Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Torre del Mar

The steam engine restored by the local authorities and put on display in 1998 in front of Casa Larios as a monument to the sugar industry was originally acquired in 1900 by José Larios and served in the Torre del Mar mill for decades.

The steam engine restored by the local authorities and put on display in 1998 in front of Casa Larios as a monument to the sugar industry was originally acquired in 1900 by José Larios and served in the Torre del Mar mill for decades.

Date

17 April 2014
Location

Torre del Mar, Andalucía, Spain

36.74678678, -4.08845224

Information

In 1845 Galician entrepreneur Ramón de la Sagra built Spain’s first industrialised sugar mill in Torre del Mar in Andalucía, an innovation that, although it led to his ruin, was to herald a new era in the cultivation of sugar cane, a crop that had been introduced to the Mediterranean coast of Spain by the Arabs in the 10th century. The production of sugar in the coastal areas of Andalucía had been in decline during the 18th and early 19th centuries in the face of competition from plantations in the Americas. The Industrial Revolution was, however, to transform the cultivation and processing of sugar into one of the region’s most economically important sectors.

La Sagra leased the grounds of an old sugar plant, built in 1796 by José García Navarette and powered by mules, where he erected his new factory, La Fábrica de Torre del Mar. But his project ultimately failed, having been beset by a number of misfortunes: frost damage to crops in 1846; machinery acquired from Belgium lost in a shipwreck; and also the fact that he was unable to use the Derosne method of extraction. Exclusive rights to the latter — which involved the use of steam to cook the juice from the sugar cane and also centrifugal separation of sucrose and molasses — had been obtained by his former business associates, with whom he had parted company on account of their mistrust of the social dimension of La Sagra’s project.

La Sagra sold the mill in 1847 to Juan Nepomuceno Enríquez and it was acquired in 1852 by the Larios family, who re-developed it as the Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen (the Virgen del Carmen Sugar Mill), transforming it into the most important sugar plant in the Andalucian coast. The Larios sugar company owned the facility until 1976. It finally closed in 1992, at which time it was operated by SAMESA (Sociedad Azucarera del Mediterráneo S.A.).

In February 2014 it was announced that Vélez Málaga council was completing its troubled restoration of the Virgen del Carmen sugar mill in a development phase costing €217,000. The renovated main mill building is to house a museum dedicated to the history of the sugar-cane industry. It will also, controversially, accommodate a business school. Original plans for a sugar museum (Museo del Azúcar) had been overturned in 2012 when the council signed a deal to create a business management centre in the premises. A deal had been agreed between the local authorities and SAMESA in 1993 for the demolition of the plant’s secondary buildings and the renovation of its main building as the Museo del Azúcar. A lot of the industrial heritage had, however, been lost as most of the machinery had by then already been sold for scrap. The contract for the museum development had been awarded in 2003, and then again in 2005. By 2011, €2.3m had been invested and the work was two years behind schedule amid disputes between the council and the developers.

 

Monument in front of Casa Larios

Monument in front of Casa Larios

Casa Larios (Larios House). “The house dates from 1888 and formed part of the Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen complex. It served as the Engineer’s House and also accommodated staff offices for the factory. This is a simple and functional building in regional style with hints of Mudejar influence, which has been masked by later renovations. It has two floors and comprises two wings joined by a transverse section with dual-pitched roofs on each wing. It has a small entrance porch supported by iron pillars.”

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

The renovated main mill building, intended home for the Museo del Azúcar (Sugar Museum)

The renovated main mill building, intended home for the Museo del Azúcar (Sugar Museum)

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Interior of the renovated main mill building

Interior of the renovated main mill building

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen

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4 thoughts on “Ingenio Azucarero Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Torre del Mar

  1. Your photographs, as always, are beautiful and capture the sunlight and heat on the scene perfectly. Reading your notes makes me think that we are fortunate here in Wales that political intrigue and corruption, plus lack of will, don’t do more damage to the remains of industry that is left.The chimney and the stuffed and mounted steam engine are very fine, and I love the cast iron columns inside the renovated main mill…those were really worth saving. I guess it might seem different when you are there, but it looks like they have taken the soul out of the place in the name of growth and development. At least your photos redress the balance.

    • Thanks, Iain. Yes, the area formerly occupied by the cane plantations and most of the mill complex has been reclaimed and built up. But at least they preserved the three chimneys. The Engineer’s House (Casa Larios) was sympathetically renovated and is in use as town council offices, and a lot of work has been done to restore the main mill building (although I’m a bit unsure about its modern, glass-fronted entrance). It is also a shame that a lot of the industrial heritage was lost when most of the machinery was sold for scrap when the plant closed. It certainly seems to have been a long-running saga.

  2. I’m with Iain on this, the soul of the place has been removed in the regeneration, although that’s not unusual in industrial regeneration projects. On the flip side, it’s good to see that at least something original has been preserved. And I do like that hexagonal (or is it octagonal?) shaped chimney:)

    • Yes, I guess it is more or less inevitable that the character is lost to some degree with such regeneration schemes given the commercial interests involved. (The chimney is octagonal, by the way, Andy)

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