Count Wilhelm Friedrich von Reden (1752 – 1815)

Count Wilhelm Friedrich von Reden was one of the most influential figures in the development of industry in Upper Silesia. He was the nephew of Friedrich Anton von Heynitz (1725-1802), Germany’s principal expert on mining and associated industries. Reden was born in Hamelin in Lower Saxony and in 1768 began an apprenticeship in the metalliferous mines of the Harz Mountains after which he studies at the universities of Göttingen and Halle in 1770-73. He then travelled in the Netherlands and Great Britain with Friedrich von Heynitz, and after returning to Saxony gained a degree in geology from the the Bergakademie (Mining Academy) at Freiberg. He worked for a time for the government in Hanover and subsequently joined the civil service of Prussia which then included Upper Silesia. With his uncle he was involved with the installation of a Watt engine at the silver mines at Tarnoski Gory, and with the building of coke-fired blast furnaces at the Königliche Eisengieserie at Gleiwitz (Gliwice) from 1796, and the Königshütte at Chorzów between 1799 and 1802. He was involved in the construction of the 46 km Kłodnica Canal built between 1792 and 1812 from Kózle on River Oder to Gleiwitz and with the construction of the iron bridge at Laasan near Breslau (Wrocław) in 1796.

Reden remained in office during the French occupation of Prussia from 1806, intending to protect the mines for which he was responsible, but he was criticised for his co-operation with the French and dismissed by Frederick William III (1770-1840) in 1807. He subsequently retired to his estate at Schloss Buchwald. He is commemorated by a statue in the market square in Chorzów which has recently been rebuilt after being demolished and re-erected several times as political regimes have changed.

Reden did much to aid the transfer of technology in late eighteenth century Europe. He made several visits to England and in July 1789 was the guest of the ironmaster John Wilkinson (1728-1808) at Broseley. The same year the Welsh ironmaster Jeremiah Homfray and John Wilkinson stayed with him in Silesia. Short extracts from his travel journals have been published.