General view of Le Creusot.145 Le Creusot Plaine Des Riaux @lesley Williamson
©General view of Le Creusot.|Lesley Williamson
Coal & steelThe Schneider family empire

A factory town turned empire

The history of Le Creusot is closely linked to that of industry and its meteoric rise, remarkably orchestrated by the paternalistic Schneider family.

Born of its rich subsoil, Le Creusot grew with the steel industry. Its heart has always beaten to the rhythm of the factories.

Go back in time to the origins of the town

In the mid-18th century, Le Creusot was no more than a hamlet. The town’s metallurgical industry grew out of the mining of coal from the nearby village of Montcenis. The Fonderie Royale (Royal Foundry) was set up near the coal pits in 1782, followed by the Cristallerie de la Reine (Queen’s Crystal Works).

These early industries initiated the local economic boom, which the arrival of brothers Eugène and Adolphe Schneider in 1836 propelled to a global scale within a few decades. The French metallurgical industry entered a new era when, in 1837, they bought out the Le Creusot forges and began producing steel for transport, particularly railroads.

This marked the beginning of the Schneider dynasty’s reign over the factory town of Le Creusot.

Welcome to Schneiderville

The forge masters developed their business and shaped the town with a paternalistic policy covering all aspects of workers’ lives. Housing, leisure, education and religion were all governed by this social policy, which was ahead of its time.

For over a century, the city gradually organized itself around the workshops, giving it its distinctive character: a city built around its industrial heart, with no real center.

Did you know?

In 1856, the inhabitants of Le Creusot proposed a petition to rename the town Schneiderville.

A heritage to discover

To come to Le Creusot is to go back to the origins of the industrial revolution, to the time of pioneering engineers, workers and barons of the metallurgical industry.

From particularly evocative street names (boulevard Henri-Paul Schneider, rue de la Fonderie, rue de l’Étang de la Forge) to architectural relics (the Château de la Verrerie, Hôtel-Dieu, Saint-Eugène and Saint-Henri churches and the workers’ housing estates of Combe des mineurs and Saint-Sauveur), everything in Creusot is a reminder of the presence of the forge masters and the factory.

Whether you’re exploring the town on foot or by bike, or visiting the Château de la Verrerie and its museographic spaces devoted to local industrial history, you’ll quickly learn all you need to know about Le Creusot’s industrial epic.

Today's city

Le Creusot is still a highly industrial town, even though the forge masters have long since left the area. The great names of the steel, energy and transport industries, such as ArcelorMittal, Framatome, Alstom, General Electric and Safran, can be seen on the facades of the factories today, the heirs to a long tradition of know-how dating back over two centuries.

A place of discovery

Today, the Château de la Verrerie is a heritage site. The main building houses the Musée de l’Homme et de l’Industrie – Écomusée Creusot Montceau, which introduces visitors to the history of the region’s industrial development, the former crystal works and the Schneider dynasty.

In an adjoining building, the Pavillon de l’Industrie offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Le Creusot’s industrial adventure, using a tablet to explore the history of the forges and their production, from their origins to the present day.

The highlight of the tour?

It’s certainly the Petit Théâtre. Who could imagine that an old glassmaker’s kiln could conceal such a set?


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