We are now in the small district of Urola-Garaia, which takes its name from the river that has its source here. Although today the Urola flows unnoticed through some parts of Zumarraga, its waters conceal much of its history.
The Urola river shapes the human settlement
The early inhabitants of Zumarraga settled on the middle slopes of the Urola valley, protected against river flooding. Later, towards the end of the 15th century, driven by commercial development and thanks to technical advances, the population moved and settled beside the river, a natural channel for trading purposes.
The orography, marked by its rugged relief, prevented the urban centres like that of Zumarraga from freely expanding its territory.
The channels of communication were restricted by this mountainous relief. That is why they are located parallel to the axis of the river.
Water power provides energy for working
In the Middle Ages hydraulic power began to be used to produce energy. The river provided energy, facilitated communication and transport.
A large number of ironworks and water mills were set up along the Urola river.
In Zumarraga there were two ironworks, one at Matxain and another at jauregui-Legazpi.
The ironworks were located away from the town centre but they provided work directly or indirectly: carriers, merchants, iron workers, etc.
According to documentary sources, the Matxain ironworks remained in operation until 1533. It was then turned into a mill.
Setting up the ironworks required considerable investment and that was why their owners used to be rich families. In Zumarraga, the Legazpi family had an ironworks on the outskirts of its palace (the current Legazpi Tower House).
This ironworks, which later became a mill, was demolished to make way for the building of the railway.