lundi 1 juillet 2013

Industrial heritage of Western France

Not so very long ago, Western France was a hotbed of Industry and had large factories employing vast numbers of workers.
Lets have a look at some famous examples and try to colour them .

Angers is today a small town , with small and medium firms making products as varied as disc brakes and card printers, as well as Cointreau and Giffard who make the famous liquors. But not so long ago there was an enormous factory, Bessoneau, who employed 10,000 workers in 1920 and which was spread over 25 hectares on one site and 59 for the total  produced 80 tonnes of finished product per week. The factory had its own train station!

The tour à plomb  and mills at Angers. Carte postale, Arch. mun. Angers, 4 Fi 773.The next Angers industry I'd like to look at is the Lead production tower, The first factory was , unbelievably, in the Saint-Aubin, tower, now a classified monument in Angers. From  1822 to 1904, lead was melted and formed here. However,there were other lead towers in the town.One at the end of  Bout-du-Monde, next to the castle, where there is a long drop, and the second  at la Roche-de-Mûrs. Making lead shot requires a great height, to drop the molten lead down into a big cooling pool at the bottom. So workers would have had to carry the lead up some 30 meters, melt it and then ladle it into the containers which then dripped it down to make the lead needed arms of steel and legs of iron, as well as a head for heights. .
At the beginning, business was good, and other companies came . A match factory, a quick lime kiln, and even a canal was created and this zone became  a port, called  Port Ayrault   .
However, the Saint-Aubin tower was then classed as a monument, so the owners built a new tower.

La tour à plomb, huile sur toile, Alexis Mérodack-Jeaneau. Coll. part.
People will tell you that the tower was 45 meters high, but the architects drawing say 38 meters !
From the Courrier d' Ouest newspaper and from the municipal web site from where the photos on this blog are taken,,(in French here) I can say the following: Work began at 4.30, by making a huge fire under a cauldron, in which  were placed lead ignots of 50KG each. Then the temperature would climb to 300 °C The lead was white hot, blue hot. Antimony and arsenic and graphite were added, for hardness, and shine . then using ladels, lead was placed into huge strainers, 12 meters in diameter.Six tons of lead per day, by hand, using ladels.
The laboratory  Philippe Cayla, 1984.
Lead was toxic, and of course it was a dangerous, hot, hard sweaty job. Lead production waned, and stopped in 1972
The tower was demolished in 24th July 1984. Today, in France you can see a similar tower, in Couëron.(here, in French)
also here in French.

One last factory to talk about is the LU  factory.
Another town in a town, with thousands of employees and thousands of square meters, and still producing today, all be it it more modern and cleaner location.
Unlike Bessoneau, where pay and conditions were bad, conditions and pay here were not so bad.However, Bessaneau had an infirmary, and so did Lu, so not all bad.
Lu now belongs to Kraft foods! 

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