REAL INGENIO DE LA MONEDA DE SEGOVIA (ROYAL MINT OF SEGOVIA)
-Construction of a hydraulic wheel prototype-
The Royal Mint of Segovia, also known as Real Ingenio de la Moneda, was one of the most important coining mills in Spain. It was built between 1583 and 1588 on behalf of King Philip II on the banks of the Eresma river and it was operating as a mint until 1869. Currently, it is in the process of rehabilitation.
The King requested the project to his architect, Juan de Herrera, who designed an industrial building explicitly conceived to cover the full coining process, from the monitoring of the arrival of the gross metal to the final product, the coins.
The new mill was a model of internal organization with a process of mass production, a precursor of the new systems of industrial production that appeared more than 200 years later during the Industrial Revolution.
One of the most notable characteristics was its high mechanization of the coining process, taking advantage of the hydraulic energy from the Eresma river by means of hydraulic wheels that provided movement to the different machines.
The Real Ingenio de la Moneda comprises two groups of buildings that are very well distinguished:
- The ones in the upper part, where the foundry, the warehouses and the reception desk, among other offices, were located.
- The ones by the Eresma river, where the hydraulic wheels were situated.
The cylindrical laminating and coining systems were an avant-garde technology at that moment. This new technology would arrive to Spain in 1585 thanks to the good relationship between King Philip II and his cousin, the archbishop Ferdinand of Tyrol.
The transportation of these big machines from the Royal Mint of Hall to Spain meant a diplomatic and technical challenge. They arrived under the supervision of 8 coining experts who were in charge or their installation, as well as other escorts and guards.
In the present day, nothing has been preserved from the wheels or the machinery that was used. The challenge of building the hydraulic wheels, undoubtedly important elements in the rehabilitation of the complex, suggested the possibility of studying, projecting and building one first experimental wheel. The idea was presented to the Fundación Juanelo Turriano.
The project was very well received by this Foundation, who decided to commission the historical study, the constructive design and the physical execution of the wooden wheel prototype, assuming all costs and, immediately after, relinquishing it to the people in charge of the Royal Mint.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE HYDRAULIC WHEEL
The following sources have been used in order to obtain information about the characteristics of the wheels and machines:
- The documents —mainly reports and statements— which were written when the renovation and repair of the facilities in Segovia became necessary. No plan or any other type of image that defines the wheel is available; however, we have the hollows in the wall through which the shafts of wheels were placed that provided us with information about maximum heights and diameters.
- Other written documents about the Mint of Cuenca that, as we know, was built in 1661 taking the one in Segovia as its model. There is an excellent drawing of its floor plan with a high level of detail, a known scale, and in it we can clearly see the channel system, the hydraulic wheels with their millraces, the laminating and coining machines, and the ones of the blacksmith’s.
The characteristics and dimensions that can be seen in it are in accordance with the information about the Ingenio of Segovia. For this reason, we can consider this drawing a good source of information about the facilities of Segovia.
We decided that for the first wheel prototype, it was better to experiment with one of the small ones of the foundry. The wheel of the drill, the largest one of the three, was the one which was selected.
The wheel was assembled using the data included in the written records. We know that it had 16 shafts and two passages fastened its structure to the shaft. It had wooden partitions, it was one Castilian foot wide and the sides were closed with double-lip skirts.
We have given it a diameter of 2.20 metres (eight Castilian feet).
Criteria that was used for the building of the wheel:
- The information provided by the historical records was faithfully followed.
- In the aspects that were not clarified by the records, we decided to use the models and the technology of the 15th and 16th centuries.
- It was designed taking into account that it should actually function, being able to move the machines in the correct way.
- Observing the previous criteria, the design was completed using the current technological knowledge and always seeking the best functioning and efficiency, while requiring the simplest possible maintenance as well as the easiest replacement of the parts that may deteriorate in the future.
It was never our intention to build a wheel that the visitor would consider as original, as the aim has always been to build a wheel close enough to the ones built in the 16th century, stating clearly that it is a contemporary work.
The people in charge of the historical study and the fulfilment of the design of the wheel were José María Izaga and Jorge Miguel Soler.
The maker of the wooden wheel was Miguel Ángel Moreno.