The disused factory Chaignaud at Saint-Florent, La Rochefoucauld
L'usine désaffectée de Chaignaud à Saint-Florent, La Rochefoucauld
The old and mainly unused factory at Saint-Florent is scheduled for re-development. It is an enormous place divided mainly into two multi-storied buildings, and is situated in an ancient part of the town along one bank of the River Tardoire. Interestingly, a priory, currently undergoing restoration and dating from the 11th century, is the original owner of the lands around and is located within the factory grounds.
The origin of the factory was a riverside mill producing wheat and oil, later transformed in part to carding and spinning. Commencing in the second half of the nineteenth century workshops were built and continued to be developed during the first part of the twentieth century. From the production of felt (for use in Charantais slippers), rope and spinning, weaving and winding, work expanded to include knitting, needle punching, non-woven textile, plastic coating, flock, and rubber. Production was at its height during the final twenty five years of the 20th Century, employing over 1,600 workers. Sadly business declined quite rapidly after 1999, and eventually the older buildings became deserted.
Happily work continues on a smaller scale in newer facilities on the site, and thanks to director Monsieur Hiel, I was able to work quite unhindered in the taking of my photographs. Having shown me around the vast and abandoned spaces and, as he was leaving me on my own, insisted that I take his mobile number as 'People do get lost!' ‘I can find my way out, I think!’ Thankfully I did.
I exhibited this work in La Rochefoucauld during the first week in September 2017, Workers, ex-employees and other interested parties were, of course, invited.
So, many thanks to Monsieur Hiel and to Monsieur Marsaud, the mayor of Saint Projet Saint Constant for their assistance.
Update September 2018. The demolition team has moved in.
Reference : Archives départementales de Charente, S 344. Moulins de Forge à Rancogne, de Saint-Florent, du Château à la Rochefoucauld.