The history of HOB

A factory manufacturing ceramics and fireclay products in Horní Bříza was founded in 1882 by Johann Fitz, an entrepreneur and mining expert from Rokycany. He established the factory in this area after he encountered a rich deposit of high-quality kaolin when drilling experimental geological wells. In the autumn of the same year he began to bore tunnels to reach this deposit. During the following years, deep underground and surface mining of kaolin took place.


A kaolin washing plant was initially built near the local railway station, and between 1891-1893 a modern kaolin washing plant was built right next to the mine. In addition to kaolin mining, the production of tiles, tiling, large tiles, ovens and decorative garden ceramics began in a newly built factory in 1886. A fireclay product manufacturing section was built later.


After seventeen years of operation, Johann Fitz decided to form a joint-stock company together with the Živnostenská Bank. The company was called Západočeské továrny kaolinové a šamotové (West Bohemian Kaolin and Fireclay Factory) and was established on 1 January 1899. At that time 40,000 tons of kaolin was mined every year and 22,000 tons of ceramic goods were produced, many of which were exported abroad. Commercial connections and relations provided by the Živnostenská Bank and the economical boost of this period, which lasted until the First World War, allowed the Company to incorporate another six mining and ceramic producing factories. The production in Horní Bříza was increasing rapidly, as was the number of employees.


The products manufactured by the West Bohemian Kaolin and Fireclay Factories successfully penetrated foreign markets. Fireclay and silica were exported overseas, and stoneware and industrial ceramics and products were used to build sewage networks in many European cities. For example in 1906, tiles from Horní Bříza were used during the construction of Alpine railway tunnels.


Thanks to increasing demand the Company kept buying and renting other factories, modernising them, and continued developing new products. In 1912 for example, Horní Bříza came up with its new and legendary product, the Břizolit plaster mixture.


After the First World War, the Company established its General Directorate Office in Prague. During the twenties the Company acquired several other companies, including the Dobřanské Ceramics Plant, or rather its branch in Chlumčany. Due to this fact the Company also dominated magnesite mines in Slovakia and therefore, in 1929 the name of the Company was changed to the West Bohemian Kaolin, Fireclay Plant and Slovakian Magnesite Factories.


In 1936 the Company acquired the majority of shares in the Rakovník and poštorenských factories and thus eliminated its largest competitor. Therefore, the West Bohemian Group became a monopoly manufacturing ceramic products throughout the entire Czechoslovakia which lasted until 1945, when the group was nationalised. The newly created national company acquired new factories but some were removed from the group.


In 1950, after these changes took place, a new national plant was created, which was called the West Bohemian Ceramics Factories operating in Horní Bříza and Třemošná. Also an independent state factory named the Hornobřízské Kaolin Plant was created. However, this division proved to be a bad decision and in 1958 both national factories were integrated again. Meanwhile, the Podbořanské factories and two stoneware manufacturing plants in Ultramarin v Břasích were attached to Horní Bříza. During the subsequent years all plants underwent gradual reconstruction and modernisation. The introduction of machinery and automatisation removed hard manual labour and significantly increased production.


In 1989, the national West Bohemian Ceramic Factories plant separated from the Group of Czechoslovak Ceramic Plants and was transformed into a state-owned enterprise, thereby gaining greater freedom in its decision-making process and management. After November 1989, the privatisation process led to the establishment of the West Bohemian Kaolin and Ceramic Plants joint-stock company, which was established in May 1992. In 1997 the name of the Company was changed to Keramika Horní Bříza a.s. (Horní Bříza Ceramics) and underwent the so-called coupon privatisation process. After this process was completed, the main Company shareholder became the Privatisation Funds, which managed the Company until 1998. The period after the establishment of the joint stock company was characterised by an expansion of activities and by many other changes. Československá keramika, a.s. (Czechoslovak Ceramics), provided the Company with majority ownerships in a number of trade companies abroad (Germany, Austria, Belgium and Italy), which gave the Company greater control over trade channels and their products.


In 1994 a subsidiary company called HOB CerTec, s.r.o. was established in Horní Bříza as a mutual partner of a German company producing ceramic cylinders for cylinder furnaces.


In 1999, individual privatisation funds sold their shares in Horní Bříza Ceramics to the new and current owner – the LASSELSBERGER Group.


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