The forests of Jyrkkä have been inhabited since the Stone Age. The wide forests provided their inhabitants with nourishment and protection, and that several waterways that divide the region offered relatively easy passageways. The first people to inhabit Jyrkkä in the historical time were the Laplanders that had to give way for the more aggressive hunters from Tavastia and Karelia. The Savonians who cleared and burned woodland for cultivation came most recently and stayed permanently.
In the 19th century the government interest on the production of iron grew significantly. The dependence on Swedish iron and iron ore was seen as a problem by the administration of the Grand Duchy of Finland, a part of the Russian Empire. Additionally, the personal relations of the officials of the Finnish Senate and the owners of the ironworks were tight and often enforced by intermarriage. Thus the favouring of ironworks and iron industry became also personally beneficial. The ironworks were usually located near the source of the iron ore and were thus often in the countryside. This had a profound effect on the cultural life of the Finnish provinces. The manors of the owners of the ironworks provided examples in gardening, cuisine and building. The schools and libraries located at the ironworks were often the only ones in the nearby region.
In Finland the most obvious source of iron is bog iron formed in oligotrophic lakes and mires. This was also case in Jyrkkä. These deposits were taken advantage of quite early on by the local farmers and ironsmiths who used it in small-scale manufacture of different utensils and tools. The industrial production of iron began in 1831 when Zachris Franzén was given permission to establish a blast furnace and a bar-iron forge at Jyrkkäkoski. The distant location of Jyrkkä was always a burden for the ironworks that remained the smallest in Finland: the way to the nearest major traffic route was cumbersome and sufficient labour force was not available. In 1856 the owner of the ironworks changed and in 1874 a new blast furnace of Scottish type made of English bricks was built. Near the end of the 19th century the logistic problems were solved by acquiring an own steam boat.
The technological development of mining and steal industry combined with the booming international trade strangled the traditional Finnish ironworks to death: bog iron could not compete with mined iron ore even on the Finnish market. The First World War caused a short-lived surge in the demand of domestic iron but its end was the end of the Jyrkkä ironworks as well. The production ceased in 1919.
The blast furnaces of the ironworks have survived to this day even though most of the other buildings of the ironworks were destroyed in a fire in 1934. Nowadays these furnaces are an interesting part of the industrial history of Finland, and were consequently set under the building protection system in 1996 and repaired and conserved by the National Board of Antiquities in 1996–1998. The protective buildings that surround the blast furnaces are architectonically impressive and give an idea of appearance of the historical milieu. A café, Ruukintupa, is located in the same building as the Scottish blast furnace and serves snacks and refreshments.
Herrala, the residential building of the manager of the ironworks, and its garden provide a fine example of the life of the former upper class. The manor is nowadays private property.
The rapid nearby the ironworks is suited for fly fishing: licenses can be bought at e.g. at Ruukintupa
Jyrkkäkoski Ironworks, Jyrkäntie 1881, 74380 Jyrkkä. www.ruukintupa.fi