The Tale of Thurmhof Schacht’s Ghost…

Way to the wheel of the Thurmhof Schacht

Vibhuti Yadav,
an architect from India, living in Germany

Zeinab Abdelhemad,
an architect from Egypt, living in Budapest

Even though it seemed so normal, the silence on the wintery night of 1950 in the mining town of Frieberg was especially deathly quiet. The residents of the two-story house in Thurmhof Schacht in the town could very well hear every sound from their surroundings. It was later at night that sudden noises started coming from the ground. The basement had been sealed by the previous owners and never then reopened. The area had been a working mining site and thus the residents refrained from exploring about this further. This sound however continued throughout the winters. After months of speculations and ghost stories, the entrance to the basement was unsealed and there it was! 

A Water Wheel!  

Not only A WATER WHEEL, but a ‘functioning’ water wheel from the water system of the Freiberg mining area, called Thurmhof Schacht. The news spread and various authorities came about to determine the condition of the wheel. Given the consciousness among the residents for their mining heritage the aforementioned finding was extremely precious.

Freiburg goes back to the Middle Ages in its mining history to the 12th century. The mining operations particularly in Freiberg that had begun in 1168, finally ceased in 1968 after 800 years. During those years the town had perished and been reborn despite the two great fires that destroyed it. It now stands as a witness to the grit and perseverance of its locals to preserve their heritage owing to their phrase, “everything comes from the mine” (Alles kommt vom Bergwerk her!). Since the wheel is the last surviving, functional and accessible water wheel in the Freiberg mining area it could be said that the discovery of the wheel was of extreme importance to the community. 

Home to the oldest university of mining and metallurgy in the world – the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, the town has been inclined towards the protection and preservation of its mining heritage. For the same mining association, Saxonia Feiberg Foundation, whose aim is to “research, maintain and preserve the mining and metallurgical customs and the mining and metallurgical tradition of piety in the Freiberg region”, was established on January 26, 1993. Since its inception the association has been a means to keep the miners tradition alive and safe. The basic working of the association is based on communities self engagement.  

After the discovery of Thurmhof Schacht in the 1950s the work to repair and clean the wheel started in 1985 and the work on constructing a new set of stairs to make it easily accessible was executed. The structure thereafter remained abandoned until the year 2009 where it was only accessed for educational purposes.  A new set of management plans were made in the 2010s to repair and clean the wheel for making it accessible to public. Saxonia Feiberg Foundation then took up the charge by providing funds of 15,000 Euros and maintaining the site following the conservation. It was however established in the committee that the visitations to the Thurmhof Schacht will be restricted to 300 people per year due to the fragile condition of the shaft. The task of conservation of the wheel was carried out by Mr. Mühlenbau Schumann, Mulda, oldest family run mill-wheel constructors in Germany, where the axis of the wheel was replaced. 

Of the original members involved in the conservation process for the shaft, six gentleman still volunteer to show the tourists around every once in a while. The members are Herr Dr. Karl-Heinz-Eulenberger (the chairman of Saxony Freiburg Foundation), Herr Andread Benthin, Herr Dr. Manfred Bayes, Herr Klaus Timmel, Herr Gothold Thalheim and Herr Dieter Uhlig. The shaft is kept under regular watch by the local volunteers from the organisation. In 2018, another 2000 Euros were allocated to Thurmhof Schacht for clearing the space under the wheel and make it fully functioning. 

The constant vigilance and the determination of the community in Freiberg made this feat possible. In spite of all the difficulties faced to make save this little but irreplaceable part of heritage, the mysterious ghost of the Thurmhof Schacht has come through.