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The mining past of the Cevennes

What are the traces of the mining past in the Cevennes?

In the Cevennes, the history of coal mining is almost a thousand years old and many cultural sites pay tribute to it today.


A long history in the Cevennes

The Cévennes and their basins, including in particular Alès and La Grand’Combe, experienced their first hours of industrial glory during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, largely thanks to one of the riches present in large quantities in their subsoil: coal. The mining then rhythms the daily life of hundreds and then thousands of people.

But the history of coal in the Cevennes begins long before… it is even one of the oldest in France, which begins in the thirteenth century. At that time, of course, the means were rudimentary and one did not go down several hundred meters into the ground: one simply dug holes a few meters deep.

Thus, it took much longer than one might imagine before the large-scale exploitation of this mineral became the driving force of the local industry for more than 200 years.


And the Cévennes mines

The coal mines of the Cevennes are among the first collieries in France, their exploitation is however faced with problems of transport and property rights.

After a strong development during the twentieth century the mining industry will reach its peak in the late 1950s.

Numerous vestiges (mine entrances, headframes, slag heaps, railroads, ruins, worker’s city, converted buildings) still remain as witnesses of this industrial past.

The witness mine

A unique moment to live alone, as a couple or as a family

The Mine témoin d’Alès invites you to immerse yourself in a real “mine school” used for over 20 years. With your guide, you will crisscross the galleries and go back in time for no less than 1h30.

The tour begins with a descent in an elevator and allows you to discover the various trades that existed at the bottom of the mines.

Between large machinery, horses and tools, the immersion in this universe is striking. The noise of some machines adds to the realism of the place.

Much more than a visit, it is an experience to live in this witness mine!”

As it is quite cool there (about 17°C), think of taking a small jacket – even in summer – as well as good shoes because there are quite a lot of rails on the ground.

La Grand'combe

High place of the coal mines in the Cevennes

In order to go further in the exploration of the life of the underground miners, also go to La Grand’Combe – about 15 min north of Alès – to discover the Maison du Mineur.

Witness mine and then Maison du Mineur: these two sites are totally complementary and perfectly suited for a day trip. Visit one site in the morning, the second in the afternoon.

La Grand’Combe is a typical Cévennes mining town that still retains traces of its industrial past. Visiting it is also an opportunity to discover Notre-Dame de la Grand’Combe – one of the largest churches in the department, dating from the 19th century and able to accommodate up to 5,000 people! Between the stained glass windows with the effigy of the mines and the monumental organ, you’ll see, this place has something to surprise.

Finally, if you pass by here on Wednesday or Saturday mornings, don’t hesitate to take a trip to the market – a peaceful little haven where you’ll find a host of products from the Cevennes and the region.

The miner's house

A visit on the theme of grandeur and nostalgia

Coming to the Miner’s House will allow you to discover the so-called surface work, which is often misunderstood and yet essential.

On this site, you will pass through the gigantic hanging room, where miners changed and hung their belongings. This room houses hundreds of historical artifacts. You will then see the Ricard Shaft headframe, which sent miners 800 meters deep.

This is a moment rich in history that awaits you and that you will appreciate even more in the company of a guide, passionate about his work and fascinating for his knowledge and anecdotes. The climax of the visit probably occurs during the discovery of the engine room, which gives the vertigo and allows to understand the difficulties of all these trades related to the mine.

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