Sheriff’s Garden from 1893

When Dr. Schierbeck left Iceland in 1893, he sold his house to town sheriff Halldór Daníelsson, together with the right to garden in the old churchyard. The sheriff’s wife Anna took great care of the garden in the decades that followed. At that time the old churchyard came to be known as the Sheriff’s Garden. Anna Daníelsson was active in various social causes, and served on the board of the Hringur nursing charity and of the Reykjavík Women’s College. She was also an active member of the Icelandic Gardening Society, and was on the committee for a gardening show held on the Society’s 50th anniversary in 1935. Anna died in 1940. Father of Reykjavík In 1954 a statue of sheriff Skúli Magnússon, known as the “Father of Reykjavík”, was installed in the garden. Excavations made for the foundation of the pedestal uncovered part of the south wall of the old church. Skúli founded, in collaboration with others, woollen factories on Aðalstræti in the mid-18th century. They were part of the New Enterprises, whose aim was to boost the Icelandic economy. As a result Reykjavík grew into a village, and then into a town. One of the buildings of the New Enterprises remains standing: Aðalstræti 10, the oldest building in downtown Reykjavík, built in 1762, which now houses an exhibition from Reykjavík City Museum.

The family of Dr. Schierbeck in the garden, c. 1893 (Photographer: Daníel B. Daníelsson)

Garden in the old churchyard from 1883

Georg Schierbeck, born in 1847 in Odense, Denmark, came to Iceland as Director of Public Health in 1882. Schierbeck had trained in horticulture before turning to medicine, and was keenly interested in gardens. After building himself a house at the north end of the old churchyard on Aðalstræti, he requested to be allowed to make a garden there. He was permitted to plant trees and grow flowers in the disused churchyard, but was required to build a wooden fence around it and pay 25 krónur per year for use of the land. He was not permitted to remove anything from the old churchyard, nor to build any new structure there. Among the trees planted by Schierbeck was the Swedish whitebeam (Sorbus intermedia) which still flourishes today, and is believed to be the oldest tree in Reykjavík. Georg Schierbeck was one of the principal advocates for the foundation of the Icelandic Gardening Society in 1885, and he was its first chair.

The family of town sheriff Halldór Daníelsson and his wife Anna Daníelsson in the garden, c. 1895 (Photographer: Daníel B. Daníelsson)

Historical markers in Reykjavík
In recent years the City of Reykjavík has been installing historical markers around the city. Such markers at historic sites and areas within Reykjavík enrich the experience of both residents and visitors, and provide information on the city‘s culture and history.  The markers display information about history, art, literature and social life relating to the site in question, accompanied by pictures.

Text and photos: Reykjavík City Museum
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