Giant Mountains, Czech Republic

07.01.2010

Guns from Vrchlabi

    The area of Vrchlabi belonged to the most significant and developed regions in Bohemia even in the first half of the 16th century.

    Ironworks in Vrchlabi consisted of three buildings in this time. They were called - „dymacka" (smoking building), „vyhrivacka" (heater) and „vlassky hamr" (iron-mill).

    Ironstone was mined and made into pig iron in the surroundings. Wood coal was mostly used as fuelling. Wood for its produce was enough and it was floated from mountain forests to Vrchlabi and Dolni Dvur. Coalmen worked here and prepared in charcoal pits needed fuel for making of ironstone and pig iron. Originally was the iron processed into metal plates from which scythes and grass-hooks were made. This was the main product and best selling article.

    Georg Erben - first gunmaker came in 1614.  And ten years later, Matthes Hantke (from Lanov) settled down here. He specialized in gun locks. It was in the time of the Thirty years´ war and demand for guns increased. In the year 1624, Albrecht from Valdstejn bought Vrchlabi manor and included the Vrchlabi area into Frydlant dukedom. When he became the major commander of austrian forces (one your later), Vrchlabi grew into important manifacturing plant of guns of all kinds.

    We can see already manufacture with division of labor and specialized craftsmen - for example blacksmith of gun-barrels, driller of gun-barrels, grinders, locksmiths etc..

    Manufacturing production continued also after 1634 when Albrecht from Valdstejn was killed and the Morfins family got his land. A large smithy specialized in production of gun-barrels was in Vrchlabi by the year 1676. One part was sold in wide surroundings but the main part used to buy local gunsmiths from Vrchlabi. In that time 29 gunsmiths worked just in Vrchlabi. Erben and Ludwig families were the best known. The Erben family  practiced also another craft - watchmaker´s. And later, when the interest in guns decreased continued only with the watch producing and reparations. The most widely known gunmaker from Vrchlabi is Christof Ludwig (died in 1707) and because of his personal mark which he used to sign his products. And that´s why we can exactly determine his guns and see them in various collections in the whole Central Europe. At the end of the 18th century the gun production in Vrchlabi definitely ended.

    But we can see some pieces in the Museum of the Giant Mountains National Park in the former Augustinian monastery. It is part of exposition called „Clovek a hory" (Human and mountains).

    Opening hours: all the year round Tuesday - Sunday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. , admission: 20 CZK / adult, 10 CZK / child.

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