The factory called La Encartada at Balmaseda, 24 km south-west of Bilbao, was established in 1892 by a locally-born entrepreneur Marcos Arena Bermejillo, with capital he had acquired during a stay in Mexico. It continued in production for exactly a century, closing in 1992. Its principal product was always been the traditional Basque ‘boina’ (beret), supplied in large numbers to the police and the military in Spain and abroad, but blankets were manufactured there between 1908 and the 1940s.
The factory, which opened as a museum in January 2007, has a range of machines for processing wool that originate in many parts of Europe. Raw wool was cleaned on a devil made in Catalonia in 1956, carded and lapped on machines made by Platt Bros of Oldham in 1892 and by Celestin Martin of Verviers in 1896, spun into yarn on a 360-spindle self-acting mule supplied by Plat Bross in 1892, doubled and wound on machines of the 1890s by Platt Bros and a Belgian manufacturer, knitted on frames made in Spain in the 1950s, and finished on a variety of equipment including a kind of fulling stock made by Hopewell of Baswell, Nottinghamshire in 1892 and a teasel gig made in Bilbao in 1895. Power was provided by a Francis-type turbine manufactured by J M Voith of Heidenheim, Germany, in 1904, which drove a dynamo made by Edison in Paris in 1892, transmitting power through line-shafting provided by the Manchester agents John M Sumner & Co in 1891-92. Surviving blanket-making equipment includes Jacquard looms made in Barcelona in 1907 and Chemnitz in 1908. La Encartada displays a traditional Basque manufacture, but it also shows how entrepreneurs were able to integrate machines from many European countries into a single manufacturing process.
Nearby are several ranges of workers’ houses, some built at the same time as the factory and some from the early twentieth century.