Engelberg Ironworks (World Heritage)

By | August 8, 2021

According to computergees, the Engelsberg ironworks, north-west of Stockholm, is closely connected to Sweden’s time as a great power. It was one of the most modern ironworks in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today the facility is an industrial museum that preserves the technical equipment of that time.

Engelberg ironworks: facts

Official title: Engelberg ironworks
Cultural monument: Well-preserved ironworks in a rural area with a blast furnace, hammer forge, manor house and workers’ apartments
Continent: Europe
Country: Sweden, Västmanland
Location: Engelsberg ironworks, southeast of Fagersta
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: the complete layout of a Swedish ironworks from the 18th and 19th centuries. Name given: by an immigrant German miner family named Englika

Engelberg ironworks: history

14th century Document mentions Englikabenning
1624 first hammer forge
around 1681 Establishment of a “modern” ironworks
around 1740 After the fire, renovation of the manor house
1779 Construction of the “modern” blast furnace with granite walls
1878 Reconstruction of the blast furnace to the current height of 12.6 m
1916-19 Part of the Avesta Jernverks AB steelworks until the blast furnace is shut down

The blow of the hammer is silent

The fire has gone out, the hammers are silent, there is no smoke in the air – the Engelsbergs Bruk ironworks is an idyll today. For centuries, however, the place was filled with restless activity. A never-ending sound of heavy hammer blows lay oppressively over the landscape.

Engelsberg is one of the numerous huts from the time of pre-industrial iron mining. Under the seemingly peaceful scene today, there is a structure that originated from historical circumstances just as it was dictated by the ideals and taste of the »Brukspatron«.

The buildings that still exist today can be explained by the many changes over the centuries. Engelsberg developed from a village with cottages and farms of independent miners to a hierarchically organized settlement of an ironworks, the fate of which was determined by the owner of the ironworks. The first miners were farmers who went about iron mining as a sideline. Usually some of them got together in one village each and built a furnace together, which they used in turn.

In the pits near Norberg, in an area where Engelsberg is also located, the miners mined iron ore in the 12th century. Two centuries later, a German named Englika settled between the Åmänningen and Snyten lakes and began to extract iron. This place was named “Englikabenning” after him. One of the grandchildren of this Englika became one of the most famous personalities in Swedish history of the late Middle Ages, namely the freedom hero Engelbrekt, who led an uprising against the arbitrariness of the bailiffs and was murdered in 1436.

With the modernization of iron production in the 16th century, larger huts for the production of bar iron were built. In these, the iron was refined in bar iron hammers to make iron that could be forged. Little by little, the smelter needed a large number of qualified skilled workers who settled in the settlements around the smeltery. Since the smelting furnaces and rod iron hammers needed water power for their operation, the smelting works were always located on rivers. Extensive forest areas nearby provided the vital charcoal.

In 1681 a certain Per Larsson Höök, who was later raised to the nobility, bought land at Englikabenning. He built an ironworks with a rod hammer next to the older miners’ huts and ushered in the era of the “modern” ironworks in Engelsberg.

The steelworks that existed at the time were more than just industrial operations. They were patriarchally run model communities whose houses were of a high standard for that time. The children were taught and the sick were cared for. With the establishment of a pension fund, retirement provision was also considered. The hut owners were benevolent but also stern patrons who, as “industrial barons”, ran their business without authorization. Five times as many people lived around the ironworks than were directly employed in the production of bar iron. Because in wages and bread were also those who cut wood in the surrounding area and hired themselves as charcoal burners and made sure that the necessary raw materials reached the hut by sea and on land. In addition to the smelting furnace, a hut included one or more hammer forges, often a sawmill and a mill, storage buildings for coal and grain, the lodgings of the ironworkers and their families, a bell tower for the ringing in of the shifts, sometimes a church or chapel and finally the manor house, the buildings of which, as in Engelsberg, were partly built from cinder block, a by-product of iron production. Today, however, it seems a little strange to see the manor house of an “industrial baron”, which is close to a forge that used to spread smoke and noise.

Engelberg Ironworks (World Heritage)