Most travellers think of the French Ardennes, and the Meuse valley in particular, as a ‘battlefield’ landscape, but its longer heritage is ‘industrial’. This was the heart of the coal and iron industry in France and just as in the valleys of Wales, the story is one of cultural, social & industrial decline and neglect.
The Musée de la Méttalurgie Ardennaise, on the site of a former metal factory in Bogny-Sur-Meuse that employed 500 workers making nuts, bolts & fittings for the railway industry, is here to remind us of that history and point us toward the future.
In a small cinema they show a really good short film (subtitled in English) that features lots of testimonies from people that worked locally in the metal fabrication industry, and some that still do. The industry employed not just foundry workers, blacksmiths, tool workers and others working directly with metal, but also all the designers and engineers who created the end products. There are still around 13 engineering design & fabrication companies in the area that make use of local skills to design and create state of the art metalwork, and some 14,000 metalworkers in the Ardennes.
The museum is not that large (700m2) but it has an interesting collection of machinery exhibits, social & cultural exhibits and historic photos.
The chronological tour of the museum starts with making nails by hand on the banks of the Meuse in the middle ages, and quickly becomes mechanised, powered by water wheels, or, as is cleverly displayed in a digital animation, by dogs!
By the 18th & 19th centuries the range of metal products has gone far beyond nails made with the help of dogs. By now, what was a small cottage industry has become a sophisticated industry of factories fabricating complicated pieces cast by men, but often machined/finished by children & women.
Moving into the 21st century, the museum demonstrates modern engine design and casting, and the new world of 3D printing in both sand (for casts) and metal (powdered).
One of the key roles the museum plays is to inspire local schoolchildren and let them experience the new design and print technology in workshops. I think this is its most important and exciting role.
Declaration – I was on a press group tour organised by Champagne & Ardenne Tourisme, so I didn’t pay to get in, but the reason we were there at all was because I had spotted the Metallurgie Museum and asked to have it included in our itinerary.
Musée de la Metallurgie Ardennaise, 103 Rue de la Vallée, 08120 Bogny-sur-Meuse, France.
There is a rail station in Bogny, but trains are not all that frequent. It’s easiest by car and can be included in a tour of the area with historic Sedan and picturesque Monthermé & Charleville-Mézières, nearby.
May – September, daily, 10:00-12:00 & 14:00-18:00
October – April*, Tue-Sat, 10:00-12:00 & 14:00-18:00
Sundays & Mondays during the winter are reserved for pre-booked groups.
* Annual “Fermeture” (closed) from mid-December to the end of February.