Places to visit | Local area map | rail travel*
on the Lille - Hirson line via Aulnoye and Avesnes-sur-Helpe



1. Now a peaceful country town 2. The local forest. 3. Lakes created in the forest as mill-ponds
4. The Duc de Croy's chateau at Condé-sur-l'Escaut - iron was mined on the Duc's huge estates.

Fourmies forest - cradle of industry
Walking or riding your mountain bike (or horse) in the hilly woods around Fourmies, you'll come across picturesque lakes. It's difficult to believe these are industrial relics - dug in the valleys as reservoirs for water-powered forges. From the 15th century, streams and ponds powered waterwheels that turned hammers to forge iron - heated using local charcoal from the woods, the fires blasted with water-powered bellows. Iron ore was mined in nearby rocks. On the lands of the 16th century Duc de Croy, 14 forges employed 1,000 workmen.

Other lakes were created in the 17th century by local monks from Liessies Abbey for watermills to grind cereals, for flour and animal feed.

France's industrial development in the mid-19th century killed these small iron-works. Steam engines superceded waterwheels. Larger furnaces nearer to canals and coal-mines drove the forges in the hills out of business - now all that's left is the ponds.

19th century textile mills - now a lively museum

5. Men, women and children worked long hours in Fourmies textile mills in the 19th century.
6. 1st May 1891 Textile workers strike -
7. ...famous for ending in a massacre of workers by troops in the square outside Fourmies church - gave France the May Day holiday.

In the early 19th century, the same sources of waterpower made Fourmies a good spot for some of France's first woollen and cotton spinning mills.

Like the Pennine mill-towns in the valleys of Lancashire and Yorkshire, Formies became the centre of the French woollen industry, until the industrial crisis of the early 1950's.

The last traces of the Industrial revolution in this area are preserved in the Ecomusée - with 9 different museum sites.

8. The last of the old mills has become Fourmies Museum of Textiles & Social Life.
9. Textile machines at the Textile Museum

Les Etangs des Moines

10. Signed walks, horse-rides and cycle-trails in the forest. 11. Hire-boats and watersports on les Etangs des Moines (the Monks' Lakes) in the forest .

Weblinks and more information:
Fourmies town website: (in French)

Office de Tourisme de Fourmies:
Chalet, Place Verte, 59611 FOURMIES
Tel: 00 33 3 27 60 40 97 - Fax: 00 33
Email :

Local area map:

Click on places for more information

Places to visit
Museum of Textiles & Social Life - in an old woollen mill in Fourmies town centre
EcoMusée de la Region Fourmies-Trelon - a living museum of past crafts and ways of life
Walk leaflets - circuits from Fourmies and nearby Anor (both with railway stations). Download and print out from

Why not try this newfeature?
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QUICK TOUR round the Avenois region, starting with Fourmies-Trélon Ecomusée...

Avenois Regional Nature Park - outdoor sporting and leisure area, natural park (see map right).




Avesnes Last updated 8th September 2001 © Copyright Invicta Media 1999-2001