The first ever blast furnaces like the smelting furnace in Wenden were enclosed in huts to protect them from the weather. Here in the region of Olpe a museum has been opened to show the gradual growth of iron and steel manufacturing, the origins of which go right back to the early period of blast furnace technology. Two very important factors were water ditches and dammed up ponds. Here water from the nearby River Bigge was harnessed to drive the various water-wheels some of which are still in working order. The foundry with its eight metre high quarry stone furnace stands on the side of a hill, a fact which made it easier to charge the shaft with the necessary material. Visitors can enter the “charge” area where ore and charcoal were carefully collected and apportioned and mixed with clay shale to improve the quality of the pig iron. The charge was then fed into the furnace via an opening in the adjacent charging platform. At the foot of the furnace you can still see where the molten iron and slag were poured off and led away to be worked on. A few steps further on there is a hammer works which are put into action once a month to show visitors how the rapid blows of the refining hammer pounded the brittle pig-iron into a resilient and malleable end product.
The ironworks in Wenden have been extremely well preserved. The original buildings date back to 1728 but over the years changes in ownership and economic conditions made improvements and extensions unavoidable. Despite all attempts at modernisation the works were forced to shut down in 1866 because they were no longer competitive and transport connections had become completely inadequate. Only a hundred years afterwards did people begin to realise that the disused works were an important industrial monument. Now work is afoot at preparing an exhibition on the history and background of the furnace. Even now the plant gives a graphic impression of the origins of iron-making.