- Piper Wall is named after King Karl XII’s minister Count Carl Piper
- The garden was created around the turn of the 18th century
- Today, only a small part of the original property still exists
Walking through the Kungsholmen island in Stockholm, you will not find many places that date back longer than to the second half of the nineteenth century. However, there is at least one place between the beautiful residential buildings and impressive constructions housing public institutions, that still carries at least parts of its historic heritage.
The place is called The Piper Wall (Piperska muren) and is located right across the road from the main entrance to Stockholm Court House. Even though the wall that gave the place its name is an important part of this property, it is not the only one that is interesting. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though, and start from the beginning.
Count Carl Piper, one of the main characters in this story, purchased the land in 1694 for 9,000 daler kopparmynt. Back in the late 1600s, the property he acquired occupied the entire quarter bordered by Bergsgatan on the south and by Kungsholmsgatan on the north, meaning it was much larger than it is today. The land under the Court House, the Police House, and Polisparken was later attached to the property, too, but served a different purpose.
Piper’s intention when he acquired the property was to build Stockholm’s neatest and prettiest garden. In the following year, he had two two-floor wooden pavilions constructed in the middle of the land. Two years later, Carl Piper was named the first minister (statsråd) in Sweden’s history by King Karl XII.
While the title was certainly prestigious it was, in a way, what took everything away from Piper. The Great Northern War evoked only a couple of years later and the minister accompanied the nation’s young king to the battle. After years on the battlefield, Carl Piper fell into Russian captivity at the Battle of Poltava in 1709.
He spent the rest of his life imprisoned in Russia as, despite many efforts, Swedish officials did not manage to free him. Only his remains were returned to his homeland after his death in 1716.
Things had been moving ahead back in Stockholm in the meantime, though. Piper’s wife, Countess Christina Törnflycht, continued what her husband started. She lived at their property on Kungsholmen during summers while she used to spend winters in a palace today known as Petersen Palace (Petersenska huset) at Munkbron at the edge of the Old Town (Gamla stan).
She managed to build a splendid Baroque garden that quickly became famous for its cherry trees, carp ponds, fountains, and sculptures. In 1702, she had the wall built around the property bounding it on the eastern side facing Pipersgatan. The wall then became colloquially known as the Piper Wall, which has later become the official name of the whole property.
Meanwhile, the land across Sheelegatan I mentioned earlier was used as a kitchen garden to supply food on the table of the Piper family. Countess Christina managed the family estate very wisely, which is why many believed she inherited her financial smartness from her father Mayor Olof Hansson Törne (nobled Törnflycht).
Törne was the ultimate example of a determined businessman who worked hard to get from nothing to one of Sweden’s richest people, a statesman, and a nobleman. Remember that he lived during perhaps the most prosperous period for the country ever, between 1640 and 1713, when many of his fellow noblemen had some of Stockholm’s most splendid palaces built.
Following the death of Christina Piper in 1752, the property was acquired by the French snuff manufacturer Jean Theodor La Font. La Font was suffering financial troubles, though, which resulted in a quick decay for the Piper Wall. He parcelled the property and sold parts of it, removed the original decorated gate surrounded by pillars made of Gotland’s stone, demolished parts of the wall itself and sold the bricks to the new mint located nearby that was under construction. He even planned to remove trees from the land and plant potatoes there instead but (fortunately) never managed to do so.
Eventually, La Font did not escape bankruptcy and the property changed owner again. It was around this time that the two pavilions standing on the land were joined and that Piper Wall became associated with various fraternal orders.
Since 1807, the property has been owned by the Coldinuorden, more specifically by its Stockholm caravel, Arla Codin. The order was brought to Sweden from France in the latter half of the 18th century. Even though all rituals and inner workings of the order are secret, it is known that many of its members have connections to the Navy and several members of the Royal Family are honorary members of the order. They are also known for placing Maltese crosses near the water but the reason behind this is another one of their secrets.
In the more recent history, there was a restaurant operating at the Piper Wall, which has become especially popular among newly married couples who tied the know at Sweden’s first room for civil marriage at the Court House across the road. Although the restaurant served its customers for some 140 years, it closed its doors in 1970 and today, the property serves as a conference centre.
Hopefully, this intriguing story full of interesting historical figures and more modern secretive societies will make you want to visit the Piper Wall. I absolutely recommend you do so and while you are there you might want to check out more interesting places in the neighbourhood.
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Nordén, Åsa, 1988. Sällsamheter i Stockholm – Innerstaden.
Lindberg, Birgit, 2002. Malmgårdarna i Stockholm.
Norbelie, Harald, 1993. Vårt Kungsholmen.
Stockholms stadsmuseum, 1990. Kungsholmen Östra.