From the noisy pits of hell to a quiet corner of heaven

The house we stayed in at Flerohopp was massive. I was talking to the host yesterday, and she said that they were expecting a booking for a kid’s football team numbering 20 people. She told them that there’s only one bathroom, but they were happy to use the football changing rooms for that sort of thing. Being kids, I guess a few of them can bunk down, dirty on the floor.

The house was, until recently, divided into flats. You can see the rooms and divisions inside where the owners are still renovating. But, it’s equally obvious that it wasn’t originally built as a block of flats.

In fact, Rullan, as the house is called, was a factory.

While the main rooms are on the ground and second floors, there is also an attic space which is a bit creepy. It also has a rather ominous length of hangman’s rope hanging from a rafter. We only went up there once. I think the football kids will love it.

Rullan (which means roller) was built sometime in the 18th century. Early maps show buildings as early as 1786 but whether they were Rullan specifically, is anyone’s guess.

The first real information about the house dates from the early 1880’s. Prior to that it had been used in conjunction with the mill pond by the front gate (as is now). This pond and the buildings were associated with ironworks which ceased operating in 1879.

The original ironworks was set up by three enterprising chaps, Georg Wilhelm Fleetwood, Gustaf Fredrik Rothlieb, and Caspar Didrik Hoppenstedt senior. They took the first syllables of their surnames and came up with Fle-Ro-Hopp, which is where the name of the village comes from.

After ironworks operations ceased, along came Magnus August Bolander, who bought the lot and transformed Rullan into a sawmill and bobbin factory.

A lot of his bobbins ended up in England, which is an odd little fact, but the manufacturing was not his greatest interest. That lay in hydroelectricity. To that end, he had the dams in the area expanded and built turbines for the operation of his machinery.

When Magnus died in 1887, his widow, Augusta, took over. Obviously sick of bobbins, she turned the business into a glassmaking mill in 1891. Judging by the signs to glassmaking museums in the area, I’m thinking there was a lot of it about.

Rullan was then moved and converted into living space for the glassmaking workers. A lot of the houses in the little settlement were moved at one stage or another. In fact, Rullan today has a basement, but this was built just before the house was moved. It was put on top of it in 1926. It makes me wonder if this was how Ikea came about. Is it possible to flat pack then rebuild a Swedish house on top of a new basement?

Rullan isn’t the only house with a historic past in Flerohopp. Just next door, for instance, is The Ark.

In 1767, The Ark was described as being “…a mill building consisting of a hall, kitchen, two chambers and basement below…” It was probably originally built in around 1726.

The building was owned by Hildebrant Hildebrandsson and his wife Lovisa. Hildebrant had arrived in Flerohopp in 1782 as the ironworks manager and quickly transformed the whole enterprise into a smooth running machine and became very wealthy in the process. He married Lovisa Mörck in 1786 and they had eight children though only five survived beyond infancy.

The newly-weds expanded the place in 1786 to include a kitchen and office downstairs with living quarters upstairs. It was only two thirds the length it is today. The full size was reached in 1826 when one of Hildebrant and Lovisa’s five sons, Isac, decided it wasn’t big enough and had it enlarged, then moved in as manager.

As a side note, Lovisa was a pretty amazing woman. Apart from many other things she achieved, she vaccinated thousands of children against smallpox before it became the responsibility of the local government. She was extremely caring and philanthropic and was much loved by the local population.

But back to Isac Hildebrant. He didn’t just use the building as an office and somewhere to live. The Ark was also a warehouse, shop and workers’ housing.

When Magnus Bolander was next door, the Ark was sitting at the edge of the pond, the length of the building running west-east. For reasons unknown it was around this time that the house was called The Ark.

In 1949, the whole building was turned 90° so that it now stands north-south. It would appear that the building was suffering from damp because of its close proximity to the mill pond. Turning it 90° alleviated this.

Apart from the historical interest, this whole village is an example of how we can recycle and reuse rather than tear down and build again.

Something else well worth mentioning is how ridiculously quiet, tranquil and perfect the place is these days. Obviously it wouldn’t have been so lovely when the works were in full swing but, these days, it’s bliss. And that’s largely thanks to Georg, Gustaf, Caspar, Hildebrant, Lovisa, Magnus and Augusta.

There is a lot of information about the history of Flerohopp and surrounding areas here. It’s all in Swedish but a browser translator doesn’t make too much of a hash of it.

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