The manufacture of glass in La Granja goes back to the year 1728 when Ventura Sit mounted in the town a furnace for the manufacture of glasses for windows and balconies.
The choice of La Granja as a site for the factory was motivated, no doubt, by the abundance of firewood that could offer the pine forest of Valsaín and the bordering oak groves, as well as the proximity of the raw materials used in the manufacture of glass: the sands siliceous of Espirdo and Bernuy de Porreros, the refractory clays of Brieva and La Lastrilla and sulphate of soda of Burgos.
Sit soon obtained the favor of Felipe V and moved to new premises within the Real Site where, at the request of the king, began the study and testing in the manufacture of mirrors, by which the Real Factory would be known worldwide, given its quality and its great size.
In the 1770 year, King Carlos III ordered the construction of a new building that would be used for the manufacture of flat glass and lanterns, and that as a security measure due to the damage that the fire could cause, it would be located outside the walls of the Real Sitio.
The Royal Glass Factory - Technological Museum of Glass
The first traces of José Díaz Gamones were later extended by Juan de Villanueva and Bartolomé Reale. The imposing complex had ovens, different workshops, warehouses, treatment rooms, offices, courtyards, homes and even with a school. This set of buildings has come to occupy a full block to this day.
Madoz tells us in his "Dictionary" that "(the production) ... lasted for some years at the expense of SM, at which time all kinds of carved pieces, planes and lanterns of sufficient size were manufactured, but what more has been the attention, mirrors have been for their cleanliness and magnitude, preserved for luster and splendor of the establishment in one of its stores, one of 132 ½ inches high, by 72 wide.This sumptuous building raised expressly, and that it is conceptualized the best of those that in Europe have been destined to this object, it has today in the main nave indicated above, 3 ovens and 25 archas, 10 beautiful warehouses, 16 spacious rooms, destined for several workshops, where they manufacture the articles or effects necessary and annexed to the manufacture, 56 rooms for the workers, all occupied at the present time, it also has an infinity of premises, corrals and spacious corridors and galleries; shed to enclose the firewoods and preserve them from the rigorous winter season; 10 patios and a large square, in which King D. Fernando VII, ordered to make a small, where they could deal some bulls for recreation and fun of the royal family.
To avoid "the contingency of fire", the building was covered with vaults and brick factory domes, an important innovation of José Díaz with respect to the former factories of the Real Sitio, which had a wooden structure. Despite the strict functionality expressed in the design of the building, this industrial manufacturing receives a treatment in its finishes (especially in its facade at noon) in order to harmonize with the rest of the royal buildings of the Real Site.
A factory at the forefront of the technique of glass
From the first moment we tried to be at the head of the technique, bringing specialists from abroad and trying to incorporate the most advanced procedures. In this aspect, the attempts to mechanize the polishing process of the glass panes are noteworthy. These were destined for the elaboration of mirrors, first they had to be scraped with finer and finer sands and later polished with grinders on both sides before applying the rubbing agent. This painful process, which was done by hand, was first machined with the hydraulic machine designed by Pedro Frontvilla and Ventura Sit in 1743. Although the machine worked successfully, the large moons had to be polished by hand because of the high percentage of breakages. Another drawback was the paralysis of the machine in the summer, derived from the lack of water in the Real Site. In 1754 Manuel Alonso Garzón tried to solve this problem with the construction of another machine, this time "of blood" (moved by animals).
At 1761, Irish engineer John Dowling designs a new hydraulic machine, which he places on the Cambrones River.
From the collaboration of Demetrio Crow and Tomás Pérez came the idea of applying the movement provided by the hydraulic wheel of the scraping machine to other phases of production, extending the mechanization of the different stages. A four-wheel mill for barillas and several lathes were also built to carve pieces of spiders and polish the seats of the glasses.
Other aspects of the innovative nature of the Royal Factory are the new products that are being made and the very significant names of the rooms: Recording and Carving rooms, Lapidar, Dorar, Óptica ... In the Optics Room, we followed, according to the words Superintendent Juan de Aguirre, "try to provide the public with the gender you need, without going abroad, who in addition to extracting our money, produces glasses so perverse that, by virtue of being cheap, they are bought without repairing that they spoil the view how many spend them ". In the Optical Room, scientific instruments were built, such as the reflection telescope designed by Professor Joseph Flores.
From the financial point of view, the company was ruinous. The sale prices of the products were lower than those of production and it was the permanent support of the Royal Treasury that sustained it with clear propaganda interest.
During the reign of Isabel II it passed into private hands. In 1911, the Cooperativa Obrera Esperanza (Cooperativa Obrera Esperanza) is established, promoted by former technicians and workers from previous stages, emphasizing the participation of King Alfonso XIII as anecdotal. The manufacture of flat glass and also of curved glass tiles is resumed and in 1969, after many avatars, this magnificent complex definitively closes its doors to industrial production.
In 1982 and with the purpose of recovering the functions that at the time the Real Fábrica de Crystals de la Granja made, the National Glass Foundation was created, whose purpose is in its founding purposes "the promotion, development, teaching and dissemination of the craftsmanship and history of glass, its artistic manufacture and other cultural activities related to the technique and art of glass ". Among the activities that can be performed is the visit to the Glass Museum located in the Royal Factory. Three concepts articulate their different expositions: matter, form and use. In its more than 16.000 m2 can be found the various collections made up of very different pieces: decorative stained glass, lamps, glassware, mirrors, molds for manufacturing and numerous instruments and machinery used in the glass industry, which make up a wide attractive and educational sample of glass products and their scientific and technical aspects. The work in the blown glass oven carried out by the master glassmakers before the attentive look of the visitors is another of the fundamental points of interest.
People who do not know the Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso should take the route to visit its halls and gardens, adorned by monumental fountains. Back in the 1450 year, King Henry IV, attracted by the beauty of the environment and by the abundance of hunting and fishing, ordered the construction of a hunting lodge. In 1477, the Catholic Monarchs donated the place to the Hieronymite monks of El Parral, who assigned them to a farm for rest and convalescence. The hermitage received the invocation of the Holy Archbishop of Toledo, San Ildefonso, this being the origin of its toponymy.
In 1721, Felipe V, married to Isabel de Farnesio, ordered the construction of the palace, which involved such renowned artists as Ardemans and Sabatini. This palace houses works of great artistic value in its sumptuous rooms, highlighting one of the best collections of tapestries in Europe and another, very curious, antique clocks.
The park, with its walks among lime trees, chestnut trees and beech trees, is adorned with numerous fountains and sculptures that represent themes and mythological beings and is the prelude to the forest of oaks, wild cherry trees, trembling poplars and pines that extends along the hillside. the Sierra de Guadarrama. a large pond called "El Mar", which is nourished by the waters of the Morete and Carneros streams, is the great reserve of water needed by fountains, which work by gravity, conserving the original system. Some of these sources are baptized with names as evocative as "La Fama", "Las Ranas" or "Los Dragones".
Another remarkable aspect in the History of Science and Technology was the construction next to the Sea, in the year 1867, of the first establishment of "Pisciculture at the expense of the Royal House", initiative of Don Francisco de Asís that had the address Doctor Don Mariano de la Paz Graells, director of the Zoological Park established in the Real Casa de Campo.
The palace and its gardens are a must, both for lovers of cultural tourism and for those who simply wish to enjoy the peace and tranquility of their surroundings.