Hunting at Norra Djurgården 1824. Philip Bernhard Hebbe. Nordiska museet.
The Hunting Park
Besides providing agricultural produce and defence, North and South Djurgården were of importance for ensuring the availability of game. Interest in hunting grew apace over the years and in the 1570s Johan III built the first true ‘animal park’ with reindeer, red deer and elk, in the proximity of the Nordic Museum. In the 1680s Karl XI fenced off the whole of North and South Djurgården as a hunting park, a feature attached to all self-respecting European royal courts.
The hunting park stretched from Stora Lappkärsberget in the north to Täcka Udden on South Djurgården. It was surrounded by twenty kilometres of fencing, two-metre high. The fence was needed to keep in the animals but also to prevent wolves, bears and poachers from gaining access. In order for the fence to not be longer than necessary, it did not follow the shoreline but was placed a bit inland. The intervening space was made into plots for sailors, carpenters, and fishermen. Parts of the park were fenced in for silage for the winter feed. All previous cultivated land was now left fallow for meadows and pastures to provide for the deer and tame animals. At most the park housed 1,500 deer.
An animal-park management team was formed with caretakers, gatekeepers and royal foresters, who had small houses built for them on Djurgården. Besides shelters for the animals and farm structures, these were in the main the only buildings within the hunting park. Access to the park was granted on payment of a fee at one of the many blue-painted gates. A present-day reminder of this era is Blå Porten (the Blue Gate) built in the 1840s to replace an older rundown park gate, immediately south of Djurgårdsbron bridge.
The strand along Djurgården offered good fishing, especially in the inlet at Husarviken where the fishing was reserved for the king. Karl XI built a fishing cabin here, today the oldest building in the national city park. Owing to the land-rise, this fishing cabin, Fiskartorpet, now lies quite a distance from the water.
The royal game-keepers were permitted to occasionally produce and distribute aquavit, an activity which provided a welcome addition to their incomes. The tavern inventory of 1733 lists 32 premises serving spirits on South Djurgården. These usually lay close to the game-keeper’s houses at the gates. The most popular tavern was Lill-Jans in the area of the present Royal Institute of Technology. In 1755 these taverns were banned and transformed into abstinence houses which served warm milk fresh from the cow.
The great era of the hunting park lasted until the middle of the 18th century. The then king, Adolf Fredrik, was not particularly interested in hunting and instead opened up the area for outings and pleasure. At the end of the 1820s all fencing was demolished and the remaining deer were moved to a smaller enclosure in present-day Hjorthagen (the Deer Enclosure).