Sweden in Warrington’s Archives

Some of you may remember my writing a series of blog entries about the Rylands Archives looked after by the Museum.

The project to catalogue that particular collection has ended, but I thought you might like to hear about some of the treasures and oddities I come across whilst doing my daily work in the Archives.

I was recently talking to the artist Lars Fredriksson from Sweden who is staying in Warrington and exhibited here in 2017. This brought thoughts of Sweden to my mind, but seeing as my mind is shackled permanently to the archives, those thoughts turned rapidly to what could I find relating to Sweden in our archives?

“Letters on Sweden and Norway”, written by Robert Anderton Naylor between 1882 and 1884

Now, this is a bit of a challenge, seeing as the archives collecting policy has always been limited to “items relating to Warrington and environs past and present”. Even with the most liberal interpretation of the town boundaries, Sweden doesn’t quite make the cut.

However, with a little searching, a few fascinating bits and pieces did turn up.

The first I want to share with you is a book entitled Letters on Sweden and Norway, written by Robert Anderton Naylor between 1882 and 1884. Naylor was a well-known timber merchant and temperance campaigner from Warrington. His company may well be known to some of you today.

Naylor toured Sweden in 1882 and wrote a series of letters to the Warrington Guardian describing his adventures. These letters were so popular that they were later published in book form.

I have copied below two extracts that made me smile and which hopefully you will enjoy:

Well-mannered Swedes

“Our first impression of Gothenburg was very good, and we could soon see that there might be a shadow of truth in the story we heard on board of the extreme politeness of its inhabitants. Here it is. A gentleman complains to his steward of the shabbiness of his hat, and on giving him money to buy a new one asks why he wears such a poor one. The answer is that he has to raise it to such a number of persons that it is impossible to keep a hat in decent order. Take a case. Two working men may meet each other, one wheeling a barrow. His friend lifts his hat off – and it is lifting the hat, not just raising it, for a man will nearly bring it to his knees – and then the other man will put down his barrow for the purpose of returning the salutation.”

For Naylor, it seems, good manners are one thing, but letting working class people use them as an excuse to slacken off is another thing altogether.

The second quote concerns ‘Lady-Barbers’

“You might wonder in passing down the wide open streets why so few of the gentlemen wear beards; but the reason, I guess, must be that instead of having stiff starchy barbers, blooming young ladies are employed, and we were informed the plan had acted famously. None of your giddy girls, but quite respectable young ladies take up this profession, and our friend informed us that the performance was gone through in the most satisfactory manner; in fact in a much more superior style than the men could command, so the ladies are now masters, or rather mistresses, of the situation.”

Incidentally Sweden already had, by this point, a tradition of Women Barber-Surgeons, who were licensed to perform minor operations on people. The first recorded licence for a female ‘feldsher’, or barber surgeon, was granted to Johanna Hedén in 1863.

You may remember that when I started this little blog entry, I mentioned that there were ‘several’ Swedish connected items in the Archives. I will not go into them in any detail here, but they include the following:


  • IKEA opened its first UK store at Warrington in 1987.
  • Anna Blackburne of Orford Hall (1726-1793) was a regular correspondent with Carl Linnaeus the famous Swedish botanist and zoologist. Linnaeus formalised the system of scientific names for plants and animals still used today. Anna was one of only a few female naturalists at the time. You can read two letters from Anna to Linnaeus here
  • Herzog of Warrington Grammar School visited the Naas Sloyd Training College in Sweden during the 1890s to learn how to teach Sloyd ( a mixture of woodwork, metalwork and general handicrafts) back in Warrington

This article was originally posted on Friday December 23rd, 2016.