The Onsjö Cottage. Photo Maria Bohlin, Kulturen

Since its construction in the mid-1700s in Jonstorp, central Scania, the Onsjö Cottage has lived a varied life. It has been moved several times and inhabited by many different people before finally settling at Kulturen in 1927.

The name “Onsjö Cottage”, comes from the district of Onsjö where the cottage originally stood in the Hallaröd parish. This cottage has, as is the case with many of the museum’s buildings, been lifted out of its context. At its original location it would have been part of a larger farm set in an open, rolling countryside framed by leafy woodlands.

The cottage has assumed a variety of guises since its move to Kulturen. The turf roof, for instance, has been replaced by brick tiles. Some visitors may remember when, for a period of time, it served as a playhouse where clogs could be tried on and pretend food cooked. During that time there was even an extension to the cottage where a tableau portraying a wooden clog cobbler’s workshop and home was displayed.

Since 2019 the interior has been presented as it would have looked around the mid-1800s when widow Gunilla Andersdotter lived here with her son, Anders Svensson. The farm had been sold the year before her husband Sven Andersson passed away in 1843, but they continued to live there on a type of leasehold agreement. This was common practice in older times. The agreement specified that the family would have accommodation on the farm and receive certain supplies such as grain and firewood for the remainder of their lives. This type of leasehold agreement acted as a form of social safety net for those who owned their own farm but, for whatever reason, could not or did not want to continue running it themselves. It was common for such an agreement to be signed when a son took over his father’s farm.

Gunilla and Anders’s home was simple, but they could not be described as poor. The records we have don’t show exactly how it looked, but most all-purpose rooms in rural dwellings at this time were furnished along the same principles. In one corner a table would stand facing a wall-affixed bench. In the corner diagonally opposite stood the best bed. Other furniture and objects such as cupboards, chests and chairs could also belong to the room, depending on needs and budget.

The museum has used furniture and props to bring Gunilla and Anders’s home to life, making it easier to picture how it would have looked some 200 years ago. Perhaps they have just sat down at the table to eat? Or perhaps Gunilla is at the spinning wheel while Anders is out working? We have used Sven and Gunilla’s estate inventories to help build up the interior of the cottage. By comparing them to each other we can see that Gunilla sold several valuable objects over the years. Pewter plates were replaced by earthenware, a chest and cupboard disappeared and the marital bed was exchanged for a smaller alternative. The brass candleholders, listed in the first inventory, were presumably sold in order to pay for other things.

Sadly, no letters or other records remain. An insight into Gunilla’s thoughts and feelings would have been interesting. Was her husband’s death accompanied by a crippling sorrow, or was she perhaps of a more pragmatic nature, resigned to the reality that life must go on? What were Gunilla and her son like as people, did they enjoy visits from acquaintances or did they prefer to be alone?

Anders was Gunilla and Sven’s only child. He was born deaf. The couple were both a little over 40 when he was born, so one can imagine Gunilla’s worries about how he would manage after her death. But what did Anders think? Was it dispiriting to live with one’s mother or was it a comfort? Had he rather started his own family? We know nothing of this, only by using our imagination can we try to fill in the gaps.

Gunilla died in 1865, at 83 years old. Anders, who was 40 at the time, continued to live in the cottage for another six years. After that he moved in with his guardian, a saddler by the name of Ernst Espelund, and worked as a farmhand. Life as a deaf person, which at this time carried with it the status of incapacitated, cannot have been easy. Anders lived the remainder of his life with Ernst, dying in 1891 at the age of 65.

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