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European Themeroute | Landscapes

It was only around the end of the 19th century, with the second wave of industrialisation, that exposed mining tips and soot-ridden workshops, endless terraces of cheap grey housing and networks of railway lines began to merge into huge areas of industrial landscape. But for centuries before people had ... more

Icon: LandscapesShaping the earth. European Theme Route Industrial Landscapes

It was only around the end of the 19th century, with the second wave of industrialisation, that exposed mining tips and soot-ridden workshops, endless terraces of cheap grey housing and networks of railway lines began to merge into huge areas of industrial landscape. But for centuries before people had been shaping new landscapes: everywhere where valuable treasures were to be found in the soil.

At the end of the 17th century in the Netherlands people began to reclaim the land from the sea in order to protect themselves from flooding and increase the area available for agricultural. One of the earliest examples was the polder around the small village of Beemster in North Holland, not far from Amsterdam. There a lake, fed by water from the Zuidersee, had grown so large that it threatened the existence of the inhabitants. A group of investors, mainly Amsterdam merchants, got together to build dykes around the lake and gradually pump off the water. Once the area had been dried out in 1612, they split up the fertile land amongst themselves, divided it by straight canals and avenues and built housing estates at suitable points, thereby creating a new landscape of polders with a well thought-out concept.

Around the middle of the 18th century tourism began in Europe. Those who could afford it travelled to Italy and to England, occasionally also to the magnificent gardens in Wörlitz in East Germany. Here Leopold Friedrich Franz, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, had created a microcosm based on the ideals of the Enlightenment. Inspired by English gardens he designed a new form of garden landscape, free of traditional baroque restrictions, with picturesque areas of naturally growing shrubs and curving paths instead of carefully cut trees and geometrically-ordered flowerbeds. This aesthetic design also had an educational aim: to refine the sensibilities of the visitors who were strolling through the gardens.

The park in Wörlitz combined the beautiful with the useful, for the Enlightenment Prince hoped to make the world a better place by means of reason. Prince Franz reformed agriculture according to the latest state of knowledge, and set up schools for the population at large. Before the conflict which exploded in the French Revolution between peasants, citizens and aristocrats in 1789, he strove to find a "middle way" by means of enlightened absolutism. This can still be seen in the gardens and parks around Wörlitz.

Early, quasi-industrial economic activities also left their mark on the landscape, even in ancient times. Above all the insatiable need for timber – which was irreplaceable both as a building material and for fuel – led to the deforestation and erosion of complete regions. In the 19th century there was a rapid growth in overexploitation. In Blaenavon in South Wales, for example, one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution, an ironworks with three blast furnaces was erected, and this soon triggered off a dramatic increase in activities in the thinly populated area. Shafts and galleries were sunk into the hills to extract coal and iron ore, and limestone was dug out of quarries to be used in the ironworks. Artificial ponds were built to hold the pit water or as water reservoirs for steam engines. Railway lines were built over hills and valleys for pit railways and tunnels were last through mountains. Even today we can still see the entrances to collieries and the piled up tips of old pit waste, ruins of industrial buildings and opencast mining – the traces of generations of workers who have left their mark on the landscape.

Reports by contemporary witnesses in the Rhondda Valley, also in South Wales, clearly show how everything was turned upside down by heavy industry. Even after 1850 travellers were still praising "the gem of Glamorganshire" with its "two nearly parallel cliffs of singular beauty....The emerald greenness of the meadows in the valley....The air [ ] aromatic with the wild flowers and mountain plants [and the] Sabbath stillness". Then coalmining arrived and the River Rhondda became "a dark, turgid, and contaminated gutter [ ]. The hills have been stripped of their woodland beauty, and they stand rugged and bare, with immense rubbish heaps covering their surface. The din of steam engines, the whirr of machinery, the grating sound of coal screen, and the hammering of smithies proceed increasingly night and day, year in year out". At its peak over 400 coalmines were operating along the River Rhondda and its tributaries, and rows of terraced houses merged into unbroken lines along the black valleys beneath eternal clouds of smoke.

The largest industrial area on the mainland continent grew up at the end of the 19th century in north-west Germany. Industrial development along the Rivers Ruhr and Emscher began slowly, after the German customs union was set up in 1834, and the Cologne to Minden railway – the first modern transport connection – was completed in 1847. Up till then the River Emscher still contained fish and crabs and the occasional windmill turned lazily along river banks that were full of reeds. All around was a thinly populated agricultural landscape, where wild horses grazed in impenetrable heathland. More people lived along the River Ruhr in the fertile zone along the "Hellweg", the traditional trading route between the old towns of Duisburg, Essen and Dortmund.

In the second half of the 19th century the towns began to expand. Places like Oberhausen and Gelsenkirchen grew from practically nothing, and smokestacks and winding towers were built on farmland. But agriculture also grew in importance because of the demand from the rapidly growing working population. And thanks to new types of dung, the land produced more crops. The amount of land used by heavy industry peaked rapidly at the beginning of the 1890s, the railway network expanded and the population in the area exploded. The rivers were straightened up and lined with concrete: the River Emscher in particular was officially destined to conduct waste industrial water into the Rhine. Soon after the start of the 20th century, both factory owners and politicians regarded the area around the Emscher as a "huge city on the Rhine".

In the 20th century Germany expanded its activities in the area of brown coal mining, another industry requiring a huge amount of land. During the First World War, the AEG power company set up the Zschornewitz brown coal works in the east-German coalmining area between Leipzig and Cottbus; an early example of a gigantic, functional industrial site. Even then villages were abandoned as mining ate into the landscape. The principle is still the same. The hole scratched into the soil by gigantic excavators moves slowly forward. On the side where new excavations occur, the layer of earth over the coal is torn away to be tipped back onto the side where the coal has been removed. Since thousands of tons of coal are missing at the end of mining activities, huge holes remain in the landscape which are gradually filled up with pumped off groundwater. Since the end of brown coal mining in East Germany people there have been trying to regenerate the land for leisure activities. In the West German brown coal area between Cologne and Aachen, brown coal activities have existed since the 1950s and exploited areas have been re-cultivated at great expense. Nonetheless it is easy to recognize that the relocated villages, the freshly-created wet biotopes and the artificial hills are all part of a newly made artificial landscape – and behind the new woods full of beech trees, the land continues to be exploited. 

Eisenerz | Austria
Radlader
The world's biggest taxi is as high as a house, goes by the name Hauly and has 860 hp. The converted heavy goods vehicle takes visitors right in the middle of the largest surface mining of Central Europe. Starting from the valley of the small Styrian town Eisenerz the ore mine rises like the steps ...
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Erzberg Adventure
Erzberg 1
8790 Eisenerz, Austria

Ostrava | Czech Republic
Not even 20 years ago Ostrava was called the ‘Republic’s Iron Heart’, referring to the production facilities of Dolní Vítkovice right in the center of the third-largest Czech city. The local concentration of industrial sectors is unique. The Hlubina colliery produced coal that was coked next door to ...
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Lower Area of Vitkovice
Dolní oblast Vítkovice
Ruská 2887/101
706 02 Ostrava, Czech Republic

Duisburg | Germany
“Clean and tidy and ready to be fired up once more”. That may be so. But blast furnace no. 5 on the site of the disused Thyssen ironworks will stay for ever cold. Because it is right in the middle of the North Duisburg Landscape Park. This 200 hectare area is a clear example of how nature and ...
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North Landscape Park
Emscherstrasse 71
47137 Duisburg, Germany

The red bricks of the 100 year old briquette factory can already be seen from a distance. Today, it is at the heart of the Museum Energy Factory Knappenrode und at the same time its most fascinating exhibit. The time of the shout down in 1993 seems to have been uniquely preserved. Hammer mills, disk ...
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Saxon Museum of Industry | Energy Factory Knappenrode
Ernst-Thälmann-Straße 8
02977 Hoyerswerda, Germany

Lichterfeld | Germany
It looks like the Eiffel tower, only it’s called F60 and is situated in the Lausitz countryside near Lichterfeld. We’re talking about the largest existing overburden conveyor gantry which has ever been built. Now it’s the star attraction at the F60 visitor colliery. It doesn’t take you underground ...
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F60 Overburden Conveyer Bridge
Bergheider Straße 4
03238 Lichterfeld, Germany

The Völklinger Hütte (ironworks) in Germany’s Saarland, which was shut down in 1986, can be justifiably described as an industrial dinosaur. It extends over an area of 600,000 square metres and exemplifies the combined power of more than 100 years of iron and steel manufacturing. It was the first ...
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World Heritage Site Voelklingen Iron Works
Europäisches Zentrum für Kunst und Industriekultur
Rathausstraße 75
66302 Völklingen, Germany

Carbone, the Italian word for coal has given its name to the Sardinian town of Carbonia. Its former colliery - Serbariu – now houses the most important coalmining museum in Italy. Just as the colliers once did, visitors first enter the lamp room which in this case has the dimensions of an extended ...
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Italian Centre for Coal Mining Culture
Centro Italiano della Cultura del Carbone
Grande Miniera di Serbariu
09013 Carbonia, Italy

According to the Norwegian writer, Frode Grytten, who was born and grew up in Odda: “The valley seems to have been created by a gigantic blow with a sledgehammer”. As early as the 19th century waterfalls, glaciers and dramatic mountain landscapes attracted countless tourists to the region around ...
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Norwegian Museum of Hydro Power and Industry
Norsk Vasskraft- og Industristadmuseum
Naustbakken 7
5770 Tyssedal, Norway

Wałbrzych | Poland
What a drudgery: Up to three tons of coal per shift once were hauled by one miner's power only along the galleries of the Wałbrzych coal field. Horse-drawn carts occurred not before the 1820s, eventually followed by tipper trucks only a decade later. Today a cutting-edge Science and Art Centre ...
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Old Mine Science and Art Centre
Stara Kopalnia Centrum Nauki i Sztuki
ul. Wysockiego 29
58-305 Wałbrzych, Poland

The "Sistine Chapel" of mining heritage lies 50 metres below the surface of Almadén: the gallery of San Andrés. Visitors of the Mining Park are able to reach it by taking a miner's cage down into the former cinnabar mine of the village. Tunnels and drifts that are centuries old lead them to a huge ...
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Almadén Mining Park World Heritage Site
Parque Minero de Almadén
Cerco San Teodoro
13400 Almadén, Spain

Minas de Riotinto Huelva | Spain
5,000 years of mining history, Europe's largest open cast mine, and a piece of Great Britain right in the middle of Andalusia – the Parque de Minero de Riotinto is not at all short of attractions. The enormous scale of the open pit Corta Atalaya - 350 m deep, and 1,200 m X 900 m in extent - ...
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Riotinto Mining Park
Parque Minero de Riotinto
Plaza del Museo s/n
21660 Minas de Riotinto, Spain

The contrast could not be greater, hamlets and small villages bordering idyllic lakes, set within an expanse of woodland. Then, suddenly a red gorge appears: The Falun Mine. Once the world’s largest copper mine and today the heart of a unique historic industrial landscape, which was designated by ...
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Falun Mine, World Heritage
Falu Gruva
Gruvgatan 44
791 61 Falun, Sweden

A small town – with a huge effect. The South Wales town of Blaenavon was once the spearhead of the industrial revolution. For 200 years everything revolved around coal and iron here in the Afon Lwyd Valley. This not only affected the landscape. It also affected the people. To such an extent that ...
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Big Pit: National Coal Museum World Heritage Site
NP4 9XP Blaenavon, United Kingdom

Cromford | United Kingdom
The first modern factory in history was built in Cromford in the Derwent valley, not far from Nottingham. The Derwent is anything but a fast-flowing river. That said it flows quickly enough to be able to drive waterwheels. Richard Arkwright, a former wigmaker, recognised this fact and promptly ...
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Cromford Mill World Heritage Site
Cromford Mill
DE4 3RQ Cromford, United Kingdom

Llanberis | United Kingdom
How do you steal a mountain? You knock it off. That’s the answer you’d get from a Welshman. The Welsh speak from experience. In North Wales they knocked off mountains en masse – in the form of hundreds of slate quarries. In the 19th century the slate tiles on almost every roof in Britain had been ...
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National Slate Museum
Padarn Country Park
LL55 4TY Llanberis, United Kingdom

Waltham Abbey | United Kingdom
If you put saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur together the result is an explosive mixture. Gunpowder changed the face of the world. One of the main contributors was the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Essex. For 300 years the works near Waltham Abbey researched and produced almost everything to do ammunition ...
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Royal Gunpowder Mills
Beaulieu Drive
EN9 1JY Waltham Abbey, United Kingdom

Frederiksvaerk | Denmark
Frederiksvaerk boasts a remarkable history along the lines of well-known English factory villages such as Coalbrookdale, New Lanark and Saltaire. Based on waterpower Frederiksvaerk once housed the national armament industry and was a worldwide supplier of military equipment. In the 1720s an agate ...
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Frederiks Vaerk Museum of Industry
Industrimuseet Frederiks Værk
Torvet 18-20
DK 3300 Frederiksvaerk, Denmark

Berlin | Germany
The industrial district Schöneweide is closely linked to Emil Rathenau. In 1896 he purchased an area of 92,000 square meters next to the river Spree to establish the Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG). Thus, he laid the foundations of one of the major industrial sites of his time. One year ...
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Industriesalon Schöneweide
Besucherzentrum für Industriekultur
Reinbeckstraße 9
12459 Berlin, Germany

The history of the Ewald colliery began in 1871. Three mining contractors in Essen, one of whom Ewald Hilger, gave his name to the pit, set up the colliery in the south of Herten. After a thorny start the colliery grew to become the most productive pit in the Ruhrgebiet, above all after the Second ...
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Ewald Mine | Hoheward Landscape Park
Besucherzentrum Hoheward
Werner-Heisenberg-Straße 14
45699 Herten, Germany

Sonneberg | Germany
Sonneberg, the town of toys, was founded in the Gründerzeit (Wilhelminian era) as an industrial settlement with checker-board pattern streets, composing a structure of urban blocks. Over 90 percent of the buildings dating to the time between 1840 and 1940 were dedicated exclusively to toy production ...
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Sonneberg Town of Toys
Bahnhofsplatz 1
96515 Sonneberg, Germany