The summer-seat or somerset


The »somerset» or »somerseat», known in Swedish as the
fäbodvall, is a sort of summer residence in the wood
land, temporarily occupied for cattle grazing. Agriculture,
though practised on a small scale, was originally of only inferior
importance there; and the cultivated ground was not in the
first place used for production of fodder for the animals.

But the self sown pasture lands give a scanty produce in
this northern climate. The pasteurs consequently must be
the more extensive for the feeding of a growing stock of
cattle. If moreover, as is usually the case, the ground near
the farm is more and more required for the cultivation of
new fields, it is, in order to spare the produce of the con*
tigous land for wintering, necessary to find pastures or
»summer gangs» still further from the farm, often miles away
in the forests. It then, of course, becomes impossible to
carry the milk there everey day.

That is the reason why the peasants build a sheal or booth
in the outlying district for which the young maid, säterjäntan,
bujäntan, bustårsan, leaves in the early summer with the
cows and goats.

There she stays till the autumn when the men of the
hamlet arrive to bring home on pack-horses the cheese
and other milk products that she has prepared during the

It often happens that they break the land around the
»set», which gradually becomes a real farmstead or, since
the peasants of a hamlet usually have their abodes lying
close together, develops into a new hamlet. This in its turn
causes more somersets to be constructed further away
in the wilderness. The summer-houses have thus been
from times of yore the outposts of culture. Of such houses,
which are called in Swedish fäbodar and säterbodar, we
may still trace reminiscences in names of places ending in
-bod, and -säter, which are still to be met with in
provinces where the use of fädbodar has vanished long ago.

These summer abodes have, in their method of construe*
tion, maintained exceptionally old forms, owing to the fact
that they are used only as temporary dwellings during the
summer. The desire for comfort which has gradually
asserted itself in rural communities has left the somersets
unaffected, and we therefore find in them architectural
features preserved which were characteristic of a farmyard
of the North long before the close of the heathen period.
The buildings lay irregularly dispersed within an enclosure,
each containing only a single room. The »somerset maid»,
fäbodjäntan, lives in the »fire house» , stårriset, which
corresponds to the winter abode in the walley. She
has her bed on a shelf fastened to the inner gable and
cooks her food over the open hearth in the middle of the floor.
There is no chimney the smoke finding its way out through
a hole in the roof, Ijore, which at the same time serves for
a window. A »hood», huf, consisting of split logs which
incline towards the apex, is placed over the Ijore to prevent
the rain and snow from falling into the fire. That hood,
however, is usually wanting. There are fixed settles at the
sides of the room. The door is in one of the gable*ends
and is protected by a kind of porch formed by the pro*
jection of the roof and the sidewalls. The walls are constructed
of round timbers crosscut at the corners. The
roof which rests on round ridges consists of split logs,
takved, laid alternately in two layers.

We should notice the resemblance between The English word
»booth» and the Swedish bod. In the Welsh laws »booth» is also
mentioned in the sense of »summerhouse» = Swedish fäbod.

The storehouse, boden or bun, in plan and construction
resembles the fire^house, save that there is no fireplace
nor smoke hole in the former and that the roof is covered
with turf instead of split logs. The fixtures consist of
shelves on which the cheeses, the milk vessels and other
household stores have their places.

Fäbodvallen was erected in Skansen in 1891 as a copy of a somerset
from the parish of Mörsil in Jämtland. The timber was given by
G. Eriksson of Mörsil, member of the Parliament.

Text from Guide to Skansen by Axel Nilsson 1911. Public domain.
Image by User:Salgo60. CC BY SA.