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Industrial Heritage


Spontin watermill

was built from blue stone and was in operation until 1953. On the ground floor there is the enormous iron-framed paddle wheel with planks, some of which are missing, and next to it all the gears. On the first floor, there are 4 millstones which were used to grind wheat flour and flatten barley for cattle. The second floor also contains the rest of the machinery including the spelt huller, making the installation almost complete.

The twelve forges of Yvoir:

The first forge, known as the "Yvoir forge"
The second forge, known as the "Hamaide forge"
The third forge, known as the "Gobeaux forge"
The fourth and fifth forges, known as the "Redeau forges"
The sixth forge, known as "Jean hammer"
The seventh forge known as the "Thomas hammer"
The eighth forge, known as the Gayolle Forge and Maka
The ninth forge, known as the "Jacques hammer"
The tenth and eleventh forges, known as the Foeuillen hammer: as of 11.05.1655, these forges were known as the "Feuillen hammer" and "Henry hammer"
The twelfth forge in Bauche (with the original spelling).
These forge buildings can still be seen today.

From the 14th century onwards, Yvoir was the centre of a major iron industry.  It had up to twelve forges, the first of which was known as "Yvoir forge". There is still the batten over the Bocq, behind the sports complex; the second was known as "Aminthe forge".  The pace of life in the region mirrored the cycles of prosperity and recession in the forges.  They were closed down in 1866 on the death of the last ironsmith and converted into mills and sawmills.  At that time locks were being built and charcoal was to be replaced by anthracite mining. 

The second forge or Hamaide or Aminthe forge

this forge was located in rue du Blacet, directly opposite the lime kiln which can still be seen.  There is still a fine lime tree there, like the ones that the ironsmiths planted in the grounds of their forges and on which they placed a shrine.  In 1861, the bishop of Namur consecrated a shrine there which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  A niche is still attached to the tree trunk.

The Chateau d'Yvoir with the third forge or Gobeau forge and a foundry

this was a former feudal fortified feudal place, the seat of the estate of Yvoir.  The first known lord was Wéry de Corioule, who lived before 1388.  It was destroyed in 1554 by Henry II (at the same time as Bouvignes and Montaigle) during the war between the kingdom of France and the Spanish Netherlands under Charles V.  It was rebuilt in 1679 and became the property of the Montpelliers (ironsmiths) c. 1688.  It became the property of J.B. de Wilmet, another ironsmith who extended it, and was then bought by A. Dapsens in 1868, when the Bocq Valley was moving towards quarrying, which is another water-related part of the history of Yvoir and the Bocq.
The other forges: along the course of the Bocq towards Bauche, the site of the water inflows for the other nine forges can be found.  As they are located on private land and access can sometimes be dangerous, this is not advised.

Why was the iron industry present in Yvoir?

Iron ore is extracted easily in the open air in this region.
Wood (transformed into charcoal), which was vital for supplying the forges and furnaces, could be found in large quantities in our forests.  When wood came to be in shorter supply here, it was brought from the Duchy of Luxembourg on the Meuse (Givet).  The energy required was taken from the water inflows from the Bocq.

The importance of iron in Yvoir

Some facts and figures to show its importance in Yvoir:
In 1563: there were 8 forges at the end of the 18th century:
in 1775: 5 ironsmiths out of 24 in the province of Namur lived in Yvoir.
in 1808: 765 workers out of 1495 in the sous-préfecture of Dinant.
Over the 5.5km to Bauche there were 12 forges and an independent foundry.

What has happened to the forges?

They have been converted into mills, oil mills and marble sawmills.  The last forges were shut down in 1870, around the time when the Meuse was the subject of river engineering.
The Bocq Valley was transformed when Alfred Dapsens bought property and began quarrying operations in 1868.
The Maka is a forge hammer driven by a hydraulic wheel with cams.  This wheel, driven by a continuous rotational movement, successively hits against the end of the mobile hammer handle, lifting it.  As the cam turns, the hammer suddenly falls with its entire weight on the anvil.  The Maka is used principally to forge large, strong bars and make bars of smaller dimensions.  The average weight of a forge 'maka' is 510 kilos - 84 kilos for the hammer and 210 kilos for the handle.

The manufacture of lime

First of all, wood faggots were poured into huge hoppers lined with refractory bricks. Pit wagon-loads of fine coal brought by railway were added. Next, a layer of blue stone rubble was added, followed by a layer of coal and another layer of stone.
These kilns burned night and day. The lime was removed via openings at the base and taken by wheelbarrow to the long wagon trains which transported it to the steelworks.
Lime kilns were built to use the waste.

The charcoal makers in the Bocq Valley

The first metalworks had the huge advantage of being close to forests. As we have already seen, charcoal was used as the fuel for producing iron for many years. This type of charcoal enabled the iron ore to be refined fairly well. It is therefore understandable that the forests around Evrehailles were massively used to supply the large quantities of charcoal required by the industry. Lumberjacks and charcoal makers long been featured as local trades.

When the iron industry was in decline, Alfred Dapsens, from Tournai, came and settled in Yvoir. He bought the properties of the old Ironsmiths and operated the sandstone quarries, which became a significant industry given the rare types of rock present in Belgium.
Between Yvoir and Spontin, the Bocq valley was and still is the site of extensive quarrying operations.
The rocks quarried in the Bocq Valley are mainly "SANDSTONE", quarried in the Montfort bedrock, and to a lesser extent, "BLUE STONE", also known as "BOCQ VALLEY PETIT GRANIT".  The sandstone beds and blue stone have long been quarried in the valley: the 17th and 18th-century buildings there were built using these materials.
Due to the rapid growth of his quarries, Monsieur Dapsens was obliged to find a means of transport to take his goods to the North Belgium Railway lines and the Meuse. So it was that in 1876, he had a narrow-gauge railway built. This very quickly proved insufficient and was replaced in 1882 by a larger-gauge railway. The first locomotive was used on this private line in 1884. Previously, the wagons had been drawn by horses.