Klingenschmiede aus dem Bergischen Land

Friedrich Wilhelm I. ließ Klingenschmiede abwerben, um in seinem Herrschaftsbereich einen Produktionsstandort für Klingen aufzubauen. Die Handwerker kamen aus der Klingenstadt Solingen und der weiteren Umgebung im bergischen Land.

© Stadtarchiv Wetter, Wandgemälde von Fritz Gärtner

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Crossing the Wupper: the recruitment of craftsmen in mercantile times

Friedrich William I, the Great Elector, recruited bladesmiths from Solingen in county Berg in order to build up the production of blades in his territory. The artisan settlement Lange Riege in Hagen-Eilpe and some craftsman houses in Wetter are testament today to technology and knowledge transfer which was initiated in the 17th century through a targeted recruitment of bladesmiths from the dukedom of Berg into the Brandenburg-Prussian Mark county. Only travelling a few kilometres, but over the Wupper and thereby over a territorial state line, twelve bladesmiths presented themselves on the 19 April 1661 to the district authority of Wetter. The tradesmen came from the blade-producing town of Solingen and environs in the Berg country. The swords and daggers produced there with the inscription “Me fecit Solingen” were highly sought after weapons and were exported throughout Europe. These Berg craftsmen chose to settle in the county Mark and to practise their craft there.

However, the district authority sent the emigrants to the princely court in Cleve. The Brandenburg Prince Friedrich Wilhelm I was very interested in the craft specialists and secured generous privileges for them. According to his wishes, they were not, however, to go to the county Mark, but were meant to settle in the county of Brandenburg. There, he wanted to give them places to live and workshops in which to practise their trade. He also promised them exemption from duty for fifteen years, tax remission for ten years, and free practice of their reformed beliefs; in addition, he paid them 100 Reichtalers as “start-up assistance“.In exchange the Prince was to receive a pre-emption right for all produced goods as well as to obtain them at a discounted price. Later, Friedrich Wilhelm also released the bladesmiths from their military duties.

The craftsmen were recruited by an intermediary, the former bailiff in Wetter, who was originally from the dukedom of Berg. This acquisition of workers, the generous privileges and the targeted long-term preparation for this action underline the great interest that the government took in the craftsmen as they were meant to begin a new branch of trade in Prussia that would significantly influence wars and battle. However, another reason for this action was “peuplierung” - populating: after the Thirty Years War, scarcely populated parcels of land were intended to be settled again and the tax revenue secured.

However, the settlement of the Berg bladesmiths in Brandenburg failed because the natural surroundings were far from ideal. There was neither coal nor flowing water available with enough gradient to enable whetstones and grinding. The bladesmiths, therefore, returned to the county Mark and settled in various locations in Hagen-Eilpe, the town and the free district of Wetter, and the Eilper Court in Oberwengern. The first group of craftsmen were followed in the same year by yet another, so that in 1661 a total of 21 bladesmiths had arrived in the district of Wetter, and requested privileges and the right to settle.

The governing body of the Berg dukedom which was based in Düsseldorf feared the competition from the other side of the border, and therefore tried to hinder the emigration of talent and craftsmanship into the area. However, even following a trial by the Reich Privy Councillor in Vienna the resettlement could not be halted. After long negotiations, the bladesmiths were cleared of any offence on 7 May 1662, as they had never agreed by oath to stay in the homelands.

Denkmale zum Impuls

Wetter - Messerschmiedehäuser

Wie in Hagen-Eilpe zeugen auch in Wetter Baudenkmale von der Anwerbung bergischer ... weiter


Hagen - Lange Riege in Eilpe

Die Lange Riege ist eine Reihe von Fachwerk-Wohnhäusern, die der „große“ ... weiter


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