Engelsberg Ironworks

Engelsberg is an outstanding example of an influential European industrial complex of the 17th-19th centuries, with important technological remains and the associated administrative and residential buildings intact. It is the best preserved and most complete example of a Swedish iron-working estate, of the type which produced the superior grades of iron, using primitive smelting furnaces, that made Sweden the economic leader in this field for two centuries, from at least the end of the Migration Period.

The local peasants began mining ore and smelting in the 13th century, to supplement their agricultural activities. The introduction of the water-wheel to supply power for operating furnace and hammer bellows led to the rapid development of the Swedish iron industry in the later Middle Ages. The first bar-iron forge was operating at Engelsberg in the closing years of the 16th century, and by the mid-17th century the scale of operations there was substantial.

The policy of the Swedish Government of the time was to restrict pig-iron production to the peasants and to site forges outside the mining districts, leading to the establishment of estates with iron works attached by noblemen or burghers, who were economically better able to develop high-output units. This was the case at Engelsberg, where a nobleman built a blast furnace in 1681, for producing both pig and bar iron. Production steadily increased during the 18th century as a result of improving the technology and acquiring neighbouring forges: between 1695 and 1767 it rose from 135 to 264 tons per year. In 1778-9 a new blast furnace was built, incorporating recent technological innovations, together with an ore crusher and large charcoal store. The introduction of a new blowing engine in 1836 resulted in a significant increase in production. A gas-fired one-roasting kiln was added in 1848. The forge, which was rebuilt in the later 18th century, was re-equipped with French hearths in the 1850s.

The decline of charcoal iron production began with the introduction of the Bessemer and open-hearth bulk steelmaking processes into Sweden in the 1860s. Engelsberg was only able to survive by increasing the size of its smelting furnaces and lengthening their operating periods in the 1880s. By this time the Engelsbergs bruk was owned by the Fagersta Company, which found the older works increasingly uneconomical and closed it down in 1919.

Engelsberg is the most complete surviving example of the traditional järnbruk upon which much of Sweden's prosperity was based in the 17th and 18th centuries. These self-contained estates comprised not only technical installations but also a range of administrative and residential buildings for management and workers, including those who worked on the associated farm.

Over 50 buildings of various ages and functions have been preserved with in the complex. The main building, erected around 1750, is a two-storey modern house with weather-boarded walls and a black tin-plated roof. Some of the room are decorated with paintings in the Gustavian style (akin to English Georgian), with views of the manor itself, its furnace, and forge. The last modernization dates from 1828, when the manor changed hands again. New windows and a porch were added, together with a clock tower on the courtyard facade. The buildings has wings, that on the east containing the kitchen. There is a round pavilion, built from slag-stone, in front of each wing: the interior of that on the west is elegantly decorated. Other buildings around the manor house include the master gardener's house (1790), the brewery (1829), and a monumental slagstone barn (1872).

Other noteworthy buildings at Engelsberg include the inspector's house, a modern storehouse, the office building (brought from Dalecarlia in 1917-18), stables, a coach-house, and smiths' cottages. The smelting house of 1778-79, together with associated installations from later periods, survives intact, as do the forge of the 1850s and the ore-roasting kiln of the 1800s. Together they provide a very complete picture of the technological equipment of a traditional Swedish järnbruk .

Historical context

Iron was produced in this region from at least the end of the Migration Period, using primitive smelting furnaces. The local peasants began mining ore and smelting in the 13th century, to supplement their agricultural activities. The introduction of the water-wheel to supply power for furnace bellows and hammers led to the rapid development of the Swedish iron industry in the later Middle Ages. The first bar-iron forge was operating at: Engelsberg in the closin9 years of the 16th century, and by the mid-17th century the scale of operations there was substantial.

The policy of the Swedish Government of the time was to restrict pig-iron production to the peasants and to site forges outside the mining districts, leading to the establishment of estates with iron works attached (jarnbruk) by noblemen or burghers, who were economically better able to develop high output units.

This was the case at Engelsberg, where a nobleman built a blast furnace in 1681, for producing both pig and bar iron. Production steadily increased during the 18th century as a result of improving the technology and acquiring neighbouring forges: between 1695 and 1767 it rose from 135 to 264 tons per year. In 1778-9 a new blast furnace was built, incorporating recent technological innovations, together with an ore crusher and large charcoal store. The introduction of a new blowing engine in 1836 resulted in a significant increase in production. A gas-fired ore-roasting kiln was added in 1848. The forge, which was rebuilt in the later 18th century, was re-equipped with French hearths in the 1850s.

The decline of charcoal iron production began with the introduction of the Bessemer and open-hearth bulk steel-making processes into Sweden in the 1860s. Engelsberg was only able to survive by increasing the size of its smelting furnaces and lengthening their operating periods in the 1880s. By this time the Engelsbergs bruk was owned by the Fagersta Company, which found the older works increasingly uneconomical and closed it down in 1919.

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