THE FORGAS MILL
The scarcity of parchments, and their consequent high price, caused a growing demand for paper during the Middle Ages. In Banyoles, the first paper mills were documented in the 14th century, although it was especially from the 17th century onwards that the industry gained strength in the town.
In 1790, the presence of the Rec Major led to the construction on this plot of land of a small paper mill which, a few years later, was purchased by a family of shopkeepers and traders, the Forgas. Throughout the 19th century, it produced sack paper, white paper and cigarette paper. The business must have been going quiet well because the new owners constructed a large building, which by now housed an industrial machine for making paper sheets. However, before the Civil War production was moved to Besalú and the factory was abandoned.
The activity was not resumed until 1940, now producing cardboard. Over time, the purchasing of modern machinery enabled many of the old manual processes to be replaced. In the 1960s, the factory was acquired by a businessman from Barcelona, who ended up closing it soon afterwards. The building was demolished at the end of the 20th century.
> The papermaker’s profession
In traditional papermaking, the raw materials were the old linen, cotton, or hemp cloths. They were first broken down into small strips, which were left to ferment in water for five days. This resulted in the paper paste, which was then beaten with mallets driven by a waterwheel to separate the cellulose fibres. Once the paste was crushed, it was mixed with water in vats from which, using sieves named forms, the supernatant fibres were collected and converted into paper pages. They then had to be pressed and set to dry. The margins of the paper were finally matched using a knife.
> Did you know that...
many paper sheets had an identifying watermark, in other words, a transparent mark, only visible when backlit, which was made at the time of manufacturing? Thanks to this we now know that Banyoles paper was exported throughout Spain and even to Latin America.