History Saxå Bruk

 

The history of Saxå Bruk goes back to late Middle Ages:  there is written evidence from the 1540s pointing towards an early iron industry at Saxå Bruk. In the 17th and 18th centuries, there were, in the parishes surrounding Saxå, around 50 or so blast furnaces and almost the equal number of stamp mills. ‘Hytta’ is the old Swedish word for a one-chamber blast furnace for the production of pig iron. The furnace was owned by a group of shareholders, a so-called ‘Hyttlag’.

They used the furnace during that part of the year where water was plentiful in the stream. Charcoal and iron ore were transported to the furnace over the frozen lakes in the winter. The first step in the iron production process was to roast the ore. In the beginning, this was done in pits with wood as fuel, but in 1856 the pits were replaced by roasting ovens. The ore was roasted in order to make the stone more porous and lower the content of sulphur. After roasting, the ore was crushed into smaller pieces. The iron was produced by filling the central chamber of the furnace with iron ore, charcoal and lime stone.

These ingredients were fed into the oven from the top rim of the central chamber. Air was pressed into the chamber from below with the help of two bellows that was powered by a water wheel. During the combustion of the charcoal, the iron was separated from the rest of the materials in the rock. The melted iron, which sank to the bottom of the furnace, could be emptied out from below into trays and left to cool into ingots. The residue floated on the surface of the iron and was poured into other types of trays to cool into rectangular blocks of slag stone, a glass-like material that was used as building material. The Slag could also be crushed and used as insulation or filling material.

Due to its high content of charcoal, the cast iron that was the result of this process was brittle, but the level of charcoal could be reduced through decarburization to produce wrought iron. The decarburization could take place in so-called osmund kilns, but in 1633, Saxå expanded with two German-type finery forges and a trip hammer to produce wrought bar iron.

The fining process involved liquefying cast iron in a fining hearth and removing carbon from the molten cast iron through oxidation. Bellows and hammer were water powered. The main part of all iron was exported abroad. In the middle of the 17th century, the works produced 50 tonnes of iron yearly. It took 17 000 litres of charcoal to produce a ton of pig iron and at least as much was used during the fining process, in total 30 m3 of charcoal per ton of wrought iron. 30 m3 of charcoal roughly corresponds to the amount of charcoal produced by a  charcoal pile made with 100 m3 of wood and timber. In the middle of the 19th century, a roasting oven was added and the furnace was rebuilt in stone. At about the same time the forge was closed down.

 

From foundry proprietor via limited company to private home

 

After the death of Johan Berggren, the last of the big foundry proprietors, ownership of the Saxå Works was divided amongst the members of the Berggren family. The property was reunited as a whole in the beginning of the 20th century with K. K.

Karlsson, who owned and managed Saxå Works until 1912. In 1916, Hellefors Bruk Ltd purchased the property and soon thereafter closed the works. The Managing Director and main owner at the time was Oskar Falkman, who was also the man behind Boliden Ltd.

The Corps de logis now became a summer residence of the Managing Directors of Hellefors Bruk Ltd, and used for hunt, crayfish- and Christmas parties by for example the MD Torsten Wigelius. After 1932, the manor house and its wings were used for recreational purposes by white-collar workers at Hellefors Bruk and after 1959 by Billerud Ltd. During the 70s, the complex was turned into a boarding-house and renovated in the choice materials of the time: synthetic paint and needle loom felt carpets.

Today, Carl Jan Granqvist who leases the surrounding land to Saxå Golf Club and its 18-hole golf course owns the surrounding landscape. Berggren’s corps de logis and adjoining buildings (the The Middle Manor, the wings, the chapel and the folly) was purchased 1 January 1984 by Carl Jan Granqvist, who proceeded to acquire the surrounding lands and the old dilapidated blast furnace 13 December 2010.

Step by step, the buildings have been gently renovated with the aim to restore them to the way they must have looked when Esaias Tegnér saw them while visiting foundry proprietor Berggren at the turn of the century 1700-1800.

 

The Berggren family history at Saxå

 

It was at the turn of the century 1700-1800 that Foundry Proprietor Johan Olof Berggren erected the Saxå manor. The family was connected to the area well before the appearance of any national census, and took the name Berggren in mid 18th century.

From the time of Gustav Wasa to the dissolution of the four-chamber parliament in 1866, the family had the honour to represent the area in the peasant’s chamber of the Swedish parliament, which is the longest continuous representation of the county of Värmland that the Swedish Parliament has ever seen.

A charming little anecdote tells us that when the first member of the Berggren family came to Saxå, he sat down on a stone to admire the divine view of the long lake Saxen and soon decided that this was the perfect spot for his family seat. Saxå stone - the stone on which he rested - is still there, situated in an alcove under the stairs leading from the manor to the garden; the epitome of a 500 year family tradition. In the middle of the 18th century, Johan Olof Berggren acquired 51/64 of the foundry and surrounding lands, making him the first big foundry proprietor or ‘Patron’, of the Saxå Bruk. The title ‘Patron’ is worth an extra explanation.

In the early days of the Swedish iron industry, the French word ‘Patron’, originally meaning ‘owner’ or ‘director’ in a general sense, was imported and given the particular use as a title for big industrial magnates like for example foundry proprietors. On Patron Berggren’s watch, the local area flourished, economically as well as culturally, and the family came to have a big influence on the surrounding area. Apart from what is today Saxå Manor, earlier called the ‘Northern Manor’, there was the Southern Manor and the Middle Manor.

The Southern Manor was moved to Hällefors in 1918 and is still used as hotel. Saxå Manor today consists of a corps de logis, two wings, a chapel, a granary, a peacock house, a smithy, a coal shed, a blast furnace and the Middle Manor with adjoining storehouse and smithy.

 

 

TV programmes recorded at Saxå Bruk
 

1992 This is your fridge
with presenter Jan-Boris Möller, SVT 2.

2005 Music Bus summer tour

The viewers get to meet people, see places and hear music from all around Sweden. Recordings took place at Saxå Bruk 7 July, SVT 2.

2009 Antique Detectives

with presenter Pontus Silfverstolpe, TV4 +.

2010 – Palace life

with presenter Peder Lamm, TV8.

2011 – Summer with Ernst

with presenter and designer Ernst Kirschteiger.
Ernst renovated the old granary by the lake. The programme aired every Thursday for eight weeks during the summer.

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