Foto: Åsa Setterby Modéus



A well-preserved old-time village in Döderhult Parish, near Oskarshamn. It feels as if time has stood still here. With its red cabins, small lots, grazing pastures, and endless fencing, the village provides a glimpse of the farming of yesteryear in the Smålandian backwoods. Old breeds of farm animals reinforce the picture. This is the landscape of both Vilhelm Moberg and Astrid Lindgren. In fact, some scenes in the Emil in Lönneberga movies were filmed here.

The village of Stensjö was mentioned in writing for the first time in 1351 – Stenzöö, “stoney island.” The name makes sense if you consider what the landscape looked like before brooks and other waterways were drained to provide arable land. The oldest map of Stensjö is from 1709. All of Stensjö was then owned by Wendela Hammarskjöld and was tilled by a tenant farmer. In the great land reform of 1815–1816 there were five owners, but the reform prompted a dispute that led to its exemption from the next national reform, that of 1850. As a result, all of the farms were allowed to remain inside the village instead of being moved to the periphery.


The village was kept within the same family from the early 1700s to 1960 – for seven generations. At most the village had 176 inhabitants. In the 1940s the farms grew less profitable, and the open spaces of the village became overgrown. In 1945 and 1951 the village’s last two farms were shut down. But a native son of the village – Erik Stensiö, professor of palaeontology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History – managed to drum up interest in the village as a unique setting that could be saved. Most of the village was purchased by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities in 1963 with the assistance of a generous donation from the Gunvor and Josef Anér Foundation.


The restored Stensjö now stands as a piece of living history. The work took thirty years and represents the most comprehensive restoration of a cultural landscape ever undertaken in Sweden. Today maintenance is underway year round, and the land is kept clear by grazing and crop cultivation, just as in a living village. As far as possible, the farming is ecological. It is based on ancient traditions but is carried out with modern machinery. Village pastures are grazed by rya (carpet-wool) sheep and hornless red cows, and old-time Scanian chickens peck outside the henhouse. You can stroll around and enjoy the changing seasons. The ancient cultural landscape, with its unique diversity of plants and animals, is being carried on for future generations.


> Gamla foton från Stensö by  som det såg ut i början av 1900-talet.


Foto: Hasse Schröder