Hutteweg 24-115, 7071 BV Ulft
GPX: 51.8955140701265, 6.384028282282697
The existing watermill at the Meulenbeek/Oude IJssel near Huis Ulft was converted into the 'Ulftsche IJserhut’ iron mill in 1754. It was a charcoal-fired blast furnace that melted iron ore mined in the region. A 6-metre diameter water wheel was used to compress the bellows to blow sufficient oxygen into the charcoal fire. Products at that time were mainly cannonballs and bombs, firebacks, pots and batons; many were delivered to Amsterdam merchants.
The first decades were difficult until Messrs Diepenbrock and Reigers from Bocholt leased the company. Under their leadership, the factory started running well, and they eventually became owners. This also gave rise to the abbreviation DRU, Diepenbrock and Reigers Ulft.
In the 19th century, production expanded steadily to include a wide variety of castings: a lot of smaller work, columns, fireplaces, pots, pans, bathtubs, enamels, etc. The orange-red, so-called terracotta kitchen enamel acquired great fame and is well-known internationally. In 1870, an enamelling department was set up.
A new factory was built around 1900; the blast furnace was demolished, the Meulenbeek filled in and work continued with a cupola furnace, fired with coke, which processed imported hot metal.
In the following decades, the factory was expanded with a bathtub foundry and a sheet metal shop. After WW2, the expansion continued; to about 1,500 employees at the end of the 1950s. On its 200th anniversary, DRU was granted the designation 'Royal'. At that time, the production of gas stoves and fireplaces was strongly promoted.
When things got tough, they sought refuge in a merger; unfortunately, this could not prevent a takeover, and the new management determined that the DRU had to stop casting. 1973 was a dramatic year for Ulft and the surrounding area with hundreds of redundancies. The company continued with sheet metal work, heating, automotive parts, cooling tanks, frames for larger copiers and medical equipment.
In the mid-1990s, the DRU wanted to rebuild, but the municipality decided to relocate the company and redevelop the site while preserving its industrial heritage. DRU Heating relocated to Duiven along the A12 motorway, and the sheet metal workshop continued as an independent entity under the name Exerion in a new industrial area.
The plans resulted in a large-scale redevelopment that started in 2003. The industrial heritage has the status of a national monument. People now live and work at the DRU Industriepark, where they can also enjoy culture and excellent restaurants—a place where industrial culture (the Iron Museum) and innovation go hand in hand.
Diepenbrock and Reigers, Ulft was the longest operating ironwork in the Netherlands.
Sound clips have been recorded about the various former factory buildings (in Dutch). Listen to them here.
Place of Interest
The DRU Industriepark is a must-visit. It is an ERIH Anchor Point and the central meeting place for cultural and creative development in Oude IJsselstreek. For more information on a longer stay at the DRU or the surrounding area, just across the German border and the Achterhoek region, visit the DRU/VVV Inspiration Point.