Belgians at the cradle of the iron and steel industry in Sweden


In Österbybruk, the iconic sight of buildings built around a forge is a testimony to the historic contribution made by Belgian migrants to the birth of the Swedish iron and steel industry.

Due to protracted religious turmoil, the beginning of the 17th century was a particularly turbulent period in the Low Countries. As a result it saw the emigration of between 5,000 to 10,000 people from the Liege area - often via the Netherlands - to Sweden, where the expertise of Walloon master iron-workers was highly sought after.

Most of the migrants found a new life in the province of Uppland, just north of the Swedish capital Stockholm. Some even became successful entrepreneurs in their own right, men such as Guillaume de Bèche and Louis De Geer, who has been called the "father of the Swedish metal industry".

Today in Österbybruk you can still find a fine example of a so-called ‘Vallonbruk’, a historical complex of buildings built around a forge. In 2015 this site was awarded the Prize for Belgian heritage abroad.