Nicoline Roll 1802-1891

Nicoline's maiden name was Selmer, and she grew up in Cecilienborg, which originally had belonged to Cecilie Schøller, the woman who had Stiftsgården [the largest wooden mansion in the Nordic countries, now called the Royal Residence] built. Her father Sigismund bore the title of general auditor, her mother was Danish and their home was one where culture and affluence prevailed. Nicoline learnt several languages and was introduced to the Continental style of living.
In 1828 she married Jacob Roll, the chief district court judge. He was 20 years her senior and had been married twice before. They lived in the Roll house, a large urban house located where the City Hall in Trondheim now lies. At the end of the 1830s Jacob Roll became the town's first mayor.
Nicoline (often called "Mrs Justice") had four children. Her house was legendarily hospitable, and was the hub of parties and cultural events. There was music and theatre, and above all grand dinners and general socialising parties. It was important to show visitors from outside Trondheim that prosperity also thrived at 63 degrees north. Nicoline Roll appeared to have been created to be the first lady of the town: "Gifted, well-travelled, well-read and imperious"(Knut Mykland). After becoming a widow in 1870 she continued to keep open house. Her guests numbered such Norwegian notables as Conradine Dunker, Jonas and Thomasine Lie, Camilla Collett, Andreas Munch and the Prime Ministers Kierulf and Richter. She also socialised with royalty.
In between all the extravagant parties this tall and elegant woman also showed a measure of social conscience. She managed an endowment fund for "the destitute", and through Den kvindelige Industriforening [The female industrial association] she helped to find a market for the handicraft products of poor women.
Nicoline Roll was almost 90 when she died in 1891. Her death signalled the end of the golden age in Trondheim in which she had participated in such a leading position.
Recommended reading: Arthur Knagenhjelm: Erindringer: fra min barndom i Trondhjem [Recollections: From my childhood in Trondheim]. 1945.

Author: Einar Rædergård