BRINKHALL’S COLOURFUL PAST
The history of Brinkhall (Prinkkala, Brinckala) manor goes back to the 16th century, when King Johan III bestowed its lands to Hans Eriksson, Governor at Turku Castle (Åbo Slott), in recognition of his faithful service. Eriksson, who also owned the Brinkala Building by the Old Market Square in Turku (Åbo), was elevated to a knighthood and exempted from taxes for the rest of his life. Thereby, Brinkhall became a manor for the free nobility.
16th-18th CENTURY: THE STONE FORTRESS
Documents from the 16th century show that Eriksson had a stone fortress built on the spot where the Chevalier’s Wing stands today. The Eriksson stronghold featured a hall, two small chambers and a cellar beneath the building. Furthermore, it is known that on the property there was also an old stone kitchen building, a wooden cottage for the tenant farmer, a few cellars, two sheds, a stable, a sauna and a malt store. The lands also included a large garden area.
After Eriksson’s death, Brinkhall was taken over by his daughter in law Brita Cruus af Edeby, and it stayed with the Cruus family up until the mid 18th century, after which ownership changed several times until, in 1792, the manor was taken over by Gabriel Bonsdorff, who had the stone stronghold demolished and the present manor house and its outbuildings built.
THE BONSDORFF ERA
Gabriel von Bonsdorff (1762-1831) was a great amateur enthusiast of architecture, and with him a new era started at Brinkhall. The manor house showing clear influences of Gustavian neo-classicism was completed in 1793. In conjunction with the outbuildings – the Chevalier’s Wing, the Bailiff’s Wing, the Old Bakery and a granary – they too designed by Bonsdorff himself – the manor shows the typical layout of similar estates of the Baroque era (something which is no longer commonly seen in Finland). Visitors today may note the close and symmetrical placing of the buildings and the octagonal form of the wing buildings.
An orchard geometrically disposed according to the ideals of the Baroque was also laid out. Here, Bonsdorff could give free rein to his other passion, namely gardening and growing useful domestic herbs. Bonsdorff was also one of the founders of the Finska Hushållningssällskapet agricultural society. Agriculture was important for the economy of the manor.
The garden featured hotbeds, berry bushes, beehives and a few dozen fruit trees of various kinds. Cereals and potatoes were grown in the fields of the estate. In its heyday the manor had six horses, a few oxen, over twenty cows, as well as calves, sheep, pigs and poultry. The large granite cow house of was one of the biggest in Turku (Åbo) in those days. Today Brinkhall’s historical orchard is one of the oldest English parks in Finland. The stone walls of the cow house still stand.
The interior hall of the Chevalier’s Wing was originally built to serve as storage for Bonsdorff’s large scientific collections. This was also where the wedding of Gabriel’s daughter Anna Catharina was held on 12 July 1818. Later, the Chevalier’s Wing was to serve as a canteen for the farm workers, and as a place for lodging temporary farm hands. It is known that the cellar beneath the Chevalier’s Wing is the only preserved part of Hans Eriksson’s stone stronghold from the 16th century.
The Bailiff’s Wing was once the home and office of the steward of Brinkhall. Today, the house serves as a summer café and as an office for The Finnish Cultural Heritage Foundation.
Also featuring a sauna, the Old Bakery has, over the years, served as the gardener’s home. The inner walls are still in their original state and provide a fine opportunity to study the construction techniques and materials of those days (incl. straw and clay).
The Bonsdorffs kept the manor up until 1845, when the ownership was passed on to a son in law, the mill owner Carl Johan Sallmén. After the Second World War, a considerable part of the population that had been evacuated from Karelia (today Russian Karelia) was settled on the Finnish countryside. Larger estates and farms had to cede considerable areas of arable land and forest to give evacuees the opportunity to work up small farms for themselves. Brinkhall gave away almost half of its land, and was also compelled to sell some seaside and lakeside chalet plots. In 1967, the manor was sold to the City of Turku (Åbo).
Mural in Manors Pompeii-room.
20th CENTURY: FROM PROSPERITY TO THE TRYING YEARS OF THE WAR
The industrial magnate Emil Sarlin, who owned the manor from 1915 to 1926, and the business executive Georg Werner Ramberg, who owned it from 1926 to 1940, had the estate shaped to meet their own preferences. The semi-circular gabled veranda was built in Sarlin’s days, and during the Ramberg era, central heating and a contemporary bathroom were installed. It was during the Ramberg era, too, that the orchard experienced its economic heyday. The apple orchard had around 5,000 trees, and the apples were sold all over Finland.
Brinkhall was one of the first neo-classical manors to be built in Finland. The interior, however, and the detailed frescos date only from the 1920s. The most peculiar detail in the manor house is the so-called Pompeii room, which is adorned with 18th-century frescos and themes from antiquity.
The layout of the manor house is still basically the same as in the 18th or 19th century, with the exception that the ground floor entrance hall and the first floor lobby have been enlarged. In the early 20th century, the ground floor “changed places” with the first-floor, which had been a more public banquet hall. Both displaying the ideals of the Baroque, the first-floor banquet hall with its painted wallpapers was moved downstairs while the bedrooms were moved upstairs.
The manor’s history as a large landed estate ended with the Second World War. During the harsh winters of the Winter War (1939-40) and the Continuation War (1941-45), the apple harvest froze, and when the cow house burned in 1942, the number of cattle had to be reduced. To settle the evacuees from the eastern Karelia province, the estate had to give away almost half of its land, and some waterfront grounds had to be sold. In 1967, Brinkhall was sold to the City of Turku.
UNDER THE WING OF THE FINNISH CULTURAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION
In 2001, the Finnish Cultural Heritage Foundation was able to buy Brinkhall from the City of Turku thanks to a donation from the family foundation Anna och Signe von Bonsdorffs släktfond. Refurbishments began two years later, and little by little the manor, worn by the tooth of time, regained much of its former splendour from the Bonsdorff era. The doors of Brinkhall were, for the first time, opened to the public in July 2005 in connexion with the Brinkhall Soi Chamber Music Festival.