The El Rec district of Igualada
El Rec d’Igualada is dominated by a canal that runs for three kilometres across the whole district, starting at the New Mill (Molí Nou) in Carrer de Joan Abad and ending at the Abbey Mill (Molí de l’Abadia). Originally, the waters of the canal were used to irrigate the fields as well as to power the flour mills of the region. Little by little, tanneries began to set up in the area, taking advantage of the canal water, until a dramatic period of expansion meant that the industry came to number around two hundred tanneries at its peak, as the leather workers of Igualada left the safety of the city walls in the 18th century and clustered around the canal.
The earliest record of a tannery dates from 1345, and it is surprising to find that there are still some thirty or so in operation today, making the Rec d’Igualada the only surviving centre of this historic industry in Catalonia. Besides the factories that still operate, the district of El Rec has preserved other relics of its past industrial strength. A walk through its streets will reveal a number of buildings and architectural elements that can be found nowhere else in Igualada. For example, the Aragalls, the tiny streets that lead you from the ancient heart of the city to the Rec; the Bassots, the brickwork troughs that were built over the canal to contain waste; the Passeres, the stone slabs that covered the canal to give access to the tanneries from the Rec footpath; and then there are the buttresses built against the tannery walls.
These elements reveal the strongly industrial character of the Rec d’Igualada, and tell us about one aspect of the history of Catalonia. To learn more about this history, there is the Igualada Museum of Leather and of the County of L’Anoia (Museu de la Pell d’Igualada i Comarcal de l’Anoia), which has two sites. One of these is the Cal Boyer, a 19th century factory for manufacturing cotton, and the other is Cal Granotes, the only tannery converted into a museum in Catalonia, which holds such remarkable items as the last of the original stone basins from the Rec d’Igualada and is a window onto the industrial past of Catalonia.
Don't miss it!
Since November 2009 the Rec d’Igualada district has hosted the Rec.0 Experimental Stores Festival, an initiative set in motion by a group of people with links to the district and who want to raise its profile by associating it with the world of fashion. As its 15th edition approaches, it has established itself as a commercial, gastronomic and cultural landmark that attracts over 1,000 people.