What Would Have Been

A short story about an unfinished stately home

By Skokloster Castle

The Castle from the Lake (2014) by Jens MohrSkokloster Castle

The Reality

Skokloster is famed for being “the largest castle in Northern Europe”. Without delving into the veracity of that claim it is, indeed, a large house. But it was meant to be much more impressive. When Count Carl Gustaf Wrangel entertained thoughts of a princely estate to call his home in the 1640’s it included, of course, not only a house but a park and adjoining buildings as well.

Imaginary Etching of Skokloster (1680/1710) by Erik DahlberghSkokloster Castle

The plan

As far as we can ascertain precious little of those extras were actually realised in Wrangel’s days. When he died in 1676 a fair part of the interior of the main building was still unfinished and unfurnished, although the construction had been going on for roughly twenty years.

The reason for the lengthy building process was due to many things: lack of skilled labour because of the re-occurring periods of war, lack of money because of the astronomical cost involved in keeping a household like Wrangel’s and the absence of Count Wrangel because of the aforementioned causes. Quite plainly: Wrangel was warring and living it up

A Drawing of the Park (1660/1670) by Jean de ValléeSkokloster Castle

Skokloster had a park, but not as grand as was thought fitting for the estate's size. This design was executed according to the standard of the age. If, and how much of, the park was ever realised is still debated.

Imaginary Etching of Skokloster (1680/1710) by Erik DahlberghSkokloster Castle

One thing that we do know never was finished is the Sea Lodge. The drawings are kept, however, and they give us a good idea of its layout.

The Sea-Lodge (1669-05-14) by Jean de ValléeSkokloster Castle

This is the lake view of the Sea Lodge, the view most visitors would have seen. People mostly came over the lake, either by boat or by sleigh.

The Entrance Floor of the Sea-Lodge (1669-05-14) by Jean de ValléeSkokloster Castle

Boats or sleighs would have stopped at the harbour (4) and the guest would have alighted onto the quay (2).

The main entrance (8) were supposed to have been two stories high, reaching all the way up through the building. The existing decoration inside the main house indicates that the ceiling would have had a richly ornate stucco work, possibly painted, and walls in strong colours.

To the left of the main entrance we find the Housekeeper's room (10) and a storage (9).

Room 14 is an ante-chamber to the Master's sauna (11) where the stoker would tend the fire. A storage for wood is nearby (15). Rooms 12 and 13 are a changing rooms with adjoining privies.

The toilets for common use (22 & 23) were designed with three holes in a row. Privies with multiple seats were not uncommon in Sweden.

On the other side of the main entrance we find the scullery keeper's room (17) and a scullery (16).

And the kitchen covers the rest of the floor with ovens (18), kitchen range (19), servant's dining room (21) and extra ovens (20).

Outside the building there would have been a small kitchen garden (5) and a fish pond (3).

The corridor (29 30) gets its light from a light-shafts (27 & 28). The staircase (31) takes you to the next floor.

The First Floor of the Sea-Lodge (1669-05-14) by Jean de ValléeSkokloster Castle

Formal visitors would have continued up the stairs and exited (49) into the outer courtyard.

To the left of the stairs we find a suite of rooms intended as living quarters for senior members of the staff and tower rooms "to keep things you do not use on a daily basis", as the architect put it.

On the other side we find similar rooms. The house is, in true Palladian manner, designed in perfect symmetry.

Drawing of the Sea-Lodge (1669-05-14) by Jean de ValléeSkokloster Castle

The rear of the Sea Lodge faces the main house (54) and is separated from it by a court yard (50).

A Drawing of the Sea-Lodge (1669-05-14) by Jean de ValléeSkokloster Castle

This is the view of the Sea Lodge from the main house. The two towers would have contained collections of arms and armour, according to the architect. Count Wrangel already had three rooms for that purpose, however.

Elevation Drawing of the Facade (1669-05-14) by Jean de ValléeSkokloster Castle

The entire complex from a distance would have had a coherent design, although the two structures had two different architects.

Drawing of the Park at Skokloster (1680/1690) by Mathias SpihlerSkokloster Castle

The Question

It is, once again, unclear how much of Count Wrangel's plans that were fulfilled. One existing survey map shows a make-shift harbour and a partly terraced, spacious garden. Some of the adjoining buildings are indicated, like the old house (the cross-shaped building above the present castle). The old house was partly demolished in the 18th Century and the smaller houses are completely gone today. An archaeological excavation would perhaps give us a picture of what was built and what would have been.

Credits: Story

Text: G. Sandell, National Historical Museums.

For further reading: Andrén, Erik. 1948. Skokloster, ett slottsbygge under Stormaktstiden. Nordisk rotogravyr: Stockholm. (With a short English summary.)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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