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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. 

Żyrardów | Poland
Friendly, hospitable Żyrardów invites you to stroll through the charming nineteenth-century streets of the only post-industrial settlement in Europe that has been 95% preserved. Żyrardów, Poland’s former flax capital, delights visitors with the richness unexpected in such a small town of its ...

Zyrardow factory town
1 Maja 45
96300 Zyrardow, Poland

Senjski Rudnik | Serbia
Senjski Rudnik, established in 1853, is Serbia’s oldest active brown coal mine and the oldest preserved industrial heritage site. Located in eastern Serbia, 150 km southeast of Belgrade, this small town is surrounded by the most southern slopes of Carpathian mountains and deep forest. This ...

Senje coal mine
35234 Senjski Rudnik, Serbia

Trehafod | United Kingdom
They laboured like animals: bent double in the low galleries, their lungs full of dust, in constant fear of the walls collapsing, or a gas explosion. But despite all this, they were as proud as any farmer cultivating his own fields. For every collier was allocated his own particular underground ...

Rhondda Heritage Park
Lewis Merthyr Colliery
Coed Cae Road
CF37 2NP Rhondda, United Kingdom

Aiseau-Presles | Belgium
Aisneau is a small community about 6 km east of Charleroi which is the headquarters of La Chaine des Terrils, an organisation that protects, conserves and interprets pit heaps across Wallonia from Bernissart on the French frontier near Valenciennes through the Borinage Coalfield, Mons, La Louviere, ...

Trail of Pit Heaps
Espace Terrils ASAL Ferme des Castors
Rue du Centre 78
6250 Aiseau-Presles, Belgium

Vaasa | Finland
The Stromberg company, Oy Stromberg AB, was founded in 1889 by Gottfrid Stromberg (1863-1938) in Helsinki, and originally made such electro-mechanical products as generators and electric motors. The company has many innovations to its credit, and was once of the first to manufacture numerical relays ...

Strömberg Park
Oy Vaasa Parks AB
Yrittajankatu 17
65101 Vaasa, Finland

Loos-en-Gohelle was a scene of conflict in a succession of wars between the 13th and 17th centuries, and of epic-scale slaughter during the so-called First Battle of Loos in 1915. The Loos Memorial commemorates 20,000 British soldiers killed between 1915 and 1918, and there are several other ...

Coal Mines of Loos-en-Gohelle | La Chaine des Terrils
La Chaine des Terrils
Base du 11/19 Rue de Bourgogne
62750 Loos-en-Gohelle, France

The typical signs of Rhineland brown coal open-cast mining can be recognised for miles around on the flat plain east of Aachen. The huge accumulation of rubble on the "Sophienhöhe", waste material from one of the largest "holes" in Europe, the Hambach open-cast mine, and swathes of smoke rising into ...

Rhenish Brown Coal Open-Cast Mining Area
Informationszentrum der RWE Power Schloss Paffendorf
50126 Bergheim, Germany

Drebkau | Germany
The F60 overburden conveyor bridge carries out a phenomenal amount of work. On one side of the mine it carries away excavated material and then transports it across the open pit to dump it on the other side. With its three giant chain-and-bucket excavators and a conveyor bridge measuring over ...

Welzow-South opencast mining
Führungen / Guided Tours: Vattenfall Europe Mining AG Vom-Stein-Straße 39 03050 Cottbus Fon: +49 (0) 35646 - 95142 Aussichtspunkt Steinitz:
Domsdorfer Weg
03116 Welzow, Germany

The tours do not promise too much. One is called “Journey to Mars”, another “Jeep-Safari”. They lead deep into a scarred, alien landscape of yawning chasms, pockmarked excavations and strange gorges. The Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) visitor centre in Großräschen, Fürst-Pückler-Land, glows ...

IBA-Terraces Lausitzer Seenland visitor centre / former Meuro opencast mining
Seestraße 100
01983 Großräschen, Germany

Capalbio is a small but spectacular walled town, on the southern border of Tuscany, and 5 km from the Mediterranean coast. At Pescia Fiorentina, 4 km SW, is an integrated ironworks of the late 18th or early 19th century, including a blast furnace of the Bergamasque layout, characteristic of the ...

Capalbio industrial landscape
Capalbio, Italy

Argenta | Italy
The ecomuseum at Argenta is a federation of several museums and nature reserves that interprets and provides access to some of the lands reclaimed in the delta of the River Po in the early 20th century, the work of the Renata Reclamation Consortium, including the substantial lagoons that were ...

Ecomuseum of Argenta
Casino de Campotto
via Cadinale-Luc
Argenta, Italy

Campiglia Marittima (Ll) | Italy
Campiglia Marittima is a town on the Etruscan coast. The nearby Parco Archeominerario di San Silvestro extends over 450 ha in the heart of the Val di Cornia and aims to give visitors an understanding of mining and the metallurgical industries from the Etruscan era to the present. The mines in the ...

Parco Archeominerario di San Silvestro
34 Via di S Vincenzo
57021 Campiglia Marittima, Italy

Gavorrano | Italy
The area around Monte Calvo near to Gavorano on the coast of Tuscany was heavily mined for pyrites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The park incorporates many buildings once associated with mining which have been adapted to other purposes, and some open cast workings. The ...

Mineral Country Park Gavorrano
Parco Minerario Naturalistico Gavorrano
Gavorrano, Italy

Ridnaun | Italy
The mining museums at Schneeburg, near St Leonard, which lies between Merano and the Austrian border are part of the Südtiroler Bergbaumuseum (South Tirol Mining Museum) which manages five sites in the region, that is now part of Italy, although it was once a province of the Habsburg Empire, and ...

South Tirol Mining Museum
Museo Provinciale delle Miniere Bergbauwelt Ridnaun-Schneeberg
Maiern 48
39040 Ridnaun, Italy

Valguarnera Caropepe (En) | Italy
Floristella is a town in Enna province in central Sicily near Lake Pergusa. Mining of pyrites for sulphur began in the area in the early eighteenth century and continued until the 1960s. A unique feature of the mines is the presence of Celestine, strontium sulphate, SrS04, which is used in sugar ...

Floristella-Grottacalda Mining Park
Contrada da Floristella
94100 Valguarnera Caropepe, Italy

Kinderdijk | Netherlands
The 19 windmills at Kinderdijk comprise the most impressive historic landscape of wind-power in Europe, and are a powerful evocation of the landscape of the western provinces of the Netherlands in the period before steam was applied to work drainage pumps. Kinderdijk lies at the confluence of the ...

Windmills at Kinderdijk
Neverwaard 5
2961 AS Kinderdijk, Netherlands

Middenbeemster | Netherlands
The Beemster Polder which lies about 10 km south-east of Alkmaar is the oldest area of reclaimed land in the Netherlands. It was created in 1609-12 by draining a lake and the whole area lies 3.5 m below the normal sea level at Amsterdam. The new land was divided into square fields measuring 1850 m x ...

Beemster Polder
Infocenter Beemster
Middenweg 185
1462 HJ Middenbeemster, Netherlands

Once in 80 years. Or in 4000. There’s a big difference. We are talking about the danger of flooding in the area of the Schelde estuary. In 1953 it suffered a terrifying flood disaster which swept away everything. Now a modern storm surge barrier ensures that the local inhabitants can live in peace ...

Oosterschelde storm surge barrier - Waterparc Neeltje Jans
Faelweg 5
4354 RB Vrouwenpolder, Netherlands

Finspång | Sweden
The water-powered ironworks at Finspong, 30 km west of Norrkoping was established in the late 16th century by the Walloon Wellam de Wijk. It came to specialise in the production of cast-iron cannon, and was energetically developed by two other Walloons, a father (d 1652) and son (1622-95) both ...

Finspang ironworks museum
Finspångs Bruksmuseum
Bruksgatan 25
612 30 Finspang, Sweden

Amlwch | United Kingdom
As long ago as the Bronze Age people knew that the North Wales mountain of Mynydd Parys contained copper. Just how much was lying untouched in the ground, however, only came to light in 1768. This had undreamt of consequences, one of which, if only indirect, was Nelson’s victory at the Battle of ...

Mynydd Parys and Porth Amlwch
The Sail Loft, Porth Amlwch
LL68 9DB Amlwch, United Kingdom

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WORK it Out – Day of Industrial Culture

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