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Księży Młyn w Łodzi

Księży Młyn (the Priest’s Mill) is an old part of Łódź, located on the Jasień River. A mill owned by a local parish-priest was located here from the 15th century. In the early 19th century a spinning mill powered by a water wheel was built on the site of the mill. In 1872 the dilapidated spinning mill along with the adjacent land was bought by the most famous and the biggest Polish manufacturer Karol Wilhelm Scheibler.

Scheibler was born on 1 October 1820 in Monschau in Rhineland. After graduating from school he learned about manufacturing in the most important industrial centres of Europe and from 1843 worked as a representative of British companies on the Continent. In 1848 he arrived to Ozorków in the Kingdom of Poland, where he became the director of a spinning mill. From 1853 Scheibler lived in Łódź. In 1855 he launched a mechanical cotton spinning mill and a weaving mill on a plot of land located in Źródliska Park at Wodny Rynek (water market) and quickly gained the upper hand over other industrialists. He predicted the commodities crisis, caused by the Civil War in America (the main source of cotton supplies) and gathered adequate stocks of cotton. Consequently he was the only one to emerge from the crisis unscathed.

He developed his business and erected a workers’ housing estate and a palace. In 1870 the factory employed 1,191 people, and the value of production reached 1,850,000 rubles. In 1873 a new, impressive branch was launched in Księży Młyn (known as “Pfaffendorf”), which consisted of a spinning mill and a weaving mill. A huge “family” housing estate was built nearby, which included a school, shops, wells, storage areas, a mangle as well as a hospital and a small residence.

In order to ensure better quality of the finishing of fabrics, plots of bleaching fields stretching along Św. Emilii Street (today: Tymienieckiego Street) up to Piotrkowska Street were purchased and a modern finishing plant and dying plant were erected on them. In the next step the company was transformed into a joint-stock company – “Karol Scheibler Cotton Factories Joint Stock Company” – in 1881. The company’s share capital reached 9 million rubles divided into 360 shares, distributed between the family members and the founders of the company. This led to the creation of a well-organized company, the largest cotton mill in the Kingdom of Poland and in all of Europe.

Despite the many organizational changes the old historic buildings still exist. Right here, just a short distance from the city centre, we can enter a kind of an open-air museum, where the identity of Łódź has been preserved in the original spatial layout.

Ryszard Bonisławski