THE BREMEN WOOL
COMBING WORKS (BWK)
-were a worldwide active company in the wool textile industry with its company seat in Bremen-Blumenthal.
It was for a long time the biggest company of its kind on a worldwide scale. They had branches near Istanbul (Turkey), in Australia and New Zealand.
The company activity comprised the processing of raw materials like sheep’s wool and synthetic fibres as well as the trade with semi-finished products.
The company was founded in 1883 as a public limited company.
Capital givers were the consuls Albrecht, Weinlich and Delius as well as the merchants H. Claussen, J. Fritze, J. Hachez and C. Kulenkampff.
Among these founders, Ferdinand Ullrich was appointed commercial and Paul Zschörner technical director.
At Zschörner’s suggestion, the site for the plant was chosen to be a 500,000 square meter area between the river Aue and the Weser in the district town of Blumenthal, which at the time belonged to the Prussian province of Hanover (since 1939 to Bremen).
The site had proven, thanks to its size, favourable transport links and good, sufficient water resources (company-owned deep wells), sustainable till the end of 2008.
In September 11th, 1884, the production started with 150 workers.
In 1896, there were already 2000 workers, among them many from Poland, Silesia, Eastern and Western Prussia, Saxony and the Rhineland.
In 1897, the connection to the railway network was made with the Farge-Vegesacker railway.
Until 1930, the number of employees increased up to 3700, therefore the BWK also built residential complexes.
It was supported by the then county commissioner Paul Berthold.
As the first industrial company in the rural location, the BWK changed the the structure of Blumenthal comprehensively.
In addition to population growth, housing construction, and railroad connections, the construction of schools, churches, and the district hospital, as well as street lighting and general electricity supply by 1904, are also attributable to the influence or support of the BWK.
Second World War & the development after
In the Second World War, the company employed a high number of forced labourers, in 1944 1198 people.
The houses in which they were housed still exist today, on the nearby Bahrsplate was a residential camp that has since been demolished.
In June 2000, former forced labourers visited the BWK.
The development after the Second World War:
The development of labour costs, rates of exchange and the liberalisation of imports threatened the competitiveness of the combing works in the early 1960s compared to the foreign competition.
Therefore, the company was restructured and developed into the biggest of its kind at one single site.
Its capacity sufficed to process the wool of 20.000 sheep a day.
As a result of the structural changes in the international trade with wool and wool products, since the 1980s the company has made the transition from the previously predominant product orientation to the now decisive market orientation.
The former contract combing works, a producer for third parties, became a supplier of tops made of wool, synthetic fibres and blends.
The company played an important part in the development of Blumenthal.
So, at the beginning of the 20th century, streets with residential houses were built to provide homes for the up to 5.000 workers.
After rationalisation measures because of the changed situation on the global markets, the falling demand for woollen textiles and technical progress, only 260 jobs remained to 2006, including branches.
In 2003, production in a combing plant in Istanbul, where production costs are lower, began.
Since March 20, 2007, company shares are not traded anymore at the stock exchange.
The previous major shareholder and investor took over the public limited company to 100%.
Thus, an important part of the Bremen stock exchange ended after 119 years.
In December 3rd, 2008, the prospective closing of the combing works was promulgated in Bremen.
The main reasons given were high production cost for the products, transport costs for sheeps‘ wool from New Zealand or
Australia and the sharp drop in demand for woollen tops during the financial crisis.
The processing of raw wool on the Bremen location was discontinued on February 27th, after 125 years.
After the end of the wool combing works
Two companies were spun off from BWK AG, which are based at the old location:
Bremer Wollhandelskontor GmbH (Bremen wool trading office Ltd)
BWK Chemiefaser GmbH (BWK synthetic fibres Ltd)
BREWA wte GmbH operates the Blumenthal substitute fuel cogeneration plant, an evaporation plant for wastewater and aqueous waste, a high-temperature incineration plant for liquid waste and a biological wastewater treatment plant on the site.
The municipality of Bremen has taken over big parts of the former BWK company premises to develop an industrial estate there.
Bremer Woll-Kämmerei AG