The Blekinge Farmhouse. Photot Jessica Ljung, Kulturen

2When you step inside the Blekinge Farmhouse, you are transported back to the beginning of the 1800s – to 1815 to be exact. At that time, Elna Carlsdotter and Karl Olsson lived here together with their 2-year-old daughter, Hanna. Hanna was the couple’s only child, which was unusual at a time when it was common for most families to have large broods. It was nonetheless never quiet. Farmhands, maids, Karl’s brother, Nils, and their mother, Sissa, all vied for space. A mill, stables and cowsheds, a goat house, five barns, a forest, meadows and fields and a variety of fruit trees belonged to the farm. They kept cows, horses, pigs, goats and hens. In other words, Elna and Karl were wealthy farmers.

The Blekinge Farmhouse originally lay on a slope looking out across the Orlunden lake in north-western Blekinge. It was built in the mid-1700s but the style itself derives from the Middle Ages and is of a typical southern Swedish construction. It consists of a lower dwelling at its centre, flanked by two taller loft buildings. The roof is clad with turf which acted as an effective form of insulation.

This type of farmhouse was a rare sight in Sweden by the end of the 1800s, when the idea of Kulturen as a museum was starting to form. It had been replaced by larger, more practical, dwellings. Georg Karlin managed to purchase one of the last of this kind of farm dwelling that was still intact, and it became the first building to be moved to the open-air museum. The farm’s goat house was also relocated. The two buildings were displayed with the purpose of representing the old farming, or rural, community.

The main entrance to the house is on the western side. The first space one comes to upon entering through the low door opening was used for, amongst other things, the storage of equipment. To the left of this anteroom lies a scullery with a built-in distillery vat. Beer was also brewed in this room, using home-grown hops.

The main, and largest, room of the house is approximately 50 m2. This is where one ate, slept and carried out household chores – a proper all-purpose room with a hearth at its centre; essential for cooking food, boiling water, heating the home and a priceless source of light during the winter months. Karl and Elna slept in the bed while the others slept in the benches that line the walls. Lifting the lids converted these into beds. The mattresses consisted of hay and twigs covered with woven textiles. Animals – such as hens, piglets or lambs – that were sensitive to chills were brought indoors during cold snaps.

The eastern loft building was mostly used during the summer months, when no heating was required. It worked as both a place to sleep and a crafting space. Women, for instance, could sit here and weave with the big windows providing plenty of light.

It is not easy to picture life as it once was in this house now that stillness reigns. The furnishings, recorded sounds and replica food help to breathe some life into the scene, but one’s imagination has to fill in the rest. The home would have been kept neat and tidy, but nonetheless the strong smells of body odour, animals, wood smoke and cooking aromas would no doubt have permeated it.

Meals were eaten five times a day in this house. Porridge, soup and bread were often on the menu. Pork, and sometimes fish from the lake, occasionally made it to the table. Most of the food was produced on the farm, only spices such as salt, pepper and ginger had to be bought. Beer was often drunk, or a concoction of warm milk mixed with beer or low-alcohol ale. Brännvin, a distilled liquor, was also drunk. Everybody in the household had their place at the table. The farmer would have sat at the head of the table, nearest the window, with his wife at the opposite end. The rest of the women sat along the bench nearest the hearth while the men sat on the side along the wall.

A grandfather clock stands by one of the doors into the main room. If one takes a closer look one can see that it is missing both the second and minute hands. Knowing the exact time was not of consequence to the farming community, where daylight itself was of greater importance to everyday life. By the stove stands a so-called “rush-light holder”. You could call it the floor lamp of the 1800s. It is a wooden stand topped with an iron grip where a glowing ember is attached. It was practical but undoubtedly a great fire hazard. Candles made of tallow or beeswax had existed for a long time but it is unknown whether they were used in this house. Candles made of stearin were invented in France at the beginning of the 1800s but they would not be available to all until well into the 1900s.

Most of the artefacts inside the house are original but not from this farmhouse. Most, however, do come from Blekinge and have been procured using Elna Carlsdotter’s estate inventory as a guide.

Elna died at the age of 36 in 1824, when Hanna was 11 years old. Hanna lived to see 62. She took over the farm after her father and married Sven Gummesson. They had ten children together. One can only imagine how lively it would have been then!

This text is taken from our booklet Kulturen Open-air Museum, that you can buy in our museum shop.