Do you know the feeling of not pursuing an idea right away and then, before you know it, someone else has had the same idea and put it into action as you look on dumbfounded? I had this very experience myself with Warth Castle, where MANN+HUMMEL began producing oil filter cartridges back in 1953 – not far at all from our current Marklkofen location. Warth Castle is therefore something like our birthplace, marking as it does the start of our presence in the beautiful Vilstal region. I actually came across it myself during the regular product training sessions I run in Marklkofen; before I tell interested customers and dealers all about the technical and theoretical backgrounds of our products, I give them a brief introduction to the company, which of course includes the Marklkofen location. In my opinion, Warth Castle has a very special place in the history of our company, even though it was only a relatively short chapter – after all how many companies can say that their products were once manufactured in a bona fide Castle?
I told myself I would find out more at some point and one day, as I headed back to my hotel after a training day in September 2014, I gave in to a sudden urge and decided to just pay the site a visit. The sun was shining, it was warm and all in all it was the perfect day for a visit to a castle. My luck continued as I received a warm welcome from a very nice lady, who, when I expressed my interest, offered to give me a tour around the building and grounds that lasted a good half hour. As we walked around, we even bumped into a former MANN+HUMMEL employee who had worked in the castle back in the day. She has been retired for some time now but still likes to pop into the castle every now and then to check that all is in order. My two tour guides told me how it came about that production took place there: Adolf Mann happened to come across the castle when he was staying in Marklkofen for non-work-related reasons. Not only did the property seem to him to be the perfect stopping point on his journeys to visit the two textile mills that had been taken on in 1938 in Vienna, he also had plans to use the castle as a site for management meetings or as a recreational facility for employees. The idea of using the farm belonging to the castle to supply the company canteen in Ludwigsburg with food also helped him in his decision to buy Warth Castle in 1941. The war meant that he was unable to do much to bring his plans to life at first, but the Mann family did still manage to stay at the castle occasionally and Adolf Mann’s love of riding his horse in the area soon led to him being called the ‘lord of the manor’ by the people of Marklkofen.
From holiday home to production site
In 1949, the castle first became the site for textile production for the newly founded Textilwerk Mann GmbH, which was based in Ludwigsburg alongside the filter plant, with filter production then being moved to the castle and one of its barns in 1953. Back then, filter papers still had to be impregnated by employees, meaning that the female workers, who soon became known as the ‘MANN hags’, always carried an unmistakeable smell around with them. Following refurbishment work in 1955, manual production of oil filter elements took place predominantly in the castle’s east wing. Picture the scene – a real castle with filter production facilities on two floors and a working farm complete with stables and plant nursery on site too! Plus, there was also accommodation for guests and employees in the building and a huge kitchen to cater for everyone in another wing of this stately home. It all sounds wonderfully bizarre, don’t you think? Especially when you think that Warth Castle was the heart of what is now the biggest filter plant in the world. It is now home to several businesses, including an advertising agency, a pottery workshop and a painting studio.
To be honest, I’m no castle enthusiast. I mean, I’ve obviously been to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and visited the odd castle or two whilst on holiday in the Loire Valley. But even I have to admit that there is something special about Warth Castle. Although it looks more like a huge country estate than a typical castle, my impromptu visit last year really left an impression on me. This was partly down to the experience of being at the site where filter production first took place in Bavaria, but also the friendliness of the two ladies I met there and their willingness to tell me a few stories on the spot. That is why I am now keen to find out even more about the slice of MANN+HUMMEL history that was written within the old castle walls.
But what does all this have to do with me having an idea and somebody else coming up with that very same idea afterwards anyway? Well, an article all about the castle actually appeared in a recent edition of the company employee magazine – and one or two of the details in there were news to me! However, I’m sure there are many more stories out there just waiting to be told. Maybe somebody reading this blog post will know somebody who knows somebody that worked at the castle. If this is the case, it would be fantastic if I could find out some further information, hear a few more stories or even see some old photos. If anyone would like to help me in my quest, you can do so using the blog comment function. I truly believe that it is worth keeping the castle alive for all of us current MANN+HUMMEL employees.