Guetschlique (1793-1873) and Samson Godchaux (1811–87)

The Godchaux brothers established the earliest woollen factories in Luxembourg, from the 1830s onwards. Guetschlique (or Quetschlik) Godchaux was born on the French side of the border with Luxembourg at Thionville. He was around two years old when the family move to Luxembourg, at the time it was invaded and absorbed by France. His brother Samson was born there in 1811. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815, Luxembourg became an independent duchy.

In 1828 the brothers had a workshop at Pafendal, on the east side of the city. Apparently, this had only hand-looms for weaving woollen cloth, but in 1835 they established a woollen factory nearby at Schläifmille, on the site of a flour mill powered by the River Alzette. They imported wool through Antwerp and Marseille and marketed cloth and knitwear widely, winning prizes and selling to the army. The two brothers remained close and married two sisters on the same day in 1837. They lived in a villa next to the mill. After 1842, Luxembourg’s membership of the Zollverein customs union with German states helped their products reach wider markets. In 1851, they expanded at Schläifmille with a steam engine. The factory employed several hundred people at this time. An engraving shows a handsome group of buildings in a wooded setting next to the river. In 1867, Luxembourg was guaranteed neutrality by international treaty, and the following year the brothers opened another factory, still on the River Alzette and in the duchy of Luxembourg but 35 km to the north of the city at Ettelbrück. It was run by Samson’s son Jules.

Guetschlique died in 1873 and was buried at Clausen Jewish cemetery, close to Schläifmille. Samson went into partnership in 1876 with Conrot and Lamort, who owned a former cotton mill at neighbouring Pulvermühl that had changed to making fine woollen hosiery. In 1883 the mills were consolidated under the Société Anonyme des Draperies Luxembourgeoises. In 1884 the company opened a factory with French partners over the border at Montigny-sur-Chiers.

Samson died in 1887. The company reached its peak by 1900, when it employed 2,000 people. However, following the First World War, the dissolution of the Zollverein and then the Depression caused it to decline. The company closed in 1939. The last director, Emile Godchaux, was sent to a Nazi concentration camp and died in 1942.