The royal foundry at Le Creusot in 1806.
©The royal foundry at Le Creusot in 1806.|CUCM, document écomusée, cliché D. Busseuil

From royal foundry to English forge

The origins of Le Creusot

The creation of the Montcenis coal mines in the second half of the 18th century attracted curious scientists and engineers to this Burgundy region. Visiting the mines, they noted the quality of the coal used to produce coke, the fuel used in blast furnaces.

By the 1780s, Le Creusot had become one of continental Europe’s leading industrial centers, where new techniques from Great Britain were used for the first time.

A foundry

in the service of the king's armies

In 1781, William Wilkinson and Ignace de Wendel, looking for a site to establish a foundry, turned their attention to the hamlet of Le Creusot. The Ministry of the Navy decided to build a foundry using the new techniques developed in England at the turn of the century.

Starting in 1782, a new factory was built on the Riaux plain, complete with workshops, furnaces and workers’ quarters. It became a place oftechnical innovation. Steam engines were used, and in 1785, the first coke-fired iron was cast in France and continental Europe.

The plant produced cannons for the Royal Navy, cast-iron pipes and architectural components, such as the famous cupola for the Paris corn market. But the industry was still in its infancy, and the foundry had to face financial difficulties on several occasions.

The English forge and the Schneider era

Time to take off

In 1826, the foundry became the property of two English industrialists, Manby and Wilson. They enlarged the workshops, adding an English-style forge and rolling mills. In 1827, the Le Creusot plants supplied the rails for the first rail ways built in France. This did not prevent the company from going bankrupt again in 1833.

In 1836, the foundry and forge were bought by brothers Eugène and Adolphe Schneider and their investors. The new forge owners quickly set about developing their new business. As early as 1838, the first steam locomotives rolled out of the workshops, marking the beginning of the epic story of the Schneider establishments in Le Creusot.

The original foundry buildings were demolished in the mid-19th century to make way for new workshops. Two of the new buildings have been preserved and now house the Condorcet university center and the university library.

The factories


Industrial activity in Le Creusot is dynamic.

Major international groups in the steel, energy and transport sectors, such as Arcelor-Mittal, Framatome and Alstom, and a whole network of SMEs and subcontractors make use of the region’s historic know-how. This makes Le Creusot one of the region’s leading industrial clusters.

Cristallerie Royale in three key dates


The Fonderie Royale is founded at Le Creusot. At the time, the fashion for lead crystal was arriving straight from England and seducing the French aristocratic courts.


The Cristallerie experienced its first difficulties, and was eventually sold by its owners.


Eugène Schneider decides to make the crystal works his home in Le Creusot. He gave the building a second life, transforming it from a crystal glassworks into a prestigious residence.

Not to be missed