John Baildon (1772–1846)

The Scotsman John Baildon was one of the pioneers of industrial development in Upper Silesia, now in Poland but in Baildon’s lifetime part of Prussia. He was born at Larbert in Stirlingshire and studied mechanics in his youth before working at the Carron ironworks. He went to Silesiain 1793 at the invitation of Count Friedrich von Reden (1772-1815). His first task was to build coke-fired blastfurnaces at Gleiwitz (Gliwice) from 1796. He was involved between 1792 and 1812, as was Reden, in the construction of the 46 km Kłodnica Canal built 1792-1812 from Kózle on River Oder to Gleiwitz, primarily for the conveyance of coal and metallic ores.

In 1798 he was appointed government technical adviser for the development of the iron industry in Upper Silesia and, again with Reden, built the Königshütte (Royal Ironworks) at Chorzów. He spent a spell working in Moravia during the Napolonic Wars and on his return to Silesia established mines for zinc ore at Brzozowice and zinc smelters at Nowa Helena and Szarlej, after which, in 1823 he built his own ironworks on the Rawa River.

He married the daughter of an Italian merchant at Gleiwitz (Gliwice) in 1804 and their children continued to be involved in industry in Silesia after their father’s death. The family mansion was at Pogrzebien, and his Gothic-style cast iron tomb, originally in the ironworkers’ cemetery in Gleiwitz (Gliwice), was restored in 2012 and is now in the local museum.