The history of Gnesta region can be divided into four main periods of change –the period when the inland ice retreated forming the rift valley landscape of central Sweden, the growth of agriculture, and the railway and service society’s influence on the area’s appearance and expansion. Each of these four periods has left a clear mark on the region, and each still exists in parallel with one another.
About 4,000 years ago (1800 BC) the area around Gnesta was an inlet of the Baltic Ocean. Just a few of the highland points in and around today’s community protruded out of the water as islands. The water level back then was some 15 metres higher than it is today (approx. 25 metres above sea level). Stone axes are some of the few traces of human activity that have been found in the area.
A few hundred years later the water level sank a further 5–7 metres (lower than 20 metres above sea level). Large areas therefore joined together to form land. Now many more traces from human activity could be found. We can mostly see burial grounds from the early Bronze Age in the area.
By the year 500 the water level had sunk to approx. 2 metres above today’s level (approx. 12 metres above sea level).
During this era graves were placed in grave-fields. About ten grave-fields have been discovered from this era. Perhaps the two ancient castles in the area were also built during this era (one is located on the highlands north of Yttervalla, by Båtsvik, lake Storsjön, and the other on the highlands by lake Sillen’s north-east coast).
Some farm names in the area have been found in various documents dating from the 14th century. A document dated 1314 appears to mention the name Fröstunum (Frustuna — from the Norse god Frö).
Other farm names from the area that appear to have been established from this era are Vadhy (Vad, present day Södertuna), Kaerue (Öster and Västerkärv), Vala (Yttervalla) and Wakraby (Vackerby). Other farm names have a subtle Latin influence, for example, Holastum (Hållsta), Gywastum (Givesta) and Gnytlistum (Gnesta). The suffix ’-stum’ seems to be the same as today’s ‘-sta’ and means a fixed site. During the 17th century there were manors and works just south of Gnesta, for example Mälby, which had outlying land that went as far as the Gnesta area.
Up until 1850 Gnesta’s central area consisted of a handful of crofter’s holdings, houses and farms. Gnesta village consisted of three farms (Uppgården, Mellangården and Nergården). Uppgården was a stage and inn for several hundred years. But the stage was then replaced by the railway station and the inn by Stora Hotellet.
The main road towards Björnlunda passed through the area more or less where the road Skillingagatan is today. Approximately where Ringväg is located today was once a road that linked what was at the time Gnesta village with the main road towards Björnlunda. In Gnesta Uppgården was an important part of the area’s infrastructure of the time. Uppgården had for many hundreds of years acted as a stage with inn.
The west mainline started to be built in 1857. Gnesta was very likely chosen as a station because the engine needed to be filled with water ever 30–40 km. From Södertälje it was therefore convenient to stop for a refill by lake Frösjön.
The central areas of Gnesta were now being rapidly built. After just 25 years the whole hill was already covered with houses. Another change aside from the parish’s centre being moved from the church to the station, was that the road Dagagatan was built to link the impressive new station with the Björnlunda road. And shortly after, the road Östra Storgatan was also built to link the station area in a southerly direction.
The attraction of the railway was strong, so strong in fact that the livestock markets present in Önnersta, Björnlunda, moved to Gnesta. Up to 5,000 visitors are said to have visited these large markets every six months. The trading area for these markets was said to be extensive. It was said that buyers could come from as far as Stockholm, Småland and even Oslo. These markets certainly added to the boom that took place during the latter half of the 19th century. A further example of the district’s growing significance was the transfer of the district court to Gnesta from Gåsinge.
Marieström was one of the first quarters to be built. Here there were several shops, a hotel and private school. Towards the end of the 19th century a number of factories were also established in the community. There was a match factory (which burned down twice before the business finally closed for good), dairy, tannery and carpentry shop as well as a brush factory.
At the end of the 1890s another dairy and carpentry shop was added to the tally of factories. There was also a brewery (which at the end of the 1950s was bought by Konsum and became Wårby brewers, and moved in the middle of the 1960s to Vårby) and a cigar factory!
In 1883 Gnesta became a municipality. The number of residents rose to some 779 people. During the last decade of the 19th century there were doctors, two different telegraph stations and a chemist. A respected railway restaurant was also established (by Stora Torget). Royal visits were not unusual as royalty would switch here from railway to horse and carriage to continue on to Tullgarn Palace.
Developments suffered a slight setback in 1912 when the southern mainline was built via Nyköping. With this Gnesta lost its appeal amongst in particular the coastal population.
However the municipality continued to grow. The higher elementary school was founded in 1919 and state middle school in 1923.
The next phase of expansion in the area came at the start of the 1940s with the building of prefabricated houses (mostly on the hills to the south and west of Gnesta). In the 1950s and 60s Dalen (the roads Dalgatan and Skillingagatan) was built.
The community continued to grow and during the 1960s many apartment blocks were built west and south of the old Gnesta village. During the same period two apartment blocks were built at the end of Nygatan’s western side (as it connects to Västra Storgatan) as a direct consequence of the need that arose when the soap factory (Bonde Bergströms) moved from Västervik.
A wave of demolition swept over Sweden during the 1960s. Politicians seemed to be ashamed of history. Wooden houses and rendered houses were to be abolished. And instead houses were built of concrete. The centre was to be modernised. This wave also reached as far as Gnesta. The Marieström quarter was ‘cleansed’ and rebuilt into what we see today. We have to think ourselves lucky that that was just about it, although unfortunately a number of picturesque rendered apartment blocks and a large wooden house with several floors also disappeared (where today ‘Posthuset’/’new Apotekshuset’ stand).
The main advantage of this renovation work was that the Marieström river’s muddy and often very smelly water would be culverted. Unfortunately the beautiful frame of birch trees along the river and a number of pretty arch-shaped wooden bridges disappeared at the same time. The culvert was built in the 1960s. Above this culvert is Thuleparken today, which was created in the latter part of the 1970s with money ‘to improve the Million Programme’s environment’.
During the 1970s and 80s there were large-scale investments in water and drains, roads and streets, sewage treatment works and water purification plants.
A little further ‘upstream’ of Marieström river (to the west) is the care centre which dates back to the early 1980s, whose construction and appearance meant that it could tolerate a certain degree of surface movement and subsidence, because it was built on relatively waterlogged ground where the river had once run.
During the latter half of the 1960s SJ stopped making stops at the smaller districts along the mainline, including Gnesta. Persistence and determination from the municipality towards SL led to SL’s decision to start running a commuter train to Gnesta – even though it was the ‘wrong’ county. This meant many more people could move to Gnesta. There was now a very intensive period of building taking place in Gnesta. In a sort of ‘second wind’ the centre doubled in size. Gnesta went from having 2,500 residents to 5,000 residents within just 10 years.
The following areas were built from the early 1970s up until 1990:
South Gnesta: Dansut and Sigtuna , around one of Gnesta’s old outdoor dancefloors where such music profiles as Rune ‘Gnesta-Kalle’ Gnestadius held many performances. The area quite logically was called ‘Dans-ut’. The actual dancefloor was on the slope behind STOPP. ‘Gnesta-Kalle’ had therefore one of the closest roads to the ‘legendary’ dancefloor named after him.
North-west Gnesta: below Framnäs school. During the period 1980–1990 a number of houses and cooperative flats were built here.
Central Gnesta: a number of apartment blocks along Torggatan and Landshammarsgatan and a little later in the 1980s the rental flats at Nergårds Gärde. In addition houses were built around Vesslevägen and Hermelinstigen as well as the area around Ingalunda.
West Gnesta: housing areas on the eastern side of Vackerby’s old grounds: Sällskapsvägen, Uppåkravägen and Sämjevägen. The area with two-storey houses east of Vackerby Hage was added.
On 1 January 1992 we once again became our own municipality (hived off from Nyköping together with sister municipality Trosa).
Gnesta celebrated its 15-year anniversary on 19 August 2007.
Following a break in Gnesta’s recovery as a result of the property crisis in the first half of the 1990s, the 21st century kicked off with new plans and actions. The property development company NCC started to develop Framnäs Gärde – an area where each phase consisted of some 30 houses, with one of the most beautiful locations in Gnesta by lake Frösjön.
Several construction companies view Gnesta’s unique location as a future strategic investment. The goal is to further increase Gnesta’s population with approx. 100–200 people per year (approx. +2%).
For many years developments in Gnesta have been positive in many different ways. Just as for many other municipalities the challenge is to meet an increasing need for services for the care of the elderly. The elderly have the right to receive good service within, for example, home-help services and at special housing. Gnesta municipality has good nurseries and schools. Good nurseries and schools lay the foundations for your whole life. The municipality also has a varied and healthy business life which various studies show is experiencing a very positive development.
Gnesta municipality is enhanced by its wide range of associations which offer a great many activities for all ages. These associations undeniably help make Gnesta municipality into a positive and attractive place to live, and are in many ways an extremely important asset for residents in our municipality.
The municipality has been working for some time with a project regarding resident dialogue. The objective of this effort is to increase the opportunity for municipal residents to, in different ways, be a part of and influence the development of the municipality.
The swimming pool was renovated during 2015 and has been transformed into a modern facility. In 2014 Gnesta municipality took over Storgatan in Gnesta centre from the Swedish Road Administration, and will also undergo renovation work with the establishment of a walk and cycle path, roundabout at the cross roads towards Dansutvägen and clean-up of the area around Storgatan.
The future looks bright for the municipality of Gnesta!