1869-1897: The village carpenter

On 12 May 1869, Adam van der Wal set up shop as a carpenter in Groot-Ammers, a polder village at the heart of the Netherlands. While the country was rapidly industrialising, there were still options for a carpenter to ply his trade, including in maintenance of the polder’s many mills.

‘When the day arrives that the power of steam will be replaced by that of the atom, make sure to the factories you build are well constructed. Move with the times, not just with regard to technology and economy, but also socially. When the company flourishes, let your craftsmen share in the profits, that you may all work together in peace and joy.'

Quote from a letter written by Adam van der Wal, founder of the company that would become BAM.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Netherlands was recovering from dark times that followed the Golden Age of the 1600s. A constitutional democracy had been established, mechanisation was rapidly changing the face of industry, and trade was flourishing again. While he was able to profit from the economic developments of his time, Adam had no idea his carpentry shop would grow into something as big as today’s Royal BAM Group. His focus was on making a living for his family.

Adam’s customers ranged from local businesses to private customers. Typical jobs would include repairs on the many mills along the river Lek. As a village carpenter, he also played a part in some of the most intimate moments in the lives of his fellow villagers: families who were bereft of a loved one, would come knocking at his door to order their coffins.