The history of the estate

Gunnebo House was constructed at the end of the 18th century as a summer residence in the neoclassical style for John Hall, at the time one of the wealthiest men in Gothenburg. He engaged the services of the city architect of Gothenburg, Carl Wilhelm Carlberg, to design the house and the surrounding gardens, the servants’ quarters and the service buildings. When John Hall purchased Gunnebo in 1778 there was an older house on the site and there is mention of the property in the church records from the middle of the 13th century. However, any traces of settlement from the time before the Hall family were gradually removed to make way for Carlberg’s vision of the main building.

The architect

Before Carlberg began working at Gunnebo he embarked on a grand tour of Europe. A Grand Tour was a journey of inspiration and knowledge which many architects and artists undertook at that time. Often they were accompanied by a rich young man who paid for the journey and accommodation. Carlberg was accompanied on his journey by Johan Alströmer, the son of Jonas Alströmer, a vociferous advocate of the potato as a food, the founder of Alingsås Manufakturverk and one of the founders of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1737.

The Grand Tour included visits to countries such as France, England, Germany and Italy and their most important buildings dating from the antique and Renaissance periods. More contemporary buildings, such as Versailles, were also important points of interest. Carlberg was influenced greatly by his journey and in particular he was impressed by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio was a master of symmetrical buildings and it was this symmetry in particular that was highly significant in neoclassical architecture, of which Gunnebo is an excellent example.

The Hall Family

In 1755, John Hall was granted a franchise to carry on business in the city and from 1767 he ran the trading house John Hall & Co. It was one of the largest trading houses in Gothenburg, specialising in wood, bar iron and train oil. The wood and the bar iron came from Dalsland and Värmland and the train oil was extracted from herring. There was an abundance of herring along the Swedish West Coast during the latter half of the 18th century and this contributed greatly to the development and expansion of the Gothenburg area.

The heyday for the Hall family at Gunnebo was relatively short. After a construction period of almost 20 years, John and Christina only had a couple of years together at their summer residence before John Hall the elder died in 1802. The trading house passed to John Hall the younger following his father’s death. He was described by his contemporaries as an artistic soul without any talent for business. Several of his drawings have been preserved and are an important means of showing what Gunnebo was like during the time the family lived there. Despite his lack of business acumen, he took over the trading house but after five years it went bankrupt.

After the bankruptcy there followed a long period of legal wrangling where John Hall the younger attempted to reclaim money and the right to reside at Gunnebo. The legal proceedings were protracted and were to continue for almost the rest of his life. He regained the rights to Gunnebo in 1826 and lived there for one and a half years. He then moved to Stockholm and Gunnebo fell into decay. The legal proceedings left John Hall the younger impoverished and in 1828 he sold all the furniture and fittings at Gunnebo. He died in December 1830, leaving no heirs.

Later history

After the Hall family’s time at Gunnebo there were several different owners during the 19th century up to the point at which the Sparre family moved there in 1889. Gunnebo was a wedding gift to Carl and Hilda Sparre from Hilda’s father Wilhelm Denninghoff. The Sparre family lived at Gunnebo all year round and they were the owners who lived in the house the longest. Carl Sparre died in 1917 and Hilda lived there alone until her death in 1948. Her estate was sold to the city of Mölndal and Gunnebo became a museum. In 1963 the site was listed and in 2003 Gunnebo was named a cultural reserve, the first in Västra Götaland.