Iron forges were facilities that were used for many centuries to work iron in a traditional way. A forge works using energy obtained from the water captured from a river by building a dam, canal and elevated tanks. Water is release in a controlled manner, passing through the vertical vanes of a mill that then turns larger wheels which power a sledgehammer and bellows to produce air.
The Oldest Iron Forge in the World
The ironworks of Pobal is possibly one of the oldest forges that is still in operation in the world, and has over 500 years of history. It was built in the early 16thcentury, by one of the powerful clans of the region, the Salazar family, who resided in the castle of Muñatones, which can still be visited today.
A century later a mill was attached to the same water channel as the ironworks. This allowed for the mill to be active all year round. During the rainy months and heavy rain flow the mill was used to produce and shape iron products, while during the summer months, with less water flow, the mill was used to grind wheat and corn.
The iron forge you see today has evolved over the centuries, and remained fully operational until 1968. Today visitors can tour three different areas of the mill to get a better understanding of the past.
What to see
Warehouse Coal: It served as its name suggests for storage of charcoal, coal was used for fuel and could reach a temperature of 1200 ° C.
Foundry Room: In the second space are impressive stone bellows and the large sledgehammer. This space is used to produce iron ingots or “totxos” of about 20 kg each.
Ironworks: This is the third space and perhaps the most important stage which operated until its closure in 1968. Here iron products were produced including shovels, picks, nails and more, the workshop in Encartaciones was responsible for supplying the necessary materials for the mines of the region to carry out their activity.
Although the ironworks can be visited all year, every Saturday a live exhibition is given, where visitors can see the traditional iron making process, and a demonstration of manufacturing techniques for different types of iron products. The hour and a half visit is highly recommended if you are near Bilbao.
Winter Hours (Oct 16 – Apr 14)
Tuesday to Sunday and holidays: from 10:00 to 14:00
Summer hours (April 15 to October 15)
Tuesday to Saturday: from 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 19:00
Sundays and holidays: from 10:00 to 14:00