Besides the incredible industrial adventure of metallurgy and mining at Le Creusot-Montceau, you will discover the fascinating history of ceramics, which was, for a long time, the third industrial sector of the region.
The Industrial Era of Ceramics
Ceramics is one of the most ancient industries going back thousands of years. However, once high quality clay was discovered while digging the canal du Centre, a key industry was born in the area of the Creusot-Montceau in the 1850’s, led by the growing use of steam machinery and global industrialisation.
Fundamental to the development of local pottery production and ceramics is a consideration of the provenance of raw materials that potters selected to use. The abundance of clay in the rich soil of the canal du Centre’s banks is one of the main assets of the rise of this thriving industry. The railway in Le Creusot provided an ideal transport for goods and coal from the mines of Blanzy and Montceau, and coal was key to operate and heat the ovens.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, around forty factories dedicated to pottery and ceramic work established in the Ceramic Valley. The craft workshops, potteries and tile mills were in full use: earthenware decorations, pottery, tiles, bricks, and ceramics in all shapes are produced here massively.
The large mills of Montchanin, Chagny and Ecuisses, the tile factory of Paray-le-Monial, the sandstone pottery manufactories of Digoin, Palinges, or Pouilloux prosper between 1870 and 1920.
As new industrial materials emerge around 1940, the industrial sector of ceramics declined and collapsed in the region.
Many remains of the golden age of ceramics can be seen today in about fifteen towns and villages along the Canal du Centre. While strolling in the villages, you can admire many houses with multi-coloured facades adorned with ceramic, bearing witness to this local specialised industry.
The Ceramic Valley provides a unique glimpse into the industrial and architectural aspects of the region’s past era. A great time for the whole family!
The village of Ecuisses is itself a real showroom of the productions of the time: glazed tiles, carved bricks, ornamental tiles decorate roofs and facades of many buildings along the canal. The famous Villa Perrusson is the most beautiful expression of this unique local know-how.
In Ciry-le-Noble, do not miss a visit of the Briqueterie Vairet-Baudot, an original 7,500 square meters brick factory from the past century. A piece of history itself, this former industrial site has now become an interpretation centre for visitors to experience the atmosphere of a factory.