A Taste of Days Gone By

A short story about dinners at Hallwyl House

Exterior of Hallwyl House (1923) by Nils AsplundHallwyl Museum

In Town for the Season

Hallwyl House at No 4 Hamngatan was originally built as a winter residence for Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl. Winter was considered the Season for engaging in social activities. The house was therefore fitted with appropriate rooms, utensils and staff for entertaining guests.

The Full Setting (1990/2010) by unknownHallwyl Museum

The Setting

Every year the von Hallwyls gave three dinners of greater importance, normally in February. To simplify the procedure the dinners were held three days in a row with the same table setting, the same menu and the same wines. Only the guest differed. Politicians, diplomats and people in industry were always present. Wilhelmina von Hallwyl thought larger parties were “not much fun, but there you are; one must keep up appearances.” After her husband’s death in 1921 her dinners only included the closest family and friends.

The Kitchen (2007) by Jens MohrHallwyl Museum

The kitchen, situated just below ground level, is covered with white tiles, oak panelling and a dark limestone floor.

A built-in sink and a workbench run along the entire length of the kitchen window wall.

The room is dominated by a large kitchen-range.

The servants' dining area is situated in a corner of the kitchen.

The Dumbwaiter (2007) by Jens MohrHallwyl Museum

The kitchen includes all technical aids of the time, such as a lift, a dumbwaiter, hot and cold running water etc. The entire house was also fitted with electricity from the start.

Lobster Dinner (2007) by Jens MohrHallwyl Museum

Ready to Serve

Roughly ten servants were employed for maintaining the house and only two of them – the butler Eskil Petersson and the footman John Pettersson – served at the table regularly. For special occasions the driver Alfred Lindqvist was forced to wait at the table, a task that he found beneath his dignity according to his memoirs.

The Range (2007) by Jens MohrHallwyl Museum

Ready to Cook

Behind the scenes stood the female servants: a cook, a chamber maid, a scullery maid etc. And as a liaison between the von Hallwyls and the female servants was the paid companion Ida Uhse. During the busiest days of the Season all staff worked almost twenty hours a day and should be at the beck of call “like a fireman”, as the driver put it.

A Menu in French (1903) by F. Svanströms & CoHallwyl Museum

A dinner at Hallwyl House mostly included between 9 and 14 dishes in three courses. The famous Swedish smorgasbord (multiple dishes, pickled herring and snaps on a buffet-table) was never presented, though. It was considered uncouth.

Wine and Decanters (2007) by Jens MohrHallwyl Museum

For Posterity

Thanks to Wilhelmina von Hallwyl’s extraordinary, all-encompassing museum idea we have a very good view of food culture at Hallwyl House. We know they ate bananas in 1897 and preferred pineapple, lemon and apple deserts. The gilt bronze table centrepiece is preserved in its transport boxes and the Meissen plates are stacked in the shelves. We still keep the cook’s ladles and the driver’s livery. And his Daimler-Mercedes from 1914. But that is another story.

Credits: Story

Text: G. Sandell, National Historical Museums


"Smak av svunnen tid" 2007, Hallwylska museet: Stockholm. (With a summary in English.)

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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