The ironworks in the Pays Loire Val d'Abois were once known all over the world. The area manufactured weapons for the French Revolution, pipelines for Madrid and Paris, and components for building the Eiffel Tower. Visitors can find out how this came about in the extensively restored former Charcoal Hall in Grossouvre that dates back to 1844 and covers an area of almost 100 square metres. Multimedia and interactive facilities provide a lively image of the regional iron industry. The blast furnace at Grossouvre also fell victim to the decline of the industry towards the end of the 19th century. However you can still visit a building with workers apartments nearby. The brick-making factory is also in the vicinity: it has been in operation since around 1900. A further brick-making factory - now disused - in La Guerche sur l'Aubois is currently being restored. Torteron in the north of the Val d'Abois shows the extent to which urban planning was influenced by the regional industries. Beffes has a rich tradition of cement-making: the gigantic cement works owes its origins to old quarries and blast furnace plants. The 300 metre long aqueduct over the canal in Cuffy is a classic example of the early development of industrial transport routes. Grossouvre is an ideal starting and information point for all these different industrial monuments.
Industrialisation in France extended far into rural regions where a number of different industries became established. The Pays Loire Val d'Abois is a very clear example of this: the preconditions were favourable: large stretches of forest and waterways served as sources of power, raw materials were on hand in the form of easily extractable iron ore, high-quality limestone and clay.
The Cistercian monks in the Abbey of Fontmorigny are credited with triggering this dynamic industrial development. They are reckoned to have started processing iron as early as the 12th century. Much later, in 1825, a certain Georges Dufaud returned from a journey to Merthyr in South Wales with new ideas that had a long-lasting influence on the techniques of coal-firing and the use of rolling mills in the region. At the time the Val d'Abois was one of the leading centres of iron and steel processing in France. Canals and railway lines linked the industrial region to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Furthermore the new steam engine technology was introduced near Torteron in 1824 and this led to the construction of large casting plants, as can be seen from the many remains. Around 1850 15% of all the cast steel made in France came from the Val d'Abois.
Grossouvres first blast furnace was probably built in the early 16th century, but possibly even earlier. Today the remains of a blast furnace from the 18th century lie sunk beneath a 40 hectare lake. The 1860s were difficult years for the regional steel industry, and steel manufacturing in Grossouvre came to an end in 1879. Here as elsewhere alternative industries moved in: these included brickworks and cement factories. Now the restored Charcoal Hall in Grossouvre is the centre and starting point for exploring the history of iron-making techniques in the region. Trained museum staff also lead visitors to the neighbouring workers housing estate ("Les Galeries") and other industrial monuments including Torteron, an industrial site that was once planned to contain a model housing estate.
|Recommended duration of visit:||1 Hours|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
February to June and September to December
Tuesday - Sunday 9.30-12.30am, 2-5.30pm
July to August