Friday 29 June 2012

Gøteborg Sweden and the tale of two sons

Gothenburg in the 1790s

I have been revisiting  Gothenburg in Sweden.  I go several 
times a year and am always charmed by its wide boulevards, 
green-banked canals, busy river, lovely shops and 
relaxed pavement cafes.

On this occasion I was  struck by the tragic fate of two 
 sons who were born into wealthy Swedish families.

A short drive from the city, in Mølndal, lies Gunnebo.

While staying in Gothenburg  in the summer of 
1795, Mary Wollstonecraft was taken on a day-trip to visit 
the newly built country house of Gunnebo. It was the dream 
project of Scottish born John Hall who was, by the late 
18th century,  one of the richest merchants in Sweden.

Mary Wollstonecraft, however, failed to be impressed by 
Gunnebo. She disliked the pretentiousness of the French and 
Italian-styled wooden building and the 
classical formality of the grounds.     

Nevertheless, Gunnebo was very much admired by 
Gothenburg society and it became the jewel in the crown of 
John Hall's empire.

When John Hall died, in 1802 this empire, including 
Gunnebo, passed to his only son whose every whim had 
been indulged since childhood by a doting father.  
John Hall the younger had no head for business and 
only three years later the family firm was declared 

I first saw Gunnebo two hundred years after 
Mary Wollstonecraft's  visit and unlike her, I was 
enchanted by the house and the gardens.  Like a sleeping 
beauty, Gunnebo has been rescued from years of neglect 
and today it is possible to take a tour of the house; wander 
freely in the grounds and admire the immaculate kitchen 


Raoul Wallenberg was born into one of Sweden's 
wealthiest families.  While working in the Swedish 
Diplomatic Mission in Nazi occupied Budapest he issued 
protective Swedish passports to Jews,  saving thousands of 
Jewish lives.
However, in 1945, he was captured and  imprisoned by 
Soviet forces. 

This monument, in the grounds of Haga Church, 
Gothenburg is a photo-based work in bronze and graphic 
concrete by artist Charlotte Gyllenhammar.
It is a very moving memorial to the man and his 

2012 is the centenary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg. 
However, his fate still remains a mystery.

As for John Hall the younger: he died in 1830, a broken 
man. Having lost his fortune, his wife divorced him and
 he ended his days as a ragged tramp on the streets of 



  1. Two very sad stories. Raoul Wallenberg was a brave man and there must be thousands of people alive today, who would not have been born without his courage in saving the Jewish emigrees.

    Gunnebo looks a beautifully elegant, neo classical building. I can imagine Mary Wollstencraft preferring something more irregular and maybe a bit Gothic!

    Thank you for an interesting post.

  2. A lovely & informative post. As for Mary Wollstonecraft, we must forgive her for not having much interest in mere decoration and design - no doubt her mind was on more serious things!

  3. Dearest Anna,

    What a lovely post about architecture, history and a moral lesson too. Being a doting father did not serve this son well. Spoiling often works as a boomerang. Can you imagine that he lost his Father's fortune in three years?
    Raoul's story is very touching and one wonders about his fate. Undeserved at least as he gave so much, thereby risking his own life.
    Thanks for sharing this and wishing you a great summer and nice weekend.

  4. What an interesting story and beautiful house Anna!

    Have a lovely new week,

    Madelief x

  5. Thankyou Anna for sharing this story. I am sure that on doing the tour, secrets and family skeletons would be divulged by the tourguide.
    I have done a few tours of old mansions here in Melbourne and am always facinated by lives lived in the past and the twists and turns of those inhabiting within.
    Have a great week.
    Belinda x

  6. A most interesting and informative post, Anna. I agree, the monument for Raoul Wallenburg is most arresting. It would be a treat indeed to be given a tour of a city if all guides were as eloquent as you are. Axx

  7. What an interesHope all is well with you. What an interesting post Anna, I do not know how I missed it?

    I've just popped over to tell you there is an award waiting for you on my blog :o)
    Best wishes
    Rose H

  8. Thank you so must for sharing this, Anna. I feel as though I've actually been on a real tour!!...and yo were a brilliant tour guide!


  9. Dearest Anna,
    Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy 2013 in great health.
    Hugs to you,

  10. I love your blog!
    Meeting you has been a pleasure