Sophia Christina Lilliestierna was an enterprising and successful works owner, active at Sura works (later Surahammars Bruks AB) in the northern province of Västmanland, during the early 1700s.
Sophia Christina Lilliestierna was born in 1671, the daughter of Catharina Beata Tönnek and Anders Bjugg. Her father was at the time the secretary at the Swedish governor general’s office at Stade, the city of residence in the Swedish province Bremen-Verden. In 1675, her father was ennobled and took the name Lilliestierna. The same year, he was given a post as secretary at the royal chancellery in Stockholm, upon which the family moved back to Sweden. Her father died in 1679, when Sophia Christina Lilliestierna was only eight years old. Nothing is known about her continued childhood, but her capacity as an adult for expressing herself in writing and taking care of company economy show that she must have received some kind of education.
In 1693, Sophia Christina Lilliestierna married Palamedes Paulson Rigeman, usually called Palm Rigeman. He was a councillor in Riga, the city of residence in the Swedish province of Livland. Two years later, their only child was born, a daughter they named Catharina Beata. When the Russians attacked Livland in 1710, the family lost their estate in Riga. They then fled to Stockholm where Rigeman was appointed deputy judge at Svea Court of Appeal at the beginning of 1712. He died three years later, and Sophia Christina Lilliestierna was made a widow at 44 years of age. The same year, her mother, Chatarina Beata Tönnek also died.
Being a widow, Sophia Christina Lilliestierna decided to invest in iron works. In 1718, she made a contract with chief war commissary Lorentz Strokirch to purchase Sura works in Västmanland with the mill belonging to it and tenant homes. The works, built on a small islet in the Sura rapids in the Kolbäcksån river, had been badly looked after for many years and had started to fall into decay. The quality of the iron produced was considered to be low. That did not stop a relative of Strokirch asserting that he as a relative had prior right to purchase the works, which resulted in a long-drawn-out legal dispute. It was only in August 1726, when Strokirch was already dead, that the issue was finally resolved to Sophia Christina Lilliestierna’s advantage. The year after, she moved to the manor house at Sura works. Her daughter Catharina Beata was by then grown up and had been married for several years.
As the new works owner, Sophia Christina Lilliestierna started improving the hammer smithy and the trip hammer, and also the dams in the Sura rapids. New housing was built for the smiths and old housing and cottages were renovated. By the acquisition of land on the mainland near the islet, and forest land to ensure the supply of charcoal, she was able successively to expand her enterprise. Most important was to improve the quality of the iron, which she started doing immediately with good results. To get away from the bad reputation of the works, she changed to a new iron stamp, now with her initials: SCL. Some years later, she changed it to SCR, R as in Rigeman, to honour her deceased husband. It was a stamp that was considered to guarantee high quality and that would therefore still be in use long after her death.
Sophia Christina Lilliestierna ran the works successfully for 18 years, despite having many times to fight hard against the owners of the other iron works in the vicinity, who did not appreciate the auspicious development of Sura works. She lived and worked at the Sura works until her death in 1744. She was then 73 years old. She lies buried in the Sura Old Church along with her daughter and members of her daughter’s family.