Iron

By Karin Monié. Translation: Aidan Allen

Lövstabruk, or Leufsta bruk as it was once spelt, is an ironworks settlement that dates back to the Middle Ages. Originally founded by local famers, the works, driven by the Risforsån stream, became Crown property in 1596 and soon expanded. Lövstabruk is just one of many ironworks in northern Uppland with a long history. Conditions were very favourable for ironworking in northern Uppland. In addition to locally mined iron ore, mainly from Dannemora, the flat landscape was heavily forested with abundant water. Trees provided charcoal for the blast furnaces and forges. Fast-flowing water drove the
waterwheels, which in turn drove the trip hammers.

In the 17th century, Lövstabruk, in common with other ironworks in Uppland, developed intensively, making bar iron all year round. This differed from the pattern in the Bergslagen region, where production was only seasonal. As early as 1615 the Lövstabruk works boasted four blast furnaces, five trip hammers for making bar iron, and one forge.

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The blast furnace by the top lake. Painting from c.1700 at Lövstabruk manor house. photo: Gabriel Hildebrand, 2015.

In 1626 the works was leased by Willem de Besche (1573–1629), who was joined the following year by a business partner, Louis De Geer (1587–1652). Both men were Walloons, born in Liège. A little later, in 1643, Louis De Geer bought the works. Lövstabruk at this time was part of a wider concern that included Gimo and Österbybruk, with Forsmark works later added to the contract. Forsmark produced cannonballs whereas Lövstabruk mostly made bar iron for export. In the 17th century the iron was transported by water, first from a depot at Ängskär on the Hållnäs coast by
barge to Öregrund. Here it was transhipped and moved to Stockholm for weighing, from where it was transported by boat to Hull in England, before finally arriving in Sheffield.

Iron production was improved by new techniques from the Continent. Migrant Walloons improved charcoal production and forge techniques. Charcoal and running water were the prerequisite sources of energy. The terms Walloon forge and charcoal kiln stood for quality and efficiency. Many charcoal-production sites were located in the forests around Lövstabruk. Water came from the Risforsån stream and the great Florarna wetland and adjacent lakes.

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The forge by the top lake. Painting from c.1700 at Lövstabruk manor house. photo: Gabriel Hildebrand, 2015.

Two large paintings at Lövstabruk manor house show what the area looked like in the 17th century. The first, a panorama from around 1660, depicts the scale of the works and individual buildings. The artist is unknown. The second painting, from roughly 1700, shows the works before the catastrophe of 1719, when the settlement was burnt down by the Russians during their incursion on the east coast of Sweden.

The settlement was quickly rebuilt and by the first half of the 18th century looked much like it does today. Lövstabruk became the largest ironworks in the country. The technology that the Walloons introduced – the Walloon forge – produced high-quality bar iron. This type of bar – stamped with a characteristic letter and leufsta sweden – was for some time the country’s most important export. The 19th century saw the introduction
of the Lancashire forge from England.

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Bar iron with Lövstabruk stamps. photo: Gabriel Hildebrand, 2018.

The de Geer family owned the works until 1917, when it was sold to Gimo-Österby Bruks ab. Iron was made until 1926. Production then ceased and most of the works buildings were demolished. Reminders of the area’s industrial heyday are long gone, with the exception of a smithy and some other buildings.

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The railings of the de Geer vault in Uppsala Cathedral, made of wrought iron from Strömsberg and Ullfors works, which were owned by Lövstabruk. photo: Olle Norling, Uppland Museum.