Continue along the road next to the church (instead of going
back) until you reach the paved road; turn right and drive
towards the alley of oaks. At the ?rst major intersection,
turn left, pass the castle and stop at the last parking lot.
Photo: Tiit Leito / www.fotokogu.com
Castle is of course a pet name for the
biggest and the most glorious manor on
the island. Not only the legends but true
stories add to the allure of the place.
Before the manor house was built,
the Pühalepa or Hallika estate was
somewhere in the vicinity; it belonged
to the De la Gardie family as far back
as the 17th century. Jakob De la Gardie
was made administrator of Estonia
during the Swedish reign in Estonia,
and purchased all of Hiiumaa island.
The name of the place attested to the existence of a prosperous manor
as from 1633 the place was called “Grossenhof” or “Suuremõisa” (Big
Manor). Already at that time, the manor had several outbuildings and
extremely large orchard. The present manor house was built by the
countess Ebba Margaretha Stenbock (1704-1775), great-granddaughter
of De la Gardie (1583-1652), in the middle of the 18th century. She was
a widow with about dozen children who settled down in Hiiumaa and
won back her ancestral rights to the lands from the Russian czar’s realm.
The countess is buried in the mausoleum next to Pühalepa Church.
Several dramatic events took place at the manor at the turn of the
18th–19th century. Baron Otto Reinhold Ludwig von Ungern-Sternberg
(1744-1811) was a nobleman of Baltic German origin who made
Suuremõisa the centre for his thriving shipping and salvage business. He
was a better businessman than his schoolmate Jacob Pontus Stenbock
(1744-1824), who was burdened with debts, so Ungern-Sternberg
bought from the latter the Suuremõisa manor in 1796 as an addition to
the North-Hiiumaa manors already in his possession. But his luck did
not last for long. His eldest son committed suicide and the father himself
killed Carl Malm, one of his ship’s captains of Swedish origin. After a
long trial, O. R. L. von Ungern-Sternberg was deported to Siberia in
1803. At the trial, prosecutors also laid charges of piracy, kidnappings
and racketeering at the baron’s doorstep. The murder charges stood up,
but the other accusations were not proved. We must consider the fact thatthat
it was quite common among farmers and landlords at that time to
gain “wealth” by hostile takeover. In any case, the baron is remembered
as a pirate and murderer.
Yet the family was not stripped of its property and the Ungern-
Sternbergs continued to play a part in Hiiumaa history for the next 140
years. The last landlord, Evald Adam Gustav Paul von Ungern-Sternberg,
died unexpectedly in 1909 without leaving any successors and so the
ensuing years were quite complicated for the manor. The greater part of
the manor’s extensive library and properties were sold or stolen during
World War I and the years following it. At the beginning of the ?rst
Republican era in 1918, a school began operating in Suuremõisa castle,
but some of the rooms were left to the last Ungern-Sternbergs, Helene
and Klaus. The latter didn’t have children of their own, but the children
of the village have received education in this house to the present day.
Right now the manor house accommodates Suuremõisa Technical
School and Suuremõisa Primary School. Despite active usage, the
schools have also preserved the building.
Tip: You can follow a wonderful trail to get to know the manor park
(follow the signs and information boards).
Legends and stories
Many mysterious stories surround the manor house. Many people
have heard or seen voices and ghosts, especially at night. A long
time ago, when Stenbocks and pastor Chalenius (1741-1776) lived in
Suuremõisa, the situation is said to have got out of hand. Old Nick
himself sometimes joined card games, without the landlords noticing.
The old folks also say that the devil wanted to get the manor for himself
after it was completed. As the landlords would not consent, Satan came
to terrify the people every night. At last the pastor was called to perform
an exorcism. He came to the manor house, lay down on the couch in
the room where the evil ones used to gather and cut a wooden apple
into two. He placed one of the halves on the table and the other on his
chest. The pastor knew that the devil had entered the house when half
of the apple ?ew off the table to join its other half. The parson started
to recite the evil spirit words. When he was finished, he made the sign of
the cross three times at the door and said the Lord’s Prayer seven times
at every window. Every crack and chink in the wall was protected by the sign
of the cross. The devil was driven off. Old Nick then went back to his smithy
in Kallaste (Kallaste bluff), from where the village women
drove him off again finally.