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From yesterday to today

As the youngest commune in Saône-et-Loire, the history of Montceau-les-Mines is inextricably linked with that of coal mining and the region’s industrial boom from the late 18th century onwards. This activity, now extinct, left many traces in the town and in the memory of its inhabitants.

Montceau and the Blanzy mines

The history of the coalfield

Here, the urban landscape has been completely transformed over the past two centuries. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the small hamlet of “Montceau”, consisting of just a few farms and an inn, saw its destiny turned upside down by the natural riches of its subsoil, the construction in 1783 of the Canal du Centre linking the Saône to the Loire, and then the relocation of the Compagnie des Mines from Blanzy, a neighboring village.

As early as the 1820s, the company chose to set up along the canal, which was then the main route for transporting coal. Mining shafts, workshops and factories proliferated, the economy prospered and the population grew rapidly. Mining meant that the workforce had to be housed and a town built close to the pits. The town of Montceau-les-Mines was officially founded in 1856.

Les Chagot

A family at the head of coal mining

At one time owners of the Le Creusot factories, the Chagot family is best known for being the originators of the town of Montceau-les-Mines. It was Jules Chagot who founded the Compagnie des Mines de Houille de Blanzy in 1833, and when the town was created in 1856, it was his nephew Léonce Chagot who became its first mayor. For several decades, the destiny of this family, the development of the company and the construction of the town were closely linked.

Like the Schneiders of Le Creusot, the Chagots implemented a paternalistic policy: the mine was behind the construction of miners’ housing, churches, the first hospital and the first schools. In less than 50 years, the town grew from 2,300 inhabitants at its foundation to almost 29,000 in 1901.

However, at the turn of the 20th century, social protest was on the rise, and the great miners’ strikes left a lasting mark on people’s memories.

What about today?

A preserved mining memory

In the 1950s, coal began to be mined in open-cast quarries known as “discoveries”. Underground mining ceased in 1992, and the coalfield began its conversion. Then, in 2000, the mine closed for good. The former mining area was gradually redeveloped, giving way to a vast landscaped park, while the former offices and workshops were converted into a cultural hub within a new district.

Today, Montceau and its surrounding area offer a face quite different from the image one might have of a mining town: a town center open onto the canal and its marina, colorful facades and a rich cultural life.

The memory of mining is preserved through emblematic monuments and sites, such as the Musée de la Mine in Blanzy, the miners’ union building and the mining housing estates that make up many of the town’s districts. So many facets to discover when visiting Montceau-les-Mines.

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