Canal Du Centre (France) - History

History

The canal was first suggested during the 16th century, under King Francis I and a detailed plan was prepared by Adam de Craponne in the time of Henry II. But nothing more happened until the Chief Engineer of Burgundy, Emiland Gauthey, obtained building powers in 1783. He selected a route which joined the valleys of the Loire and Saône and provided adequate water supplies at the summit. The first stone was laid in 1784 by Prince de Condé and despite the intervention of exceptional floods on the Loire in 1790, which totally wrecked a new port in Digoin, and the Revolution, the works were completed in 1792.

The canal brought new life to the Charollais and within 20 years of opening, many villages had sprung up along its banks. But the amount of traffic that could be carried towards Paris was limited by the fickle nature of the Loire and it was estimated that the opening of the Canal Latéral à la Loire would triple the toll income of the canal. This happened in 1838, five years after the establishment of coal mines at Montceau-les-Mines and this increased the traffic until in 1936 some 1,622,000 tonnes of coal was carried on the canal. But the coal traffic sharply declined during the 1980s, and the mines were closed in 2000.

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