The contrast could scarcely be greater: the little town of Amay, with its old town centre, narrow alleyways, mansions and cloisters situated idyllically in the Mass valley, in the shadows of the massive cooling towers of the Huy atomic power station. Baroque middle-class splendour right next to the legacies of industrialisation. It was like this in the past. Widespread industrial growth was founded on the treasures of the earth: limestone, alum shale, clay and sulphur were calcined, roasted and oxidised with the aid of fire. The fire refined the raw materials and gave work and bread to the people in the brickworks, lime furnaces, alum plants and mines – not to speak of serious illnesses in the course of their working-lives.
All this is recalled in an exhibition entitled "Masters of Fire", housed in the former forge of a lime works dating back to 1897, on the edge of the town. With the aid of up-to-date exhibition techniques and modern information media, visitors are able to learn more about the "masters", workers and specialists who shaped and processed the raw material, and created the basis for industrial growth in Walloon. The stages of processing are vividly demonstrated before our eyes, e.g. by means of small experiments during the guided tours. The arduous lives of the workers, the back-breaking work which they had to endure, and their poverty-stricken living conditions are also strongly featured.
Whereas the exhibition indoors explains the work and social background, the outside site is a place where visitors can get direct experiences. Right next to the forge is the old lime works, and the huge lime furnaces can still be seen on the road leading to the works. People still work here. During the week lorries transport heavy loads of material from the nearby quarries to the modern workplaces occupied by the "masters of fire".