Excerpt from "The Book of Margretetorp" with the author Ove Torgny's permission.

Margretetorp - One of the Nordic countries' oldest inns

Margretetorp is located strategically along the natural and important thoroughfare from Skåne to the rest of Sweden, and of course Norway. Here at the foot of the Hallandsås, travellers have stopped throughout the ages for food and rest, both before and after the demanding and arduous journey across the sandy ridge.

There is evidence that an inn existed on the site as early as the 1300s. Some data suggests that the inn is even older. In the Middle Ages, officials travelled diligently and royal estates and the nobility farms would house them overnight. Church people spent the night in the monastery or parsonages. Other travellers were few, and welcome at the farm anytime. Without concrete evidence, it may have been that there were peasants in Margretetorp who happily opened their home to travellers. But with increasing traffic followed abuse of this hospitality and peasants' homes were invaded by guests who left without paying.

King Magnus III (aka Magnus Ladulås [trans: Magnus barnlock]) issued rules as early as 1280 in Sweden to stop this abuse of hospitality. In every village there should be a person in charge of providing food and lodging who would receive payment in Denmark, consequently King Erik Klipping decreed a law in 1283 in Skåne requiring that there should be shelters along the roads. Union Queen Margaret I's law from 1396 made sure that there were inns at forty-kilometre intervals.

Margretetorp was at just the right distance from Helsingborg to be the first port for travellers who were travelling northward. Queen Margaret travelled a lot and knew what requirements should be set as to standards. The medieval mode of transport was of course the horse. Inns served as contemporary service stations. Here you could change horses or continue travelling with another carriage. The inn and carriage system became fully developed when Skåne became Swedish and Queen Christina issued an inn ordinance in the year 1644.

A place where things happen

After the Peace of Roskilde in 1658, when amongst other things, Scania and Hallandia were ceded to Sweden, difficult times lay ahead for Margretetorp because of the precarious border situation. Snapphanar (members of a pro-Danish guerrilla group) and the Danish and Swedish troops looted and burned. The whole village including the inn were surely burned down. Long before the Snapphane-war, the Hallandsås had also been a haunt for robbers and lumbermen. Up until the 1800s robbers and bandits were simply part of the dangers of travelling over the ridge for road users.

In the coming years of peace in the 1700s Margretetorp was built up to full operational state. The new estate was built as a large Scanian farmhouse. The inns, in contrast to the village pubs, had come into existence by royal decrees and thus fulfilled many roles. They were not only eating and resting spots, but also served as meeting places for farmers, and as hubs for the carriage systems and post transfer.

Ekbergs – a real family inn

For a very long aftertime, Margretetorp was owned by the Ekberg family. The parish registers are a reliable basis until the latter part of the 1700s, but the yards were often handed down from father to son, and so it would also have been here. Anders Ekberg was the innkeeper in the second half of the 1800s, the years when the inns were developed into food-serving travel destinations. He was a stalwart man who gladly helped the police in pursuit of the thieves on the ridge. Anders's rifle always hung over the bed - loaded.

When Anders died in 1896 his widow Helen took over. She had grown up with her wealthy aunt in Ireland and it had been on a visit to the Hallandsås when she had met Anders. She ruled the estate with a firm hand until his death in 1909. She was not just any old Innkeeper, she spoke three foreign languages fluently. Helena had the red brick house, known today as Vinslottet (= the wine castle), built in Irish-English style in 1902.

The next generation of Ekbergs was the legendary Carl Ekberg and his wife Esther. He was a storyteller who gave Fredrik Böök material for his "Historier från Hallandsåsen" (Stories from the Hallandsås), and that made Margretetorp the literary inn is it today. Also in the literary and artistic circle around Fredik Böök were Erik Lindorm and Albert Engström.

During Carl's time the inn moved to "Vinslottet". The inn remained in this building until 1955. As early as 1938 Carl bought the Per-Anders farm that has been in a peasant family for hundreds of years. In 1956 the inn moved there. It is this estate that is today the main building.

Queen Margaret's torp

Legend has it that Queen Margaret travelled at the head of her army to try to defeat the Swedish king Albrecht of Mecklenburg. She was to go over the ridge with her company and needed food and rest. Queen Margaret stopped in at the pub in Kägletorp – as Margretetorp was then called - and found the service to be good. The landlord was so pleased that he named the tavern Margretetorp on the spot, to preserve the memory of the royal visit.

It's a good story, but according to the archive of dialect and place names in Lund the name is probably much older than that. Farm names with Margaret as an antecedent became common under the 11-1200s. The first written reference to Margretetorp is in Krabbe's land register from 1524.

We find Margretetorp on the map for the first time in 1644. "Scania vulgo Schonen" is the first reasonably accurate map of Scania.

Celebrities passing through

Birger Jarl travelled to Denmark to marry the Danish King Abel's widow Mechtil. In 1261 he passed Margretetorp with his large company on both the journey down and back up. There he found a friendly family to stay with, so the legend tells.

Both rikshövitsmannen (= a military regent who leads the army) Engelbrecht, who in spring 1436 met Erik av Pommern's forces in Luntertun – today's Ängelholm –, and Saint Birgitta may have travelled through the village of Margretetorp.

In June 1654 the abdicated Queen Christina passed the border between Sweden and Denmark. When she crossed the border she changed from her royal clothing to men's clothes with a sword at her hip. It is unlikely that she changed out on the moor. Margretetorp was the first place she would have encountered south of the border, so it is likely that the change took place there.

Gustaf III met his bride Sophia Magdalena in Helsingborg in 1766 and escorted her home with an entourage of 400 horses and 56 wagons. At the bridge over the border creek, the inhabitants of Hallandia had erected a triumphal arch of fir twigs with a crown, which remains in Östra Karup's church.

Oscar I visited Margretetorp in connexion with the new road being opened in 1850. Gustav VI often stopped on route to Sofiero.

The last major visit was when Carl XVI Gustaf made his Eriksgata together with Queen Silvia in September 1983. Lunch was taken at Margretetorp with a typical Scanian Menu: herring dishes, pheasant, coffee and cake.

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