Rushing transmission belts, buzzing yarn reels, the rattling of the mechanical looms – it was that kind of noise that used to shape the everyday life of the Basque textile mill La Encartada near Bilbao for 100 years. Luckily, almost the entire equipment, predominantly dating to the decades around 1900, has been preserved. On top of that, the buildings are intact as well and carefully restored, including the dwellings built for the former employees. The museum tour starts with a video capturing the factory in full operation and reproducing interviews with the workers. This is followed by various workshops for repair and maintenance, accompanied by historic vans, ranging from horse-drawn carts to DKW platform trucks. The factory’s most important product was the beret ("Boina"), temporarily extended by blankets for the army. The exhibition illustrates every single step of the manufacturing process, from the roller press for squeezing out the water from washed raw wool to carding, spinning and twisting machines as well as the towering Jacquard looms. And all this in a scenic setting on the banks of the Cadagua River, which, with its seven-metre cascade, provided the necessary power to operate the machines.
It is no coincidence that Marcos Arena Bermejillo, who made money in Mexico, opened his factory on 14 January 1892 right here. At the same place, two kilometres from his hometown of Balmaseda, the Cadagua river ran a foundry as early as the 15th century and a grain mill with four grinders in the mid-19th century. The new factory La Encartada is an exceptional feature within the industrial setting of the Basque country: as a textile mill, it represents an industrial sector that is rare to the region and spearheaded the technological progress of the industrialization. Even more important is the factory’s excellent state of preservation: machines, transmission belts, workers' housing and the integrity of the site create a highly evocative environment that takes visitors back to an early stage of industrialization.
The factory flourished between 1910 and 1936, providing work for 130 employees who manufactured berets, traditionally the main focus of production from the very beginning, as well as peaks, balaclavas and blankets. The army was the principle client, also during the Spanish Civil War. Starting with the 1940s, the beret gradually went out of fashion. Eventually, the emergence of synthetic fibres and competition from overseas led to the shut down of the factory in 1992, after exactly 100 years of operation. In 2007, La Encartada, now a listed building, reopened as a factory museum. One of its most characteristic features is the integration of machines from many European countries into a single manufacturing process. The raw wool was cleaned and prepared by a Catalan carding machine, spun into yarn on a 360-spindle self-acting mule supplied by Plat Bros of Oldham in 1892, who, together with a Belgian manufacturer, also supplied the twisting and winding machines. Power was produced by a Francis-type turbine manufactured by J M Voith of Heidenheim, Germany, in 1904, and surviving blanket-making equipment includes Jacquard looms made in Barcelona in 1907 and Chemnitz in 1908.
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April to October:
Tuesday - Friday 10am-2pm and 4pm-7pm
November to March:
Tuesday - Friday 10am-2pm