The tar hollows of Hänigsen
Extraction and marketing from the early Modern Age up to 1930
The village of Hänigsen is situated 35 kilometres north-east of Hanover and 20 kilometres south of the royal seat of power in Celle. In the 16th century it was part of the territory of the Duchy of Lüneburg. The natural occurrence of oil, which even today still comes to the surface on the so-called hollow mountain, is situated on the edge of the Riedel salt deposit and continually attracted the attention of specialists during the following centuries. These sources were seldom in the early Modern Age. They existed also in Lower Saxony at a few locations, including Edemissen. Over the centuries the extraction methods changed as well as the purpose for which the tar was put to use.
In the early Modern Age, the phenomenon of oil rising to the Earth's surface at Hänigsen was widely known. Several times, the electoral government of Hanover, and later the royal government tried to extract the raw material in amounts capable of export within the framework of mercantilist and state economic policy. However, because the tar sources lay in a permanently wet marshland called Kienmoor, the plan failed repeatedly because of a lack of drainage, and the extraction remained for centuries in the hands of local peasants. In the second half of the 19th century, innumerable drilling companies entered the scene and undertook unsuccessful drilling for almost forty years. Only after the First World War did some succeed in making a first extraction until, in the 1930s, the region developed into one of the most important oil extraction areas in Germany. The article describes the history of the tar hollows of Hänigsen.