9. The Baqué Mill
During the 1970s, an old building named the Baqué mill, which had a ground floor and two upper floors, was demolished to make way for today’s street named carrer dels Blaquers. It was a former medieval flour mill with a 3.5-metre sluice, which was still active in the early 19th century. At the end of that same century, a new building was constructed next to the mill, occupied by a tannery. During the 1930s, under the name “Fábrica Hijos de Narciso Franch”, leather gloves were produced for export to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The tanning industry, documented in Banyoles since the Middle Ages, needed large quantities of water to wash the hides. For that reason, many of them were concentrated next to the channels. They also needed to be located close to bark mills (pine, holm oak, oak and chestnut bark, or myrtle leaves), from which the tannins to tan the hide and convert it into leather were obtained.
The leather professions
The process of obtaining leather began with the purchase of skin in the slaughterhouses and butcheries. The preliminary operations were usually carried out by the tanner, who had to clean the skins and remove the meat. In this process, lime was used which, over time left the worker whitened, hence the name “blanquers” (tanners) in Catalan. The hides were then clamped down and tanned with vegetable tannins. At this point, the basters came into play. They had to spread the hides with grease and give them flexibility. Finally, all that remained was the final making, where the leather was turned into shoes, gloves, or any other piece.
Did you know that...
during the Peninsular War (1808-1814) the mill, which housed a unit of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, was attacked by a company of local guerrillas who were fighting against the French occupation?