The beginnings of mining


Do you know that a simple farmer from the Tarnowice village is considered the discoverer of silver and lead ores in the area?

At the end of the 15th century, a simple peasant named Rybka, a resident of the settlement Tarnowice (now Tarnowice Stare, a district of Tarnowskie Góry), while ploughing a field, discovered the first lump ore. We know from a reconstructed register of free peasants of the Bytom Land that his first name was Jan. A shining ore was probably revealed by roots of a fallen tree. In consequence, local mineral resources started to attract numerous silver and lead diggers. Soon a mining settlement was established here and along with it - “gory”, which in Old Polish means mines or mine shafts. This is where the name of the town Tarnowskie Góry comes from.

Underground Treasures

Do you know that Tarnowskie Góry was once famous for silver and lead production?

The main mineral extracted by miners in Tarnowskie Góry was so-called galena, that is lead ore with admixture of silver. The name was first used to describe lead ore by a Roman natural scientist, Plinius. In the mid-16th century Tarnowskie Góry was one of the biggest centres of galena production in this part of Europe. It is considered that the lead exported from Tarnowskie Góry indirectly influenced the development of international trade and general economic upturn in Continental Europe. Silver on the other hand went to China, which needed it to make coins.

Free Miners

Do you know that a free miner (gwarek) and a miner are not the same?

The Polish word “gwarek” derives from German (“der Gewerke”) and means a person who organises production, a shareholder, an entrepreneur or simply a mine owner. Nowadays we would call such a person a businessman investing in mining. A miner on the other hand is just a worker at a given mine. On 8 August 1534 the young town was shaken by riots like anything one had ever seen before. Enraged diggers who searched for silver and lead ores here grabbed their pickaxes and brought about the first strike in the region. The reason? As usual - delayed wages and general exploitation of the working class. The riots lasted three days. The troops had to arrive from Bytom to put an end to the rioters’ wilfulness. From this day on wages were paid on time.

Shaft names

Do you know that each shaft miners bored had a name?

During the four centuries of mining activity over 20 thousand shafts were bored in the town area. Such a large number made it difficult for miners to think up new names. Among them were: Aristotle, Monkey Tail, Evening Star, Aurora or Pork Roast. When miners registered four shafts at the same time, these were given related names, such as Oats and Fodder or Plate, Pot, Glass, Lager. Sometimes even vulgarisms were used.

Labour code

Do you know that according to the old labour code the town mayor had to speak as many as three languages fluently?

So states paragraph 49 of “Ordunek Gorny”, the famous mining act of 1528. This act is where the name Tarnowskie Góry was mentioned for the first time. The code was drafted in Polish, Czech and German. It established mining and town authorities in Tarnowskie Góry and regulated mine activities and the level of wages.

Penalties for miners

Do you know that miners had to observe a very severe labour code?

As soon as in 1534 it was entirely prohibited to drink beer in mines and washers. Whoever broke the ban and came to work intoxicated, was subject to a severe penalty. Also a miner who disturbed the others at work, for instance using his pocket whistle, could have been put in jail. In 1541 it happened to an Assyk Gayda. Similar rules applied to weighing of output, which was performed in the presence of a so-called overman. Woe betide those miners who put poor quality ore on the scales. In line with the ordinance of 1618, also miners going underground late were punished.


Industrial revolution period

Mine Opening

Do you know that it took miners 9 months to discover deposits of argentiferous galena in the area of Bobrowniki Śląskie?

On 16 July 1784 in the searching shaft “Rudolfina” the first lump of this metal was extracted. Two days later ores were discovered in the shafts Łyszczonka and Opala. Rumour has it that when Friedrich Reden arrived at the spot, he felt so happy he fell to his knees when one of foremen showed him the first lump ore. In the same year a state-owned mine was opened, named Friedrich.

Steam Engine

Do you know that the first steam engine in Upper Silesia was put into operation in Tarnowskie Góry?

This, back then, miracle of engineering was manufactured in 1787 at Penydarran Ironworks in South Wales, owned by Samuel Homfray. It was then transported to the Port of Cardiff and put on board of a ship that arrived at Szczecin a few days later. There the engine was loaded from the ship on to barges cruising along the Odra River. After covering the distance of 600 km, the barges were unloaded in the village of Zdzieszowice. In August 1787 the extraordinary contrivance reached Tarnowskie Góry on peasant wagons. The assembly of this 30-ton giant in a building specially adapted for the purpose was supervised by its designer, Samuel Homfray, himself. The engine, put into operation on 18 January 1788, was used to drain underground workings of the Friedrich Mine.

Golden Book

Do you know that industrial tourism started in Tarnowskie Góry as soon as at the end of the 18th century?

The turning point was putting the first steam engine into operation at the Friedrich Mine. News about the event spread across Europe like wildfire. Many inquisitive visitors, prominent personages among them, arrived at the free miners’ town to admire this miracle of engineering at work. They put their impressions down on paper, as entries in the so-called “Golden Book” of Tarnowskie Góry. The book contains about 900 names of people representing various professions and social statuses. On 12 September 1804 an entry in the book was made by the author of Polish national anthem, Józef Wybicki.

Miner’s Uniform

Do you know that for each ceremonial occasion miners were obliged to put on their dress uniforms?

An order to wear these was given in late 1700s by the head of the State Mining Authority in Wrocław, Friedrich Wilhelm von Reden. The lack of a uniform was threatened by severe punishment, including jail. In 1797 justice was served to a man named Hunger, a blacksmith working at the Friedrich Mine in Tarnowskie Góry. He did not wear his uniform during “Barborka” (St. Barbara’s Day) and was arrested for 24 hours. The one who arrested him was Inspector Gottlieb Kalide, the father of a famous sculptor from Berlin, Theodore, born in Królewska Huta (Chorzów).

Industrial Espionage

Do you know that British steam engine designers had to guard their inventions very carefully?

During the Industrial Revolution foreign dignitaries started to visit Great Britain en masse, attracted by technological innovations, created by such inventors as Thomas Newcomen or James Watt. The official goal of these visits was a desire to see famous steam engines at work. The truth did not spill out until British factories opened their doors for foreign tourists. Many renowned personages, such as Baron Karl von Stein, perpetrated industrial espionage on a giant scale. The baron was the one who dealt with all formalities related to obtaining English authorities’ consent to the acquisition of the first steam engines for Tarnowskie Góry.

Carnall’s Tea Cups

Do you know that Carnall’s famous tea set was a gift from his students?

In 1844 the head of the School of Mines in Tarnowskie Góry, Rudolf von Carnall, was promoted and transferred to work in the Ruhr. Before his departure from the free miners’ town, 23 senior students from the school he run presented him with a china tea set. Its cups had mining-related buildings and facilities painted on them. Of 12 such facilities, 8 are located in the area of Tarnowskie Góry. Others are situated in Bytom and Piekary Śląskie. Only one cup has a non-industrial building on it. This is Carnall’s house at Szymała Street, still existing.

Brotherhood of St. Barbara

Do you know that the cult of St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners, came to life in Tarnowskie Góry?

Apparently the Patroness of Good Death had quite a lot of worshippers in the free miners’ town. In 1721 the Brotherhood of St. Barbara was established here, and nine years later a chapel dedicated to the Saint was built, adjacent to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. The rector of Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Priest Ziebrowski, went as far as to write to the Holy See, asking for an official approval of the already existing Brotherhood. The affirmative came in 1747. At the same time a special book was set up, where new members were entered. The Brotherhood of St. Barbara still exists today.

Mining Portable Toilet

Do you know that miners had portable toilets?

Working 12 hours a day, miners of the ancient Friedrich Mine did not relieve themselves at their worksite. They could use this metal bucket, serving as a portable toilet. After each shift it was hoisted up to the surface, emptied and cleaned. At dawn the portable toilet of ancient miners was lowered underground.

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