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The Warsaw Voice » Other » March 28, 2007
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A Scotsman in Silesia
March 28, 2007   
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John Baildon arrived in the Tarnowskie Góry in the fall of 1793, probably unaware that he would be linked with Silesia forever.

Baildon was born on July 11, 1772, in a town called Larbert in Scotland, in the county of Falkirk a few miles from Stirling. His father, William, was a respected mining engineer in the iron plant of Carron. John grew up in an enlightened and educated family. He learned the basics of drawing, engineering and mechanics from his father, who also passed down the secrets of iron ore smelting and metal founding.

It was pure coincidence that Baildon left Scotland for distant Silesia. At the age of 17, he met Fryderyk von Reden, the director of the High Mining Office in Wrocław. The Prussian official was to become a minister for the industrialization of Upper Silesia. Von Reden invited Baildon to Silesia in 1793, probably at the prompting of a building inspector named Johann Friedrich Wedding.

Baildon, aged just 21, was charged with helping to build coke ovens and modernize the industry in the region, which was rich in natural resources. In 1796, he opened a big coke oven, the first on the continent.

Baildon also supervised the modernization of the Mała Panew foundry in Ozimek. The cannon barrel factory he designed was the most modern plant of its kind in Prussia. He also created a department for bridge element production, which manufactured the iron bridge over Strzegomka in Łażany in Lower Silesia. Its load-bearing arches were built in the spring of 1796. It is the oldest construction of its kind in Europe. In 1827, a suspension bridge was built based on Baildon's design in Ozimek, which still survives today.

In January 1798, Baildon was nominated government technical adviser for the development of the metalwork industry in Upper Silesia. In 1799 he took up von Reden's idea and prepared a design for a new foundry in Chorzów. Könnigshütte (the Royal Foundry) was the most modern metallurgic plant in Europe. Baildon personally designed the steam-powered machinery and over the next few years an iron smelting facility, wheel factory and carriage factory were also built.

Between 1800 and 1802, Baildon also built two big coke ovens. A furnace, which was named after Reden, opened on Sept. 25, 1802, and was the biggest and most modern construction of its kind in Europe. Such modern facilities in Silesia enabled other projects to be carried out.

At the request of Wilhelm Hegenscheidt, Baildon designed and built a steam powered machine for the Royal China Manufacturer in Berlin, whose parts were made in the Royal Cast Iron Foundry in Gliwice.

Towards the beginning of the 19th century, the transport of coal and the lack of water in mines became the most serious problems in Silesia. Baildon and von Reden designed the Kłodnicki Canal, and the Główna Kluczowa Dziedziczna drift. These bold investments streamlined the transport of output from the Luiza and Król mines. Despite their success, they lost significance due to the quick development of the railways. The historic drift is now one of the most valuable industrial sites of Upper Silesia.

Baildon decided to settle in Silesia. In 1804, he married Helena Galli, the daughter of a rich merchant of Italian origin, who was 12 years younger. They had seven children-two daughters and five sons. Immediately after the wedding, Baildon built the zinc foundry in Wełnowiec with his own money. The plant was based on an innovative furnace technology. He also started a foundry in Sławięcice.

During the Napoleonic wars, Baildon left for Moravia. He modernized plants in Frydland and later came back to Silesia and founded the zinc ore mine in Brzozowice and the Nowa Helena and Szarle zinc foundries.

The foundry that now bears the name of the Silesian Scotsman is the Pudlingarnia Pana Baildona. The plant's construction started in 1823 near the river Rawa, next to Katowice village, on the border of the present districts of D±b and Załęże. The foundry had four special furnaces and set a new trend in the technology of steel production. Baildon's products had a good reputation from the very beginning. In 1863, the inheritors sold the foundry to Wilhelm Hegenscheidt. It survived in Poland until 2001, when the decision was taken to file for bankruptcy.

Baildon also owned the Helena and Pax coal mines in Bełk, neither of which now exist. He bought a residence in Łubie, where his son Artur built a family palace in 1860. It is now a nursing home. His contemporaries recalled Baildon as a decent and hard-working visionary, a frugal man who cared about order. He was professionally active until the end of his life. He died in Gliwice on Aug. 7 1846, aged 74. He was buried in the Smelting Cemetery. His tombstone is shaped like a neogothic chapel and is made out of raw cast iron. It is a fitting monument for a man of action, a great Silesian and Scotsman.
Jarosław Szymonowicz
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