The history of the manor
Ancient artifacts found on the manor’s estate show that Odziena has been inhabited at least since the Iron Age (5th – 7th c.) In ancient Latgalian culture, mention of Odziena (then known as Odense or Odse) is found in written historical sources dating back to 1455. This was the year that Bertram Tīzenhauzen — who had inherited the manor and parish from his father, Engelbrecht in 1449 — sold them on to his brother, Johann. There are also written mentions of Johann as still being the owner in 1457 and 1460.
The Tīzenhauzens were a noble family, influential throughout the Vidzeme Region. They owned Odziena right up until 1625, when the Swedish King, Gustav II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus) bestowed Odziena and a number of neighbouring estates, including Vietalva, to Colonel Johann Reinhold Streiff von Lauenstein.
Throughout the 17th century, Vidzeme was ruled by Sweden. After the turn of the century, as a result of the Great Northern War, Vidzeme was incorporated into the Russian Empire. Odziena Estate changed hands frequently and was managed by various tenants, so it is unlikely that it experienced many significant upswings in fortunes during these times.
In 1744, the Russian Empress, Elizaveta Petrovna (Elizabeth of Russia) bestowed Odziena Manor to her field marshal, Petr Shuvalov. He sold it, a year later, to his former tenant, and owner of Grostona Manor (Muižnieki), Major Engelbrecht Wilhelm von Brimmer. Odziena was to remain in the hands of the von Brimmer family until the Latvian Republic’s agrarian reforms in the 1920s.
Odziena’s boom time was mainly thanks to Rudolf Friedrich Adrian von Brimmer (1809 – 1880), who inherited the manor from his father at the age of 4 and went on to live a long and fruitful life. He died in Odziena Manor House in 1880 and was buried in the family tomb in nearby Vietalva. He was responsible for establishing the Odziena Estate, including the current manor house, the park, and the many outbuildings.
Rudolf’s major achievement is considered to be the building of the manor house, which today is considered one of the most impressive neo-gothic buildings in Latvia. Its slim, six-storey tower is a popular landmark standing sentinel among the low, rolling hills of the Vidzeme landscape.
The existing manor was was built on the site of the previous one, which was a mixed wood and stone house built at the end of the 18th century. The architect of the current house is unknown. There is some speculation that the German architect, J. Helda was responsible, as he was active in Latvia at the time. The remarkable similarity of the manor to Kittendorf Castle in Germany would indicate that Kittendorf’s architect, Friedrich Hitzig had some influence on the design.
Odziena manor’s glory years were short-lived. The house was to be a victim of turbulent times. During the unrest of 1905 (The First Russian Revolution) the Latvian peasants rose up against the Baltic German nobility throughout the land. The von Brimmer family were not to be spared. A horde of peasants converged on Odziena and stormed the castle, pillaging what they could take with them and torching the rest. The family escaped but the manor was left a burnt-out shell.
Later, the von Brimmer family made great efforts to restore the building but they were interrupted by the flood of refugees brought by the First World War. The Russian authorities had ordered the entire population of the Kurzeme region to be evacuated and naturally they headed away from the fighting and through Vidzeme in their flight towards Russia. In Odziena, the desperate refugees stripped the cereal fields, pillaged the estate’s inventory and several other of the estate’s buildings were damaged.
After the war came the agrarian reforms of the 1920s which effectively progressively taxed landowners until they had no choice but to hand their land over to landless peasants. All over the country the lords of the manors lost their land and gradually died off or moved out.
In Odziena there was an attempt to establish Odziena Dairy Society, “abandoning the former landlord’s luxury” and rebuilding it as “a cooperative dairy with domed ceiling and milk processing equipment, offices, workers’ apartments, a library, a cooperative store …” But, regrettably, these plans were never implemented and the people of Odziena had to wait until Soviet times before they had their dairy. But, of course, by then they no longer owned their own cows’ milk.
In the Soviet era, the manor building, though damaged, still played an important role in the social life of the local people. It contained a small library and shop, and part of the far west wing was converted into flats. Most importantly, it served as the village’s house of culture (kultūras nams). Many locals recall with nostalgia the balls and celebrations held in the manor, and especially the summer garden parties. There was even the occasional Bollywood movie to look forward to!
This brings us to the present, when, thanks to the new owner’s enthusiasm and love of history, the reconstruction of the Odziena Manor Estate has begun. The dilapidated inn has been reborn as a prestigious and highly-rated guest house (krogusmāja), which has been welcoming discerning guests from all over the world since 2012. The dairy has been transformed into a craft brewery (pilsbrūzis) where they produce the acclaimed local beer, Odzienas Alus. The gardener’s house and the barn have been renovated and significant territory improvement works have been undertaken.
The manor house itself is gradually regaining its former gloss. The roof has been replaced over the whole of the west wing and many ballrooms and state rooms have been renovated. In the spring of 2015 we were delighted to host our first wedding and Rudolf von Brimmer’s dream — his beautiful, neo-gothic mansion — is now a highly sought-after romantic venue for young couples to take and celebrate their vows.