The most important guild for the town in socio-economic terms and in terms of politics on the town council were the guilds of ironworkers and blacksmiths.
In the newly founded town agriculture was important but it was not the main way of making a living: most people were craftsmen and traders. Some trades were organised into guilds, such as the guilds of carpenters, stonemasons, basket weavers, tanners, coopers, weavers and charcoal burners. But the most important of these guilds for the town in socio-economic terms and in terms of politics on the town council were the guilds of ironworkers and blacksmiths.
The crafting of iron gradually developed into an industry, with products no longer being made just for local use but also for export to different areas of Spain, the rest of Europe and even the Americas.
This was in line with the goal of the town’s founders to establish a strong trade route.
When he granted Elorrio its town charter in 1356 Don Tello, Lord of Bizkaia, had two purposes in mind: to provide a defensive bastion and to strengthen trade.
From the late 15th century and on through the 16th and 17th centuries the town of Elorrio was a major manufacturer of edged weapons and firearms. This trade may have had its origins in the earliest days of the local iron working industry.
Records indicate that in the late 16th century Elorrio had a flourishing industry in the manufacture of pikes and lances. It is hardly surprising, then, that the town’s lancers were highly renowned. A report dated 1575 states that around 3000 pikes and 1500 lances came out of the town’s forges every month. These weapons were shipped to the Imperial troops of Charles V and Philip II, including those serving in Flanders.
Pikes could be as much as 6 m in length, though among Spanish troops the regulation sizes were 5.42 m and 4.17 m. Their manufacture required large quantities of ash wood, which is why extensive ash groves were planted on the hillsides around the town.
The local factories not only produced weapons but also breastplates, helmets, shields and other defensive equipment, some of which was shipped abroad. In May 1555 Joan García de Leaniz, a man born and raised in Elorrio, signed a written undertaking with five master armourers for the manufacture of 1500 complete suits of armour, each with its helmet, for delivery to King John III of Portugal (known as John the Pious).