Jonsered Mansion, today owned by the Gothenburg University
Photo © J E Nilsson and C M Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010
When we first approached the Jonsered Mansion it was one of those early winter days where the night frost had added a crystal sparkle to everything, like a dusting icing sugar on the grounds.
It was William Gibson (1783-1857) who in 1825 together with Alexander Keiller (1804-1874), started the firm of Gibson & Keiller that ran a rope-and hemp spinning mill in Gothenburg. In 1833 the Scottish industrial families of Gibson and Keiller saw the potential in the local waterfalls and thought to use them in delivering power to an originally textile industry which was soon developed into all kinds of factories and workshops.
The downstream – towards Gothenburg – running rivers could produce much needed power, but it also made upstream delivery of raw materials and just about anything needed, a cumbersome activity. Because of this observation the Gibson family made a virtue of the necessity and set out to produce as much of anything that was needed locally, and used the downstream river for power and deliveries. Alexander Keiller left the firm in 1839 and the company was run thereafter by William Gibson.
But around this area and its factories, a whole village – Jonsered – was built, that is unique in Swedish industrial history in such a way that it was wholly owned from top to bottom, cradle to grave, by one family – the Gibsons. The factory organized child care, health care, schools old folks homes and even built a church. In many ways this set examples that showed the way towards a more modern society. One that was not in place in the rest of Sweden and would not be for many years.
Today the private living quarters of the Gibson family who created this unique society, Jonsered Mansion, is acquired by the Gothenburg University to be used as a meeting place for conferences. The exquisite surroundings create a congenial environment for the needs of today’s knowledge industry where the Gothenburg University is the center of gravity.
So the pictures shown here are not from a recent holiday but from work. Located in the midst of one of western Sweden’s most coveted nature reserves, this large house that seems to traverse beautifully across time, is a place for the faculty and personnel of the University of Gothenburg alike, to get out of their office and work across disciplines. It is an environment that encourages a cross-pollination of innovative ideas, an environment that encourages creativity in thought.
It was a pride and a pleasure to have been invited there for a three day seminar that however demanding, left a few moments for excursions in the surroundings to see what was left of the creations of the Gibson and Keiller.
High on a hillock is the Jonsered church, built by a grant from the Gibson family, oddly enough facing north but with a full view of the old Jonsered village.
Jonsered’s old factory workers village. In 1832 Gibson & Keiller bought the Jonsered estate with its history running back at least to the 17th century, and built a weaving-mill for sails and heavy cloth, and a mechanical workshop with a foundry.
Everywhere in the surrounding nature there are running water in all kinds of rivers and brooks, reminding us of the original power that created the economic foundation for the Jonsered industrial society