dodano: 20.10.2014

History of the Walim Commune

The Walim Commune is located in the Central Sudetes at the foot of the Góry Sowie Mountains and in the picturesque valley of the Walimka River, south-east from Wałbrzych. It extends over approximately 79 square kilometres. The highest point of the commune is the Wielka Sowa peak, at the elevation of 1015 meters above sea level. The Bystrzyca River is the most important watercourse that crosses the area.

The beginnings of Walim date back to the 13th century, when Duke Bolko I erected the tower and two residential wings of the Grodno Castle on a rocky promontory. The castle was intended to serve the purpose of reinforcing the fortification system on the southern border of the Duchy of Świdnica-Jawor. Historical records of Walim in its early years are scarce. The area was most probably settled in 1220. At the end of the 13th century, the fiefdom of Waltersdorf in Silesia was taken over by a knight Albert Bayer, later by Count von Haugwitz, then by Count von Peterswaldau, and eventually by Math’ie Bayer. In the 13th and 14th century, gold and silver were extracted in Walim (then known as Waltersdorf). In the 14th century, the village of Zagórze Śląskie was founded at the foot of the Chojna Mountain as the back-up facilities of the Grodno Castle. All the surrounding villages were founded at the same time, being strongly related to the Grodno Castle and Walim – a significant weaving centre.

The Grodno Castle remained in the hands of the Piast dynasty until 1392, when it became the Czech property, only to be repossessed in the 16th century by the aristocratic family from Łagów, which declared strong connection to Poland. The new owners decided to rebuild the Gothic castle into a Renaissance one, thus bringing it into its current state (except for some minor alterations).

For the years of 1530 to 1548, Walim became the property of Melchior von Seydlitz. The village that had been almost completely devastated during the Hussite Wars, entered the period of reconstruction. Attention was brought to the old adits and the rich deposits of silver ore were discovered. Attempts were made to develop the extraction of silver but Walim never became a mining settlement since the estimates of the deposit volume proved to have been quite exaggerated. Initially, loggers, coalers and watermill owners settled in Walim along with the miners. In 1548, a wooden temple – the Evangelical St. Barbara’s Church (Catholic since 1654) – was built to provide spiritual comfort to the miners, who risked their lives every day. The Thirty Years’ War resulted in the total devastation of the village. It suffered from disastrous floods, droughts, hailstorms and locust swarms. The village was struck with plagues several times, the worst of which was the bubonic fever. At that time, the name of the village was changed to Wüstewaltersdorf (the desert village), while it fell into possession of the von Zedlitz family. The family was frequently visited by the King of Prussia Friedrich II. In the 18th century, first workshops specialized in bleaching sprang into existence in Walim, with the dyeing and finishing workshops coming shortly after. Some of the local products were exported to other continents. In 1789, the southern wall of the Gothic courtyard as well as the adjacent residential wing of the Grodno Castle in Zagórze Śląskie collapsed. Yet, the 19th century was the most conducive period to the development of Walim due to the dynamic growth of the weaving industry. In accordance with the will of Friedrich II, Walim began to organize yarn and linen markets on a weekly basis. Weavers and the cooperating merchants could be found in every village in the neighbourhood. At the beginning of the 19th century, Walim was a wealthy village and a large, well-developed and industrialized weaving centre. Simultaneously, Walim became a popular summer resort as a convenient starting point for those who wanted to climb the Wielka Sowa Mountain. In 1824, the restoration works began at the Grodno Castle in Zagórze Śląskie with the aim of adapting it to the developing tourism. In 1848, the first weaving plant equipped with mechanical Jacquard looms was opened in Walim, giving rise to the future Weaving Company (Zakłady Przemysłu Lniarskiego). In 1850, a bleaching kettle and a finishing shop started to operate within the plant and a new bigger plant was finished in 1864.

 The cottage weaving industry in the surrounding villages began to decline, while the number of people arriving in Walim and seeking employment in the weaving plant kept growing. In 1908, the development of industry and tourism convinced the owners of the plant – Websky, Hertman and Wiese – to begin the construction of an electric railway connecting Jugowice and Walim. The first train hit the rails on 4th June 1914 but the official opening of the railway did not take place until 22nd July 1914. The train had to cover the distance of 4.7 kilometres with the elevation difference of 117 metres. It was a popular tourist attraction. There were two electrified railways in the Sudetes. Between 1911 and 1914, a huge water dam was constructed on the Bystrzyca River, creating the Bystrzyckie Lake. The dam is 44 meters high and 230 meters long. The reservoir holds 8 million cubic meters of water.

 During World War II, Nazis made the decision to construct an underground complex of arms factories in the vicinity of Walim due to the threat of possible air raids of the Allies. Part of the underground facilities, measuring 500 meters lengthwise, was opened to tourists in 1995.

The Weaving Company wrote its own separate history. Up to the late 1970s, the factory remained one of the biggest companies in its business. In the mid-1980s, the loss of eastern markets, difficulties with purchasing raw material and the increase in production costs contributed to the deepening crisis, which led the company to liquidation in 1992. It is believed that tourism and related services remain the only opportunity for Walim and its surroundings.

Autor: Katarzyna Matuła

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