Ref. 24L15) and her husband Peter Nicolai Arbo and was built in 1794.  More recently it has become a museum and still retains all of the original features, furniture, paintings, etc.  There is also extensive landscaped parkland surrounding the property which is open to the public.


Gulskogen Gård

and its grand interior


A tour around the house was conducted by a very knowledgeable guide who provided a detailed commentary as the party walked through each room.  Of particular interest in one of the rooms was a painting of Anne Arbo sitting at a spinning wheel.  Everything featured in the painting is still there today as if frozen in time from around two hundred years ago.


The next photograph features portraits of Anne Cathrine Arbo and Peter Nicolai Arbo by the well-known Danish painter Jens Juel (1745-1802).



After a stroll round the garden, and a chance for some to enter the maze and try to find their way out of it, everyone moved on to Nykirke Church to visit the Collett tomb containing the bodies of the early members of the Norwegian family.



At the grave site (above), Rosa Collett said a few words and placed a wreath on the large commemorative plaque covering the graves.



Lunchtime was now approaching, so the party drove the short distance to the nearby Buskerud Gård, another early home of the Collett family.


This was purchased by Peter Collett 1740-1785 (Ref. 24K17) in 1762 and stayed in the family until 1883 when it was sold by Peter’s great grandson Albert Peter Severin Collett 1842-1896 (Ref. 24N15) to finance a business venture in the north part of Norway at Mo Gaard.


Today the house (below) and the surrounding land at Buskerud Gård are retained very much like they were in those days, except they are now used as a vocational high school.



Once at the house we were greeted by Trond Bollerud, one of the teachers dressed in the traditional costume that would have been worn by Peter Collett, as master of the house, all those years ago.  As depicted in the picture below.



The school’s rector Bjorn Lippestad had arranged for an excellent lunch to be prepared and served by the pupils at the school, one of whom also provided a musical aperitif.


During the meal John Peter Collett (Ref. 24Q13), a Professor at the University of Oslo, gave a lecture on the four generations of the Collett family who had occupied Buskerud Gård between 1762 and 1883.



Following this very informative talk, a large mounted version of the Collett family tree was presented to the school for displaying in the main hall, and this was followed by an electrifying music recital by two former students from the school.


Hilde Kjell (violin) and Ingvild Sandnes (cello), who are now attending the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, played three pieces.


The first was a traditional Norwegian folk song, while the second was the theme from the film The Mission.


The third piece of music was simply breathtaking and was the Passacaglia by Johan Halvorsen. 


The piece, in three parts and based on a tune originally written by Handel, was played with great gusto by the girls and was a very fitting end to a superb visit to Buskerud Gård.


With a slight over-run on the timetable there was not sufficient time to fit in the planned walk of the Collett trail over the nearby hill, but we were shown where it was, should we ever be fortunate enough to make a return to Buskerud Gård at sometime in the future.  So it was back to Oslo to prepare for the Saturday evening event.



Saturday evening was a real party occasion and took place at the home of hosts Tom and Henriette Collett in the English Quarter of Oslo at Pilestredet where a very large marquee had been erected in their garden.


During the meal Peter Collett gave a speech, which is reproduced in full below.


Dear family and friends,


Let me first say thank you for your interest in joining us here today.


However, I have a strong feeling that there is one single person that is basically responsible for us all being together here today.  She was born in 1854 and died in 1921, five years before I was born.


Yes, you are right, I am thinking of my grandmother, Nanna Collett.  The letter that my grandfather Albert wrote in 1873, asking her to marry him, you may find in Brian’s website at


Albert was asked by Christiania Bank & Kreditkasse to travel to Nord Trøndelag to examine the possibility to save the bankrupt company at Salsbruket.  He was then only 23 years old.  He worked hard and soon started investing and buying land, exporting timber products to England.  The hard work and climatic conditions wore him out, and he died only 54 years old in 1896.  He had by then acquired 130.000 hectares of land, more than 500 square miles or 320,000 acres.


Nanna, however, stayed in Christiania at Uranienborg Terrasse 11, to enable the children to go to school.  It was an important job, all alone with her husband far away – no telephone, no car, no plane.  Only in the summer she travelled all the way by horse and buggy the 800 km. to Mo.  When Albert died her oldest son Johan was 21 years, and he took over the responsibility not only of running the activities, but also to help his mother to let the other children get a good education.


Her children were:


Johan, born 1874, led the company Albert Collett.


Emil, born 1875, became dr. ing. in Berlin 1900.  He was inventor and started the first production of fertiliser for Norsk Hydro in 1905.  He had a consulting company in Paris.  He invented a punched card machine, and started production of SanaSol, a popular vitamin product which was sold or produced on license in 67 countries during the first 25 years of the company Collett & Co A/S.


Oscar, born 1877, became forest-candidate, and joined Johan running the activities.  He started planting trees, and was honoured with the Kings “St. Olav Medal” for this new way of cultivation.


Arthur, born 1879, became a doctor specializing in childcare.  He was responsible for among others the Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid and Crown Prince Harald.  The soap manufacturer Lilleborg asked his permission to market “Dr. Colletts Barnesepe” - soap for children.  Arthur was also the doctor for all of the family.


Axel, born 1880, studied in Dresden and became dipl. ing.  He took over the technical responsibility of running the Albert Collett company.


Johanne, born 1883, died only one month old.


Ove, born 1885, also became dr. ing.  In 1932 he joined his brother Emil in starting the production of SanaSol, and was the driving force in marketing the product worldwide.


Karen, born 1888, was the only sister, and loved by everyone.  Her warm and caring nature was exceptional.


Knut, born 1889, also studied in Dresden, and became  After his mother died, he started up a company rebuilding automotive engines, producing pistons etc.  He was also chairman in Collett & Co.


Albert, born 1892, went to Australia, but died very young in the Spanish flu of 1918.


Finally, I get to the point.  As you can see from this resume, all the children were successful.  But it is also important to note the good cooperation between the brothers.  Johan, Oscar and Axel working together in the company Albert Collett.  Emil, Ove and Knut working with Collett & Co AS.  Arthur caring for all the family members, and Karen – the only sister, loved by all.


Through my father, as a young boy, I felt the good social spirit of my grandmother.  Where do you find a family where all the children are good friends, and cooperate both in business and socially.  We had Christmas parties at the home of Johan, of Oscar, of Axel and others.  I remember uncle Johan’s 90th birthday in 1964, four of his brothers and his sister were there in addition to all the members of the eighth generation.  When I left the party at 2:30 a.m. I found him on the dance floor.  His wife Rosa, mother of Rosa present here today, presented him with a new typewriter for his birthday.


We have had several Collett reunions since then and I believe the interest to keep up this tradition is due to the warm family feeling inherited from Nanna Collett.  I have had the responsibility to keep up the family gatherings for the last 30 years.  And yesterday, Rosa invited all members of the ninth generation to a gathering at her home, bringing the tradition one step further.


Skål for the family friendship                                                                  Peter Collett 22 Aug 09


At this point Brian Collett said a few brief words of thanks on behalf of the overseas visitors, and in particular to Peter, Rosa and Bente for their hard work in organising this fabulous four-day event, to hosts Tom and Henriette for their hospitality and for opening their home and garden and for providing the catering for so many people, and to everyone in general for the kindness shown to the overseas visitors.




Sunday was another warm sunny day, ideal for a visit to the glorious Norwegian countryside, and by eleven o’clock everyone had arrived at Bogstad Gård.  James Collett 1655-1727 (Ref. 24I1) was the first Collett to visit Norway and he married Karen Leuch of Bogstad Gård.  When he died, James Collett was one of the wealthiest people in Christiania (Oslo).


His granddaughter Mathia Collett 1737-1801 (Ref. 24K16) married Morten Leuch and they also lived at Bogstad Gård.  Sadly Morten died while still very young, following which Mathia married Bernt Anker and with no children from either of her two marriages, Bogstad Gård passed into the hands of the Anker family.


However, Mathia’s older brother James Collett 1728-1794 (Ref. 24K11) married Karen Leuch and, during a dinner, their son John Collett 1758-1810 (Re. 24L2) found a document on his plate from Bernt Anker which transferred the ownership of a large farmland property at Ullevål to him – the subject of Friday’s visit above.




Today, the house and grounds (above) have been restored to their former glory and the visiting party were treated to guided tours around the house conducted by Anne and Finn Arnesen, during which we saw the wonderful paintings collected by the Collett and Anker families (a small sample of which are shown below).



The photograph below, taken on the step of Bogstad Gård, includes on the front row the three event organisers Peter, Rosa and Bente captured together on film for the only time over the weekend.



On leaving Bogstad Gård we made our way back towards Oslo and to Dronningen, where we enjoyed an excellent lunch at The Royal Norwegian Yacht Club before the final visit of the weekend to the Norwegian Folk Museum where we were treated to a guided tour around the Collett House (below).



This house, originally at Kirkegaten in Oslo city centre, was bought and restored by James Collett (Ref. 24I1) in 1704.  After just over one hundred years of being owned by the Collett family the house was sold and later used by the Cappelen family as a bookshop.  


The house was carefully taken down in 1938 and given to the Folk Museum where it was stored for over forty years.  Thankfully in the mid 1980s the Folk Museum secured sufficient funds to enable it to be rebuilt to its former glory.  Today the building is used for musical and other events.


During the guided tour, which included a brief talk by history professor John Peter Collett, we were shown a special room which displays aspects of the life of the Collett family during the time of their ownership.


The visit to the Folk Museum brought to an end the 2009 Collett Reunion and our sincere thanks go to Peter Collett (Ref. 24P47) and his wife Vera, to Rosa Collett (Ref. 24P23) and her husband Per Jakhelm, to Bente Collett (Ref. 24Q15) and her husband Michael Knagenhjelm, and to Tom Collett (Ref. 24Q16) and his wife Henriette, plus everyone else who made these few days in Norway so very special.


However, that was NOT the end of my trip since I now had the rest of Sunday evening free to visit the more recent Collett graves at Vestre Gravlund on the northern outskirts of Oslo.  Having taken the ferry from Dronningen across the Oslofjorden to the city centre, I then took a tram to Majorstua.  While walking from the tram stop to the cemetery I entered into a conversation with a lady called Elizabeth who was heading in the same direction.


She was curious to know why I should want to visit the cemetery so late in the day and, when I explained, she became very animated.  She told me how important the Collett family had been in Norway and confirmed that she had read the books written by Camilla Collett 1813-1895 (Ref. 24M23).  Elizabeth walked with me all the way the Collett graves, following which she showed me where the British soldiers and airmen were buried who were killed in Norway during the Second World War.



By the time I said farewell to Elizabeth and had left the cemetery it was getting dark.  The real friendship shown to me by Elizabeth, as a complete stranger in a foreign land, just about summed up my truly wonderful first visit to Norway.


Special thanks also go to all those people who kindly emailed me copies of their photographs and to Peter for supplying a copy of his speech from Saturday night.


Brian Collett in England