Entering a new era with hydropower – experiencing the success story of the Bergische Hämmer first hand
Dieter Orth and Lutz Kleuser are the guardians of the very last water hammer in the Morsbach Valley. Where the Gelpe flows into the Morsbach (Mors brook) , this is where the Steffenshammer is located in the Remscheid village of Clemenshammer.
As early as the 14th century, there were numerous cottages and hammers along the banks in the region known as Bergisches Land. The now listed forging hammer was erected in 1746 to replace an older predecessor. According to Dieter Orth, the ironmongery industry was successfully operated in Bergisches Land using the water power of streams and rivers. It was a hard life and hard work. Success and failure depended on the water level.
Dieter Orth is the "patron saint" of the Steffenshammer. Anyone who takes a guided tour with him will experience the industrial history of the region up close. Dieter Orth brings old crafts to life, and not just with his anecdotes. While telling the exciting story of the forging hammer, he impressively demonstrates how water power drives the hammer, the grindstones and the bellows of the forge. Traditional regional craftsmanship to marvel at and to touch. But be careful: If you stand too close to the water wheel, you might get wet.
Industrialization on the European continent began in the region known as Bergisches Land. Production along the streams and rivers was bustling. The necessary pig iron had always come from the Siegen region over the Bergische Strasse. The charcoal for the forge fire was produced in local charcoal kilns. Most of the products were ironmongery and tools. However, Dieter Orth knows that refining steel, a high-quality tool steel, was also produced from iron blanks. This quality steel made the region around Remscheid world famous.
A pond was needed for the work in the forging hammer in order to be able to use the water power effectively and regularly. Dieter Orth explains that good interaction between the blacksmith and the young apprentices was important at work. The apprentice would stand directly behind the blacksmith and regulated the flow of water by pulling a rod. This allowed the blacksmith to concentrate fully on his work.
In the "valley of outlaws", as the area was also called there, there were many cottages, hammers and factories. Particular care was taken to ensure that the amount of water was fairly distributed. "Not that the last man at the end of the river was literally left dry," says Lutz Kleuser. No water, no production. Standstill.
The emergence of steam engines and later electric motors made it possible to produce without water. But that also meant the demise of the cottages. The factories moved up to the cities. However, work had continued in some forging hammers, says Lutz Kleuser, adding that the Steffenshammer had produced at full capacity until 1928. For the next 30 years, the hammer was used for occasional work. Finally it became the property of the city and served the German Tool Museum as a branch office for exhibition purposes. Dieter Orth was already an active member at that time and inspired both young and old visitors alike to learn about historical forging technology.
A few years ago, the Steffenshammer almost suffered the same fate as its "peers". The no longer profitable branch of the German Tool Museum was to be put under the hammer itself. The hammer was to be sold to an outsider. The outcry was fierce.
There was great resistance among the population of Remscheid.That was the hour of birth of today's Society of Friends. Dieter Orth and Lutz Kleuser were in charge of the negotiations with the city of Remscheid.
At the beginning of 2009, the Steffenshammer e.V. acquired the hammer. A lot has happened since then. Everyone is pulling in the same direction: The city, the preservation of historical monuments, local companies and countless volunteers work tirelessly to support the Society for the promotion of historical forging technology in its activities. With success.
Preservation of local craftsmanship. Authentic experience of local industrial history. Historical forging technology at your fingertips. This is the Steffenshammer.
Förderverein: Lutz Kleuser, Tel. +49 (0) 160 / 97 79 53 37
Führungen: Dieter Orth, Tel. +49 (0) 179 / 2 29 13 12