Les Forges de Syam

Ironworking at Syam, at the confluence of the rivers Ain and Saine, south of Champangnole in the Jura, has a long history. In the late eighteenth century it was believed that the tilt-hammer forge in the village had been working since time immemorial. Certainly it was operating in 1690, and it was probably built during the expansion of the iron industry in the Saône Valley in the sixteenth century. Its speciality was the making of scythes, probably introduced into the area by craftsmen from Styria in present-day Austria. The industry was transformed after the Napoleonic Wars by Claude Jobez (1745-1830) who had made a fortune selling clocks made in France-Comté in Paris. With his son Émmanuel Jobez and his son-in-law Étienne Monnier he built a new ironworks downstream from the tilt-hammer forge which was completed about 1820. The partners made wrought-iron in a charcoal-fired reverberatory furnace, and by 1840 the forge had an output of 800 tonnes per annum. Émmanuel Jobez replaced the ancient chateau alongside the forge with a Palladian villa, although he died in 1828 and did not see it completed. His son Alphonse Jobez was inspired by the ideas of François Marie Fourier (1772-1837) and created a small cite ouvrière around the works, with housing, a school and a dispensary. He was a learned man who had a library of 30,000 books on the first floor of the villa. In spite of its obsolete technology – there was no overhead crane and most machinery was belt-driven – the works survived through the twentieth century, although it experienced several changes of ownership. After some modernisation in the 1970s it specialised in rolling steel to profiles for which demand was limited, a trade in which there was relatively little direct competition. Steel from Syam was used by locksmiths and in the making of some specialised components for motor cars and lifts (elevators). Eventually the rolling mill closed in 2009, but a local initiative has enabled the rolling mill and the villa to be opened to the public in the summer months, and the rolling mill, the only one of its kind remaining in France, is operated on special occasions. Workers’ houses and other buildings of the cite ouvrière can still be seen.

Les Forges de Syam
Route de Champagnole
30300 Syam
+33 (0) 384 - 516100