Ferreries, located near the centre of Menorca, has seen noteworthy progress over the last three decades with regard to both economic and social aspects thanks to the efforts and initiative of its residents, a fact that now allows the town to look toward the future with considerable optimism.
The municipal area reaches as far as a small stretch of the northern coast of Menorca, from the beaches of Cala del Pilar to Cala en Calderer, including the shingle beaches of Es Alocs and Cala Macarrà; as well as to the southern coast, from the beach of Cala Galdana to the beach of Cala Trebalúger, and includes those of Cala Mitjana and Cala Mitjaneta, joined together by a large area of unspoilt Mediterranean forest. This stretch of land borders the municipal area of Es Mercadal to the east, Es Migjorn Gran to the south, and Ciutadella de Menorca to the west. It covers 67.39 km2 and has a maximum elevation of 140 m above sea level.
The municipal area can be clearly divided into two regions based on each one's particular orography. The northern region is home to the most substantial elevations of the municipal area: the Santa Àgueda mountain, 260 m in height, and S'Enclusa mountain, as a natural boundary to the Southern region the area and delimits the area known as Pla Verd.
The southern region, on the other hand, is carved out by a group a deep ravines of incomparable beauty: the Algendar ravine, which ends at Cala Galdana, and the Son Fideu ravine, which reaches the sea at Trebalúger.
Nearly two thirds of the terrain are uncultivated, populated in part by expanses of pine groves, holm oak groves and Mediterranean scrubland.
Agriculture has gradually lost significance in the local economy. Grain cultivation and pasture have given way to primarily livestock activities whose main focus is the production of artisan cheese (Mahón-Menorca Cheese, designation of origin) and milk production.
Ferreries is the last Menorcan town to form part of the tourism industry. Its proximity to the Cala Galdana residential area, one of the most beautiful tourist centres on the island, has resulted in the progressive movement of many businesses of this sector toward the coast. Recent years have seen an increase in the tertiary sector of Ferreries' economy at the expense of its primary sector.
The population's human potential, which has historically had the highest birth rate in the Balearic Islands, has been a decisive factor in stimulating the transition from a primarily agricultural economy to one based on industry, born with the construction boom of the 1960s.
One of the main appeals of Ferreries for residents of the rest of the island and visitors are the products that stem from its industry and the wide ranging network of businesses, which make it possible to find virtually anything in town. Ferreries is known for its internationally renowned footwear production, its wooden furniture, its costume jewellery, and more. Many of these industries have their own outlet shops where products can be purchased directly.
Other auxiliary industries, apart from construction companies, that have arisen due to the growth of the tertiary sector in the economy of Ferreries include cabinet making, gardening, blacksmith's, and more.
Menorcans also visit Ferreries to savour and purchase top quality foodstuffs like bread, pastries and the typical ensaïmadas, all handmade using traditional methods; sausages made by local butchers from animals raised in Menorcan fields; homemade ice creams in a variety of flavours, and much more.
Another allure of the town, as mentioned above, is the wide array of shops that offer an ample variety of articles (clothing, footwear, appliances, gifts, furniture, houseware) that have seen notable improvement over recent years in terms of overall quality, customer service and the continual modernisation of the establishments, all of which make Ferreries stand out among Menorca's towns in this respect.
Also renowned are its tapas and home-cooked food, both traditional Menorcan cuisine and more international fare, offered to customers by a number of bars and cafés.
A Saturday morning visit to the Ferreries craft market is certainly worthwhile. It's held in the town's main square and you'll find all types of artisan products: from foodstuffs like cheese, cured sausage, jams or honey produced by local farmers, to typical Menorca items handmade by the best artisans, including avarca sandals, macramé, items made of esparto, engraved glass or leather products.
Avarca sandals are certainly one of the most highly valued products. Historically, they were worn only by farmers for working the fields. Today, however, they have become extremely popular among all types of people thanks to their simple design (made from two cuts of leather and a rubber sole) and comfort (ideal for Menorca's hot summers).
Historical data regarding the birth of Ferreries establishes its founding around the end of the 13th century.
The name Ferreries first appears in the document called Pariatge of King Jaume II of Mallorca. This is in fact a document of concordance between the monarch and the bishop that reorganised social and ecclesiastic structures in Menorca. The arrangement of the provost and the rectories led to, among other things, a new parish in the township of ‘Sa Fraria’ (friars’ congregation), under the denomination of Bartholomew the Apostle.
The origin of the name “Ferreries” is not clear. There are two leading theories, although both are impossible to prove through documentation.
According to oral tradition, the name “Ferreries” is associated with the place names of Sa Rovellada, S'Enclusa and the Son Telm hills, which surround the town. Those who subscribe to this belief contemplate the possibility that a certain blacksmith (ferrer, in Catalan) set up shop in one of these areas to attend to the horses used for transport that moved about the island's interior. This belief is backed by its spelling as “Ferraries” in later documentation.
The other argued hypothesis says that the name Ferreries is an orthographic distortion of “Fraria”, since the original church of Saint Bartholomew was erected on lands that belonged to Mercedarian friars, likely those from Puig Ostern mentioned in the bull of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291.
In 1298, the first dwellings were built in the area around the aforementioned locations, giving life to the original population centre.
In the early 14th century, the town of Ferreries was given the name of the municipality of the Santa Àgueda Castle, and its most iconic individuals began to intervene in Menorcan politics and public affairs.
The dispersed nature of the population did not favour the development of Ferreries as a town, which before the end of the medieval period was already made up of a few isolated populations centres.
There is documented evidence showing that in 1457 the farms of Terra-roja, Son Gornés, Son Gras and Ruma were founded, and that in 1476 those of Son Mercer and Sa Mola; all as small population units.
At the end of the 17th century, Ferreries was home to 75 inhabitants who occupied 15 houses.