Origin and development in the Middle Ages
Norrby is one of the oldest villages in Snappertuna established in the first phase of the colonization of the southern part of Finland by Swedes during the 13th century. The gradual rising of the ground has significantly changed the geographical environment of the village, one of the largest villages on the Degerö isle. The village center was in medieval times close to the sea shore offering the farmers good fishing and transportation opportunities.
From hamlet to manor
In the middle of the 16th century the medieval agricultural structure with small farms and plenty of domestic cattle was already in full dissolution. The growth of the Swedish great power with collection of taxes and soldiers speeded up the change. This had a dramatic impact on Norrby. From being the largest hamlet in the district at the closing of the Middle Ages with a differentiated structure of farming and trade it had by the 18th century become a sole mansion with providing the crown a soldier and a horse against exemption of tax. The wars and conflicts along the occupation of Finland by the Russians forcing the proprietors of Norrby in exile in Stockholm and the lack of funds prevented the various proprietors many of them noble by birth to create a solid and true large estate. Hence the estate became one of the numerous large mansions developing its produce by dividing the outer cultivated land lots to crofter’s holdings submitting daywork to the mansion. This was rational in an environment lacking economic means. Norrby became a forerunner and was with its nine crofter’s holdings the wealthiest mansion in the district in the year 1800.
Stagnation – dissolution – transformation
Norrby became the object of various speculators’ attempts to create through the mansion new wealth. At the time of Finland becoming separated from Sweden in 1809 the mansion was in crisis and was about to be dissolved. However, proprietors with sufficient enough funds managed to guarantee its survival. The frequent changes of proprietors in the 19th century show that the crisis was ongoing. This prevented the estate from developing into a modern farm with rational agricultural systems. Only the last proprietor prior to World War I had the means to build a real manor on the estate. However, the system of crofter’s holdings was upheld and this became the fate of Norrby in the dramatic events taking place at the time of Finland becoming an indepen-dent country. During the years 1916-19 Norrby had no less than six owners and simultaneously the system maintaining crofter’s holdings was abolished. In order to save the land AB Svenska Småbruk och Egna Hem, a non-profit organization/enterprise supporting the ownership of farmland for the Swedish speaking minority, purchased the entire Norrby estate in the year 1919. Norrby was split in a number of small land lots and small farms. In total 20 properties corres-ponding to 400 hectares were separated from Norrby along with other land arrangements and sales. The center of the mansion remained as a semi-large farm encompassing the manor under the name of Grönvik totaling approx. 100 hectares of which 30 hectares fields. It could be stated that Norrby within five years took back its structure as a village of small farmers corresponding to the structure of the hamlet in the Middle Ages. No village in the district of Snappertuna has during its history has gone through so large and rapid changes as Norrby.
Henry Rask, Snappertuna – en kustbygds hävder. Del I. Forntid – 1809 (Ekenäs 1991). Ola Brenner, Snappertuna – en kustbygds hävder. Del II. Efter 1809 (Hangö 1975).