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Munitions factory

Archaeological remains


Munitions factory
Munitions factory
Munitions factory
Munitions factory


In the Aezkoa valley, 5 kilometres from the French border, are the ruins of the Royal Factory of Arms and Munitions of Orbaizeta. The complex was built in the 18th century on the site of the old forge of mount Aezkoa; its wood resources, the presence of iron ore mines and rivers led to its installation on this site.

The factory was set up to supply arms and munitions to the army. It was transferred to the Crown and its existence was short - just a century- but very eventful. Its proximity to the border with France made it the object of constant sackings and fires, although it re-emerged time and time again until it was definitively closed in the 19th century.

The ruins have been overgrown by vegetation and extensive restoration work needs to be done below the green plant cover. The enigmatic air of the place and the fact that it is an excellent example of 18th-century industrial architecture have led to the factory being declared a Site of Cultural Interest.

The remains of the Arms and Munitions factory at Orbaizeta remind us that the main industrial centre for the military in the north of Spain was located here. It stands in a leafy and hidden corner of the Irati forest. The factory emerged there in the 18th century when the existing one in Eugi exhausted the forests around it. King Carlos III decided to build a new factory to supply munitions and armament for the successive wars the Crown waged at the time. The proximity of iron ore deposits, the abundant water supplies in the nearby streams and extensive supplies of wood were factors in deciding on the site in Aezkoa.

The old manufacturing complex was built on three levels: the factory itself, a settlement, the church, the workers' houses and an ingenious system that that connected the coal mine and the mineral stores with the furnaces via a set of overhead platforms. More than 150 workers and their families lived here for several years together with surveillance troops in this leafy and remote corner of the Irati forest. Production even reached a figure of 3,600 bombs a year.

Its isolated location, which increased raw material and maintenance costs, plus continuous attacks and sacking led to the complex finally closing down at the end of the 19th century. The buildings decayed into ruins that have been hidden by undergrowth over the years. Today it is still possible to make out the furnaces and the channelling of the river Legartza, but the whole complex needs extensive restoration. A recovery project is now under way and the factory has joined the list of sites of cultural interest.



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