Breakthrough in Schönebeck


185 years ago, Franz Haniel broke through the layer of marl for the very first time. A milestone in the industrialisation of the Ruhr region, and one that the miners celebrated in style at the Kaldenhoff pub in Schönebeck with brandy and beer.

A horse stands beneath a porch with its legs crossed, its rider leaning sleepily against the wall next to a barrel of bock beer. This painting on the wall of the Kaldenhoff pub in Essen could be a nod to times gone by. After all, the building existed back in the 19th century, and the pub within with its dark wooden benches, red floor tiles and former dance hall was already well-known to Franz Haniel. Let’s take a journey back in time:

185 years ago, Franz Haniel achieved a milestone in coal mining: For the very first time, the miners in the Franz pit in Schönebeck – then still part of Borbeck – managed to break through the layer of marl. On 26 March 1834, the leading miner in the pit, Stölzel, reported that he had now drilled into the “stone” – the marl – at a depth of around 52 m below ground. Just a day later, Stölzel added euphorically: “I am delighted to have the honour of announcing to Mr Haniel that we have just struck a bed of coal two feet (2 feet = approximately 60 cm) thick in the Kaldenhoffer Busch...” The bed of coal ultimately proved to be just 30 cm thick and so was not worth mining. However, this achievement marked a quantum leap forward in terms of the industrialisation of the Ruhr region.

By drilling vertically (a process also known as sinking) through the – until then – impenetrable layer of marl, Franz Haniel was now able to access the layers of coal further down below where the high-quality bituminous coal needed to produce coke is found. The coke is then used as the basis for steel production. Unlike lean coal, which had already been mined for centuries in the Ruhr valley in open pit mines and tunnels, bituminous coal could only be reached by drilling vertical shafts into the earth.

As soon as the water-impermeable layer of marl is penetrated, large quantities of the water sitting above the stone flow into the shaft. The shaft therefore needs to be continuously pumped out using steam engines. It was not yet possible to do this on a continuous basis in 1834 because the expensive steam engines – mostly imported from England – were very prone to failure. Although Franz Haniel did prove with the Franz pit in 1834 that it was technically possible to mine bituminous coal, it was not a financially successful endeavour because the shaft kept flooding.

The employees were also full of liquid – though of the alcoholic variety – as everyone celebrated nonetheless and did so in style: On 3 April, Franz Haniel hired the dance hall, including dance licence, at the Kaldenhoff pub on Aktienstraße in Schönebeck for himself and his miners. According to the “accounts” from 1834, it was a lavish affair: The pub charged Haniel for “17 tankards of brandy at 6 silver pennies each, coffee for 10 men at 3 silver pennies each” and “more brandy and a few broken glasses,” totalling 9 thalers and 3 silver pennies. 17 tankards is roughly 22 litres. There was also 137 litres of beer to account for, as well as costs for musicians, white bread and cheese – rather a lot, considering that only around 30 men were involved. The rustic pub at Aktienstraße 140 is still in business today. Guests can still unwind there after a successful day’s work – only now with a pint of Stauder rather than bock beer.