A large nave with pointed arches in masonry work, bathed in light and flanked by two lower aisles: doesn’t that look like a church at first sight? Not at all church-like, however, is the heavy machinery scattered all over the place, including the first steam engines of the northern Spanish province of Castile-Leon. That’s not a coincidence since this beautiful neo-Gothic building, called the Ferrería de San Blas, housed a rolling mill and a smithy in the early 19th century and processed steel that came from Spain’s first coke-fired blast furnaces. Remains of the latter can still be seen in the outside area, as well as the evidence of a mining settlement and a colliery. The Ferrería itself has turned to be a museum telling the story of the pioneers of the Spanish steel industry. Original machines and their replicas show visitors how the pig iron obtained in the blast furnaces was further processed by means of reverberatory furnaces, steam hammers and rolling and cutting machines. There was even a repair shop for the maintenance of machines and buildings. The historical context is illustrated by a large model that traces the development of the regional mining industry from its beginnings in 1830 to the closure of the last pit in 1991.
In 1841, Miguel Iglesias Botias was granted the licence to build three collieries in the Sabero valley, which prompted him to found the Sociedad Palentina de Minas. However, since he would not confine himself to mining coal but to processing iron as well, he embarked on a co-operation with the Madrid entrepreneur Santiago Alonso Cordero and the mining engineer and geologist Casiano de Prado to establish the coal and steel company Palentina-Leonesa de Minas. On 14 March 1846, they laid the foundation for a first blast furnace near the hermitage of San Blas. It was 16 meters high, had a maximum diameter of 4.5 meters, was continuously in operation, and took advantage of the latest technology of its time: it was fuelled with coke, which resulted in processing larger amounts of iron ore in shorter time, thus increasing production capacity to more than nine tons of iron per day. A second blast furnace was built in 1860. Right next door, in the Ferrería de San Blas, a 10 hp steam hammer prepared the pig iron for further processing in the rolling machine. The technology of the furnaces and machines was of English origin, and a company-owned repair shop ensured the inexpensive maintenance. Not least, the iron work’s location right in the middle of the rapidly developing Sabero coal field meant that there would be combustibles in abundance. Nevertheless, the site closed in 1866 after scarcely 20 years of operation. Why?
The political conditions are to blame. The reign of Isabel II was marked by conspiracies, changes of government, soldiers' revolts, and wars in the African and Pacific colonies. Add to this the lack of civic entrepreneurs, a weak domestic demand, and high transport costs due to the lack of a railway network. With the so-called "Ferrería de San Blas", the Steel and Mining Museum of Castile-Leon unearthed an industrial heritage treasure. The Ferrería’s pioneering smelting technology, which had completely fallen into oblivion, opens an exciting new chapter to the industrial history of the Sabero coal field.
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April to September:
Tuesday - Saturday 10am-2pm, 5pm-8pm
Sunday, bank holiday 10am-2pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm
October to March:
Tuesday - Saturday 10am-2pm, 4pm-7pm
Sunday, bank Holiday 10am-2pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm