The wall around the Woodland Cemetery is a vital part of the landscape architecture, and the site’s major construction project. The semi-circular main entrance and the wall along Sockenvägen were finished in 1923. The rest was built between 1923 and ’32, a decade-long public works project.
Walled cemeteries have been traditional since the Reformation. Martin Luther described the importance of seclusion and peace in burial grounds, and of keeping animals from violating the graves. The wall separated consecrated and unconsecrated ground and divided people into worthy and unworthy. The unworthy, including the unbaptised, suicides and executed criminals, were given plots outside the wall.
One man died and we all worked like galley slaves
A blacksmith employed on the wall recalled the work: “They pulled in all kinds of professions, like unemployed bakers and cobblers. They weren’t accustomed to rough work and many found it very hard.”
All work was done manually; men bored and blasted by hand, dug trenches with spades and pickaxes, moved soil with wheelbarrows, mixed cement on the spot. The stone, some from the quarry in nearby Blåsut, was brought in by horse and carriage.
The stones were lifted into place with a stump puller, also used for the gravestones.
A workman was killed under a tipper and piecework conditions were blamed, as was work “like for galley slaves”. Pay was poor — 35—50 öre an hour compared with 1 krona för normal unskilled work. Supervisory work and work with explosives were paid extra.
One perk was free working clothes: footwear and corduroy trousers and vest. In their contract the workers promised not to “misuse, sell, pawn, lend or otherwise despoil the clothing”.
When the wall was finished in 1932 it had taken 48,000 workdays and 13,000 cubic metres of stone, at a cost of about SEK 600,000. The entire wall was 3,782 metres-long.
In 1972 the Woodland Cemetery was extended by 13 hectares to the south enclosed by a new wall of 446 metres. The new wall was built with mechanical help.
All in all, the wall is 4,228 metres-long and one of Sweden’s longest stone walls.
The Woodland Cemetery 100 years
Skogskyrkogården, The Woodland Cemetery, celebrates its 100th anniversary with a new outdoor exhibition. September 19—November 1, 2020. Free admission.