Coal mining at St Ghislain and Hornu, 8 km W of Mons, began in the 1770s. In 1810 the mines were acquired by the Frenchman Henri de Gorge Legrand (1774-1832). In 1816, having declared that he was ‘trying to attract strong men by-unheard of comforts’, he began the construction of a workers village in the classical style that within 15 years consisted of more than 400 houses. In 1831 he began to build a mechanical engineering plant, whose buildings, arranged around an elliptical courtyard, 140 m X 80 m, were designed by Bruno Renard. By 1832 de Gorge Legrand employed 15,000 people, and in 1855 his statue, in cast-iron, was erected in the courtyard. The last local mine closed in 1954 and the buildings became derelict, but a conservation committee was established in 1968, and in 1989 the site was purchased by the province of Hainaut. It now accommodates the Contemporary Art Museum of the French Community, but there are displays and guided tours for visitors interested in industrial heritage.