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When bishop J.Neumann was on a visitation in Hardanger in 1825 he also visited Torsnes, the seat of the Galtung family. They were then in the process of pulling down the old dwelling house on the farm. As the committed observer of ancient monuments and antiquarian buildings that he was, bishop Neumann has provided us with interesting details:
The farm Vik in Jondal has been one of the earliest settled farms in Jondal; a good and fertile farm east of the river. Legends hold that mighty men have lived in Vik, and it is easy to imagine that the farm may have been a chieftain’s seat for some time.
Bruosen is one of the few river harbours in the county. As landing place for the churchgoers, this place and the boatshed environment follow a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages, but the country store of today is much younger.
Norheim, “the farm by the narrow sound” is mentioned in a diploma from the Middle Ages and in an inheritance document. This is one of the large farms in Hardanger, of those that belonged to the powerful families; Sandven in Kvam, Torsnes in Jondal, Aga in Ullensvang and Spånheim in Ulvik.
Through Adolph Tidemand’s detailed close-ups of smokehouses in Kvam, the vicarage in Vikøy, where he lived during his painting trips through Hardanger, has obtained a central position in the Norwegian national romanticism.
The grand farm Aga on the west side of Sørfjorden, came under protection in 1937, when the agricultural reform threatened to disperse the old clustered settlement. “Lagmannsstova”, named after the “lagmann” (law speaker) Sigurd Brynjulfsson, was already protected in 1924; one of the authentic profane wooden buildings from the Middle Ages still standing. All the same it is the farmyard itself that is the key cultural monument.
The old “recorder residence” at Helleland has been both residence for the district recorder and officer’s residence. The main building, which came under protection in 1924, was built in 1764 by the curate Christian Heiberg. When he was appointed parish priest in Jølster, he sold the farm to the state employee Geelmuyden, who resold the farm to Hans De Knagenhielm in 1774. He was the head of “Søndre Hardangerske kompani” (a local army division).
Hesthamar, some kilometres north of Utne, is one of the oldest residences for a district recorder in the country. In 1637, barely 50 years after the office of the district recorder was established in 1591, the local people bought this residence from the bailiff Lauritz Johnsen on Torsnes. From 1659 the district recorders lived here, intermittently, up to 1790. This is when Helleland at Lofthus became a “recorder” farm.
The farm Huse is situated on a broad terrace in the valley above the church and the commons ground in Kinsarvik. Huse is one of the largest farms in Kinsarvik. The house from the Middle Ages, still standing at Huse today, probably from the middle of 1200, is joined on to a house in the Swiss style from around 1890. This house, with a smoke-vent in the roof, bears witness of a grand old farm and of the chieftain’s power in early medieval times.
The farm Jåstad, situated a few kilometres north of Agatunet, must have been a grand farm in medieval times. Torolf on Jåstad is mentioned as arbitration moderator in 1293, and in the vaulted corridor at Lyse Kloster Sigurd, farmer at Jåstad, and his wife Sigrid – the king’s kinswoman - are buried.