The Ironworks Museum

The support group Königshütte, which was founded in 1983 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Königshütte, has spent 10 years building a small special museum for the southern Harz in this small building. It was officially opened in September 1997. Outside there is an original cast-iron desilvering kettle from the silver smelter in Altenau. A small board gives the necessary information. This cast iron probably comes from the ironworks in the nearby village of Lerbach.

On the outer wall facing the mill, three grave crosses are displayed as documents of 19th century cemetery culture. The first two grave crosses of the couple Reitender Förster Otto from the abandoned cemetery in Pöhlde/South Harz come from the Königshütte. The right one is from Seesen. This cross comes from a Brunswick ironworks, either from the Wilhelmshütte in Bornum or from the Carlshütte in Delligsen.

A tour of the ironworks museum should follow at the end. Entering the room on the right, some of the objects will initially catch your eye: The large cast-iron stove from the production of the Königshütte, the information board and certainly also the functional model. But let's go through them one by one. In this room the visitor is introduced to the basics of iron smelting: The different types of iron stone, fluorspar, limestone and charcoal: all natural products that were essential for the smelting and production of pig iron. The economic map of the southern Harz region is used to illustrate the mining landscape. The various types of ironstone and aggregates are shown as exhibits. In some places where sufficient water power was available, ironworks, copper and silver smelters were also built in the southern Harz. For iron smelting, these were the ironworks on the Söse and Sieber Rivers and in Lonau on the Oder, Wieda, Zorge and above all on the Warm and Cold Bode and then on the Bode River itself. In 1705 the copper works was built at the confluence of the two Lutter valleys near Bad Lauterberg, which smelted the local copper ores until shortly before 1830. The ditches and ponds/reservoirs required for these smelters, including the mines, are shown on the map in the museum. Below the economic map, illustrations give an idea of the charcoal piles through which a large part of the South Harz population once had a modest livelihood. The scientific assistant for this museum, Dr. Wilfried Ließmann, started out from Sieber and visited the valleys and mountain slopes. In the meantime he has mapped about 400 former charcoal pile sites.

One illustration shows the water management near Lauterberg as it stood in 1733: the Wiesenbeker Pond (formerly Aufrichtigkeiter Pond) from 1715 depicted in it, together with the water from the Oder Valley, drove the water wheels below the former "Aufrichtigkeit" pit. After the pit had to be closed down in 1738, the Königshütte was given the power of disposal over the water rack of this large reservoir pond and held it until around 1960. A model shows the arrangement of the houses and production facilities of the Königshütte shortly before privatisation. Behind it, pictures show the path of the iron stone until the production of pig iron. A reproduction of a watercolour painting from 1832 is also hanging in these pictures, showing, among other things, the large, newly built hut on the first slope. Above the blast furnace the combustion gases, the blast furnace gases, are released into the free atmosphere. At that time there were no blast furnace bells to intercept and divert the hot gases for the purpose of pre-heating the blast air.

A large functional model, built according to original plans of the Königshütte from 1736, shows the internal structure of the large blast furnace works on the first slope from the first construction phase. Five waterwheels drove the poch mill for crushing the ores and limestone, the two blowers for the two blast furnaces and a special blower for the fresh fire, as well as for the stamping mill (hammer mill) for pre-forging the freshly cut iron bars. In front of the right blast furnace one can see the production of furnace slabs, while the left furnace was lined up for the pig iron ingots. These ingots were fished over hatches in the fresh fire, i.e. the excess carbon of the pig iron was reduced to less than 1% by blown air, so that malleable iron was produced from the pig iron, which was taken for the production of bar iron and wire rope. Even Goethe visited this blast furnace works twice.

In this room, visitors are shown a short version of a film from the last casting week of the Königshütte, which was recorded in 2001. In terms of content, the film first deals with the production of the cores required to make hollow castings. The viewer is impressed by the tapping of the liquid grey cast iron from the cupola furnace and the pouring into the moulds. Finally, the finished casting is taken out of the mould and finally cleaned of adhering moulding sand in the fettling shop.

Above a bed of slag hangs a reproduction of an oil painting, which beautifully documents the royal ironworks with the ironworks well, the iron magazine and the large Gothic foundry complex. This painting is by Charlotte Quensell and was painted from life in 1862.

To the left of the passageway one can see models made of plaster, among other things for the mass production of flat iron and window gaggles. The large painted hut flag was carried in front of the staff of the Königshütte during the festive procession at the 50th anniversary of the Lauterberg spa in 1889.

In between, large photographs of products of the Southern Harz ironworks, including obelisks, funerary monuments, wire cable production and a reference to the fact that all iron parts of the Herzberg gun factory were supplied by the Königshütte are hung on the right-hand side. The "Wilde Mann", a gun barrel from 1585 from the Teichhütte near Gittelde, is also depicted in the detail. On the left side, in the showcase cabinet, products made of iron art casting from the Königshütte from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century stand and lie, including a small portrait bust of King George V in bronze casting. The plaster model for it was created by the Hanoverian sculptor Heinrich Hesemann (1814-1856).

In the last room, which is dominated by the cast-iron spiral staircase of a private iron foundry in Wernigerode, other cast iron art articles are exhibited, e.g. different stove plates, the last supper by Leonardo da Vinci [first modelled by the Tyrolean Leonhard Posch (1750-1831) in Berlin 1822], small articles like medals, business cards in the high showcase and some figures of apostles on the wall. The large equestrian statue of King George V of Hannover is an eye-catcher, for which the court sculptor Hesemann delivered the plaster model in 1854. Two copies of these exceptional art casts were exhibited at the 2nd World Exhibition, which took place in Paris in 1855. In close vicinity is the oldest fully plastic art casting of the royal smeltery, the bust of King Jérôme from 1811. Various iron minerals are displayed in a table showcase, and some tasting cups from Großalmerode.

At the end of the tour the old ironworks bell is rung. It is meant to say thank you for your visit and at the same time to say good luck to our guests. And as it is said in a document about the geography of the Kingdom of Hanover from 1826 about the Königshütte:

"No stranger will regret dedicating a few hours to viewing the Königshütte".