The Estate through the ages
During the Stone Age the entire region of Sodermanland was submerged under the Baltic
Sea; the many lakes are fjords and gulfs that the rising of the land have left behind.
Around the lake Baven are plenty of prehistoric sites, for these lands were easily
defended and the people had trade routes on the waterways out to the Baltic Sea.
At the northern end of the lake was a small, flat hill on three sides surrounded
by water. This spot is where Rockelstad lies today. It is a natural place for a
settlement that probably was inhabited as early as the Iron Age, of which testify
the remains of two hill-top fortresses, built in the first centuries AD. The very
spot where the castle and its wings are today was most likely inhabited from the
Viking Age on. The name Rockelstad was pronounced "Rok-li-stad" by the Viking tongue.
Rokli is Old Nordic for "little rock", which is quite apparent in English.
Rockelstad thereby means, not very poetically, the place on the little rock.
The middle Ages
Rockelstad appears in written history the first time in the 14th century, when the
Bishop of Strangnas bought Roklista village and estate by the priest in Forssa. The
church's possession of the land meant that new and prestigious buildings were built.
These houses with vaulted cellars of bricks were built around 1380. The estate has more
or less the same perimeter today as in medieval times. The ownership of the Rockelstad
Estate was transferred to the Crown at the land-reduction of King Gustav Vasa in the
1520ies, when he abolished the Catholic Church. The land was distributed to his son,
Duke Charles of Sodermanland, who in his turn passed it on to an officer in his service,
his Master of Quarter, a Sean Stuart. He belonged to a branch of the Scottish royal
family, and he went to Sweden as a mercenary serving the sons of Gustav Vasa during
their wars with Denmark.
The Stuart Age
Sean Stuart left Rockelstad to his son David, who decided to make the estate his Seat.
At that time a nobleman had the right to name one of his estates the Seat of his family.
Such a land did not have to pay tax, but to receive authorisation as a noble Seat it was
needed to arrange facilities and maintenance according to specific demands by the state.
Therefore David had the medieval buildings demolished and erected a larger wooden mansion,
partly on the old foundations. This was in AD 1642. Beneath it's typically shaped slated
roof it now had a second floor, but the 14th century cellars were kept, and are still in
use today. It was one of the privileges of a noble Seat to be freed of the usual window-tax,
so David Stuart could afford as many as 28 windows on his house. David was married twice,
first with Anna Kruse of Elghammar and later with Brita Liljeram of Langbro. These two
ladies are the famous Ladies Stuart, the traditional Ghosts of Rockelstad, who still haunts
the west wing.
John Robert Stuart took over the estate in 1660. He was also married twice, first with
Anna Oliokvist, then with Beata Gyllenanckar. The later wife came from a wealthy family
and brought a substantial dowry with her.
Dining room ceiling from the 17th century
It is very likely that the superb painted ceilings in the lower floor of the castle
were ordered for this wedding, in 1688. Seven of these ceilings are preserved, and
six of these are executed in the pompous barocco fashion of that time. During the
time of Beata Gyllenanckar four new wings were erected, separate from the main
building, on the foundations of the medieval houses.
The large west wing was aimed from the start to be the guest-house. The east wing was
the kitchen-wing, from where the food was carried into the mansion, but which also had
rooms for washing and storing textiles, bedrooms for the maids and a schoolroom. The two
small wings were built to be the dairy and the carpentry of the estate. On a map,
depicting the estate as it were in the 17th century, a sawmill can be seen; it was
operational in the early part of the century. It probably provided timber from the
woods of the estate, when all of these houses were being built.
The 18th and 19th Centuries
The estate was inherited by Karl Rosenholm
sometime around 1700. His widow, Brita von Berchner of Lindenas, sold
Rockelstad in 1740 to Simon Jakob Wennerstedt, who provided the west wing with its
wonderful doors and panelling, which can still be seen in the lower floor of
that house. Otto Gabriel Holst becomes the new owner in 1782, and he renovates
and modernises the buildings in the classical style of that time. The wooden log-houses
are covered with plaster to make the house appear like made of stone. The exterior
of the four wings have remained more or less unchanged since that time. The
widow of Otto Holst, Fredrika Sofia Linsfelt, was inherited in 1830 by her son
Johan Ludvig Holst.
After a period of
frequent owner-changes, the estate was bought by Carl Sylvan in 1887. Sylvan
was a successful merchant who could pride himself with the title of Commissioner
for the Royal Court.
He had the ambition, in line with current fashion, to transform the old mansion
to a romantic miniature 16th century castle. For this purpose the he
had four sturdy domed corner-towers erected in 1889, round ones toward the yard
and square toward the lake. The Turkish room in the south-western tower is
preserved in its original appearance, and it illuminates the fascination for
the Orient that was a part of the spirit of that time. Also the dining-room in
the lower floor of the castle is unchanged after the Sylvan reconstruction,
with high panels and a large vault leading into the adjoining music-chamber in
When they tore a hole in the old wooden mansion, they rediscovered the decorated
ceilings from the Stuart-era, which had been covered with cloth since the 18th
century. The fantastic ceiling in the dining-room with its acanthus ornaments and
illustrated Latin proverbs was renovated by Sylvan, for in the late 19th century
such overflowing interiors had again become popular. The surrounding estate was
put in order as well; a new stable was erected, adorned with wooden lacework, and
the Park was supplied with a bowling-alley, which still is in playable condition.
The Park at that time continued far out onto the peninsula on the east side of the
lake, and here he placed a little romantic cabin in Wilhelm-Tell style, that the
current owners have restored. Carl Sylvan did not have time to enjoy his
Sleeping-Beauty castle, however, for construction costs and a recession made him
go bankrupt, and he had to escape to America, where he eventually ended up as the
owner of several hotels in Chicago.
The von Rosen era
The von Rosen family by Yggdrasil
Count Carl-Gustaf von Rosen purchased Rockelstad in 1899. He was an official at
the Court of King Oscar II, and married to Ella Moore, the daughter of a fabulously
rich industrialist in Philadelphia. But later that same year the castle Örbyhus in
Uppland was for sale, and in the year 1900 he purchased that castle for himself and
his oldest son. Therefore Rockelstad became available for his youngest son Eric. He
was then 21 years old and well funded indeed, and had a taste for fine arts,
literature and adventurous travels. He was committed to continue the rebuilding
project of Sylvan, and finish what he had initiated. For this purpose he engaged
a friend from school, Ivar Tengbom, who at that time still was a student of
architecture. Tengbom raised the central section of the castle and had the exterior
clad with bricks and sandstone
Count Eric von Rosen as young in hunting outfit
The lake-side face was completely rearranged and was supplied with loggias and
balconies supported by massive arcades. A portal adorned with towers was erected
to give balance to and confine the yard. Inside Tengbom was assigned to design the
monumental great hall in two storeys, all in renaissance with high, ornamented
panelling inspired from Duke Charles chamber in Gripsholm Castle. A study for the
count was installed in one of the round towers, this also with exquisitely decorated
panels and a majestic cassette-ceiling. The Park was redesigned by the well known
garden-architect Rudolf Abelin.
The castle must also be filled with the proper mixture of art and antiques.
Eric von Rosen brought together a collection of ancient furniture from the 16th
and 17th centuries. Inherited objects and hunting-trophies, objects of fine art
and family portraits, all this taken together became the interior of one of the
most exclusive and interesting private homes of that time.
When Rockelstad was due prepared Eric could marry his betrothed, Mary Fock. But in
spite of all this he longed to go on Viking journeys to faraway lands. He had participated
in one expedition already, to Argentine and the Bolivian Andes, in 1901-1902. In advance
of this journey he had gone through an education in ethnography, and it was as an
ethnographer he wanted to make his mark. He decided in 1911 to cross the African continent
from south to north, a journey from Cape to Alexandria, with the hope of finding
undiscovered tribes and artefacts. Most of the way he went by foot, the trip took
nearly two years and he came back loaded with objects. One previously unknown tribe was
discovered, the Batwa-people in the marshlands of Tanganyika deep in the Congo's. The
great hall at Rockelstad was arranged as an ethnographical museum, where African
trophies and shrunken pygmy heads as well as South American Indian objects, were
displayed. In adjacent rooms were collections of items of Swedish and European
cultural-history, from the Stone-age and forward. On the shelves of the Book-room
was kept a gathering of medieval illustrated manuscripts and other rare books.
This home that was in fact a museum became a popular site for knowledge-seekers,
and was according to the von Rosen family visited by 100.000 people between the
world wars. Eric also published accounts of his adventures in books and articles.
The countess Mary von Rosen was a colourful personality like her husband. She had
inherited a profound religious sentiment from her Irish mother, and she had in 1909
a chapel built in one of the towers. This room, designed by Tengbom, is in a sincere
medieval fashion. On the walls, borne by polygonal pillars, are the nine revelations
of Saint Bridget painted, why the room is called the Chapel of St. Bridget. Mary was
also the originator of Societas Sanctae Birgittae, a protestant counterpart to the
Catholic Order of St. Bridget.
Count von Rosen's devotion to hunting is apparent not only through the Great Russian
bear in the hall, which has become something of a symbol for Rockelstad. In a large
area of natural forest that Eric made into a protected reserve, is a remarkable
hunting-lodge. It was built in 1910-1911 by a team of timber-men from Dalarna,
following drawings by Tengbom. The lodge is in Old Nordic style, with the heads
of the Fenris-wolf on the roof and a high-seat flanked by Odin and Thor, each carved
from a massive piece of timber.
The west wing went through a thorough renovation in the 1920th. In its lower floor
were decorated six light rooms with hand-painted wall-decorations in pale 18th century
colours. Here Rockelstad shows an altogether different side than the dark and heavy
atmosphere in the castle. In the upper floor of the west wing is the Hunting-room and
the Gothic chamber, which were designed to house von Rosen's fine collection of
medieval furniture. The Hunting-room, with its enormous open fireplace and pinewood
walls, is an attempt by Tengbom to create a medieval Knights Hall, and the room also
has an intricate system of hidden doors, behind which was stored the estate's archives.
Helene and Christer von Post
The current inhabitants, Helene and Christer von Post, became the new owners of
Rockelstad in 1973. Their purpose was to farm the land, and even though the castle
and wings were in bad condition, they preferred rather to maintain the old than to
implement change. The spirit of that time resulted in the destruction or modernization
of many old country houses, with all what that means of plastic floors and paint.
Rockelstad emerged more or less unchanged even though many benevolently advised to replace
the "heap of bricks" with a modern bungalow. Therefore most of the von Rosen interiors are
preserved, and several of the larger pieces of furniture also remain. The west wing still
has its old set of furniture, specially ordered for each room from NK- carpentries in
Nykoping, but the east wing was made into a private household in 1976 and has recently
been restored after a fire.
Helene and Christer von Post have gone from a large-scale farming business to spending most
of their time arranging conventions and guided tours around the castle. This enterprise has
required some changes in the old houses, mostly to install showers, but the work has been
done quite invisibly. Rockelstad is proud to offer its customers bedrooms, dining-rooms and
other rooms of high standard, all furnished with the original antiques. The old washing-house
of the estate, designed by Tengbom in 1906 in Nordic style, has been redecorated to
incorporate a charming dining/dancing hall and cosy bedrooms on the upper floor. Upon a jetty
in the Park is a boathouse with a sauna and canoes, and a porch on the waterfront; a perfect
calm place to enjoy the serene reflection of the descending sun in lake Bavens quiet waters.
From 2004 the different operations of the farm is managed by Anna and Fredrik von Post,
who also live at the farm. 2005 the dining room/veranda of the east wing was rebuilt
into a fine dining room nearby the original manor house kitchens.
The business was also expanded to include weddings, for which we can offer quite
a unique concept for. Some major reconstruction takes place almost every year, in order
to enlarge the scene of possible arrangements for which we can let our visitors
help us sponsoring the extensive maintenance.
Owners from 1599
Click the picture for a larger version where the noble family shields can be interpreted.