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The sheet-making and textile industry

 

The sheet-making industry in the Clermontais is mentioned in documents from the 15th century, but it is highly probable that, as in Lodève (industry mentioned in the 12th century), it existed much before.

The sheet-making industry

The industrial quarters of Clermont l’Hérault were situated in the suburbs of the town on the banks of the Rhonel which, in this time, flowed abundantly. Along the banks were to be found textile factories, tannery workshops and many other textile businesses. In the town centre were small enterprises needing feminine labour for the more minute jobs. The streets of Clermont still retain the names of these ancient trades, Filandière, Rames, Tiradous … The sheets, which were of exceedingly good quality, were destined to be exported to the Middle East thanks to the “Ports of the Levant”.

The Clermontais fabrication was excellent because the Rhonel water allowed quality washing and dyeing. To start with very fine Spanish wool was used thus allowing a production equivalent to the English quality, hence the name of “londrins” (London) given to the procedure. The manufacturing was essentially hand-crafted. It kept numerous home-workers occupied who were paid for piece work by the cloth-merchants. There were many stages before getting to a finished, quality product. Sheets of poor quality were often destroyed because they did not correspond to certain criteria. There were “sheet inspectors” to ensure that the product was well-manufactured.

English and Dutch competition put the brakes on this industry which progressively declined in the 19th century, to die out definitively between the two World Wars. The Villeneuvette Manufactory founded around 1673 became Royal in 1677 under Louis XIV. It was an almost completely self-sufficient village factory that was still working and producing sheets for exportation up until 1954. The factory had a small annex in the little village of Aspiran. Another factory, also manufacturing sheets, was situated at Ceyras on the banks of the Lergue. It belonged to Lugagne Delpon who already had a big factory in Clermont l’Hérault.

The sheet-making industry was to be supplanted by wine-making and table grapes.

The « genêt » industry

The “genêt” fabric that was used to make clothes had been hand-crafted for a long time, with the help of fibres of Spanish genêt, a bush that is very common in our region. The Romans and the Carthaginians had used these fibres for making ship sails. But more recently, at the end of the Second World War, the anti-static properties of the fibre were used for mining security to make mats for transporting coal, as the slightest spark could start up an inflaming of particles suspended in the air, all followed by a deadly explosion.

This quite artisanal manufacturing of the “genêt” fabric kept a certain part of the rural population occupied around Lodève and Clermont, especially for individual usage. Thus on the 27th August 1732, an inhabitant of Clermont had an artisan from Octon make almost a 100 feet of cloth made from “genêt”, destined to make serviettes!

Pictures

Old cloth-making factory, rue Frégère in Clermont l'Hérault - JPEG - 216.9 kb
Old cloth-making factory, rue Frégère in Clermont l’Hérault

Crédit OT du Clermontais

Ceyras, factory La Planque (private building) - JPEG - 139.5 kb
Ceyras, factory La Planque (private building)

Crédit OT du Clermontais

 

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