The von Ehrenheim family home at Gronsoo represents a rich and diverse example of Swedish fine arts and handicrafts from three centuries combined with wellpreserved interiors. It is a remarkable example of a living cultural environment embracing the palace, park and orchard together with farming and forestry.
Chancellor Johan Skytte, tutor to the future king Gustavus Adolphus built Gronsoo manor between 1607 and 1611. To Skytte, the manor was not only his home, but also a sign of his newly won status in society. The manor is one of the few built during the period of poverty between the era of Vasa palaces and the elaborate palaces of the Era of Swedish Supremacy. It was built in Renaissance style of grey stone and brick after French models, with a saddle roof, roof turrets and four square corner towers. On the ground floor one can still study well-preserved 17th century decorations.
The Skytte family owned the manor throughout the 17th century after which it was confiscated to the crown. After this the manor changed owners several times and during the early part of the 18th century it was owned by the wealthy Falkenberg family. The manor, which had fallen into disrepair while it was owned by the crown, underwent extensive restoration work and the corner towers were demolished. The main structure however was solid and received the present noble and sober exterior, which we can still see today.
During the second half of the 18th century Gronsoo was owned by the Stockholm doctor David von Schultzenheim, who introduced smallpox vaccination into Sweden. He spent considerable sums of money in beautifying the manor and gardens in the then prevailing romantic style. The second floor became the family's living quarters and was decorated in the Gustavian style, much of which may still be seen today.
Von Schultzenheim's pièce de resistance is the Chinese pagoda built in 1786 beside the lake and today one of Gronsoo's main attractions. It was built to drawings by the English-Swedish architect William Chambers and the interior is decorated with seashells and minerals from East Asia
In 1820 marshal of the court Reinhold Fredrik Von Ehrenheim acquired Gronsoo and still the manor remains in the family's control. Through inheritances from the Benzelstierna, von Engeström and von Ehrenheim families an unusually rich collection of inventory was assembled at Gronsoo. This rich collection of furniture, books and works of art has never been divided and may still be seen in the palace.
Gronsoo has always been the home of its owners and still is today. Themanor has never been completely rebuilt, but developed by each successive owner, generation after generation. In this way traces of each period have been preserved in a remarkable way.
Gronsoo is owned and run by the von Ehrenheim family and The Gronsoo Cultural and Historical Foundation. The estate is 720 hectares of land. Farming, forestry, fruit cultivation, tourism and preservation of the heritage are the main areas of operation.
"As it stands, the entire estate creates a powerful impression, characterised by grandeur and filled with surprises in every season of the year. The disciplined greenery around the stone house surrounds it like walls which seem to protect it as it stands on the brow of the hill jutting out into Lake Mälaren." (Sigurd Wallin: Gronsoo)
Gronsoo Palace, built in 1611 by Chancellor Johan Skytte, was surrounded from the very beginning by gardens, which were developed successively and today offer a unique view of Swedish garden history. A visitor on a guided tour of the gardens can see traces and structures from at least five different periods of Swedish garden architecture.
The early 17th century Renaissance style orchard area, is well preserved and contains the oldest commercial apple orchard in Sweden today. In front of the orchard stands "Queen Christina's limetree", planted in 1623 during the visit of King Gustavus Adolphus' mother to Gronsoo. It is one of the oldest limetrees (linden) to be found in Europe. In 2003 Queen Silvia planted a genetic copy next to the old lime tree.
The terraces facing the lake, the double chestnut avenue and the clipped lime and ash hedges, which run towards the palace on the inland side, represent the 18th century Baroque inspired desire for uniformity. Most of the trees in the avenues and hedges are the original ones planted in the 1750's and 1760's.
The Romantic period of the late 18th century saw the addition of a Chinese Pagoda, "English Paths", an artificial island and a large maze. The Chinese Pagoda was built in 1786 and was inspired by the Swedish-English garden architect William Chambers. The interior is decorated with shells and minerals, many of which were imported from East Asia. The Chinese Pagoda is unique in Northern Europe and one of Gronsoo's main attractions. The “Enlish Paths" wind their way round the palace, never losing sight of Lake Mälaren. Only the iron temple, now standing in the flower garden remains of the maze.
In the 19th century exotic trees and bushes were added to the park. The most remarkable reminder of this period is the nukta cypress tree standing beside the carp pond.
The flower garden from the 1920's replaced the open park landscape, which had been formed when the maze was demolished in the 19th century. In 1997 the flower garden was restored to its original state. The chalk pathways, old style perennials and summer flowers have restored to the gardens some of the floral splendour, which was once the hallmark of Gronsoo.
Gronsoo manor gardens are being successively restored in co-operation with the Swedish University of Agriculture. Our vision is to be able to offer an example of Swedish garden architecture from the 17th century to today in one garden. The restoration of Gronsoo gardens is also part of the University of Agriculture's work to increase knowledge of restoration of historic gardens.
The creation of Grönsöö Cultural and historical foundation is the core strategy to preserve the environment
The surviving strategies
Grönsöö is today an Estate of 720 ha where the operations are, forestry, agriculture, fruit orchards, renting out houses, tourism and cultural heritage management. In the latest decades the business idea of Grönsöö is to keep it as living, lived in heritage environment. In order to make that possible, in a modern society, two strategies have been deployed, the establishment of Grönsöö cultural and historical foundation and the opening of Grönsöö to the public.
In order to keep Grönsöö together for the future the family von Ehrenheim have redrawn from all future claims of future inheritance. The estate has been transformed into a stock company “Grönsöö Säteri AB”. The majority of the shares is owned by the foundation and some by the family von Ehrenheim. The articles of association give the present shareholders a first refusal of purchase and the price of the shares also is regulated.
The comprehensive inventory in the palace is put into another company “Grönsöö Museum AB”. The shares of this company are to 90 percent owned by “Grönsöö Säteri Ab” and to 10 percent by the foundation. The articles of this company forbid any sale of the inventory and regulates that these articles only can be changed by consensus of all the shares.
Grönsöö cultural and historical foundation have as purpose in its articles to mange the capital it is given in order to support heritage management and research at Grönsöö and in second place general heritage research. The board have five members of which three is nominated by public authorities and two by the family von Ehrenheim.
The construction of this management structure is a pilot project in Swedish heritage management. It combines the government and the owner family common ambition to keep the environment and collections together. The government interest in personal incentives for efficient management goes together with the owner family natural wish for influence over the practical management of the estate, which capital values have been given away. The control of public grants is guaranteed by public members of the board of the foundation and does not mix with the family’s private economy.
The second strategy for Grönsöö was to open the environment to the public, which was done 1993. Some principles were established.
- The purpose of the tourism is to generate resources for the preservation of the environment. It is therefore not allowed to change or destroy the environment it is up to preserve.
- We do on business grounds not want to adopt Grönsöö in order to satisfy the tourism. In the end that will destroy the reason the visitors initially had for coming here.
This results of course in a delicate balance in the development but is very important.
The basis of Grönsöö is the agricultural estate
The estate covers 720 hectares land. The most of the area is forests with 550 hectares productive forests mainly spurces and pines. The agricultural area is 70 hectares. The fruitorchards 9,5 hectares.
On the estate there is ten houses and seven vacationhouses that is rented out.