Saving the heritage of local industry at Thiers

Fondation du Patrimoine Auvergne

Shut down in 1984, the former Mondière cutlery plant forge at Thiers in the Puy-de-Dôme department has been given a makeover, with the impetus of the town council and the regional authority and with the backing of the Michelin Corporate Foundation and La Fondation du Patrimoine.

A world-famous industrial past

The Mondière forge is located in the historical Vallée des Usines at Thiers, spanning the Durolle river. The plant, whose specialty was hot forging knife blades, is a prime industrial heritage site. The hydraulic force of the Durolle river has been used since the Middle Ages to power flour mills, tanneries, papermills and, since the development of cutlery manufacturing, the hammers and grindstones of the knifemaking workshops.

From the 15th century onwards, a quarter of the local population was engaged in cutlery manufacturing. Progressively, the objects made in the valley were exported to Spain, Italy, Germany, Turkey and the East Indies. In the 20th century, the Mondière forge switched from waterpower to electricity. Over time, the swift-flowing Durolle river has weakened the aging structures and, one after another, the manufacturing plants in the valley have closed.

Thiers, world cutlery capital

In the narrowest part of the Durolle gorges, the Vallée des Usines has profited from several renovation projects since the 1980s. The Creux de l’Enfer plant has been converted into a contemporary arts center while the May manufactory has become a venue for temporary exhibitions and seminars.

The Mondière forge is part of a vast restoration scheme which will blend the plant into the scientific and cultural experience of the cutlery museum. ‘The Mondière forge is the showpiece of our industrial history and we don’t want to give up our heritage’, says Thiers town councilor Pierre Contie in charge of culture, heritage and tourism.

The restoration of the forge, backed by the Michelin Corporate Foundation, should bring to light a dormant treasure and help make the local area more attractive.

©Ville de Thiers

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