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Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin

The Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin is a mining and industrial cultural landscape along a 120km long coal seam in the far north of France.

It was created from the 18th to the 20th centuries, mostly after France lost its access to Belgian mines in 1815. It reached its peak in the 1930s, when it became one the leading coal-production regions in Europe. It then attracted 75,000 foreign workers. The last mine in the area closed in 1990.

This is a serial site consisting of 109 parts, spread out over 13 mining company complexes. Elements include pits, slag heaps, railway stations and mining villages with schools, religious and community buildings.

Map

Visit December 2011

This is the French nomination for 2012: a stretch of 120km in the North of the country comprising various mining sites. When I was sent to attend a course at the Capgemini University just north of Paris, I thought it a fine opportunity to take this possible new WHS in on my way back home.

I went to visit the Historic Mining Center in Lewarde, the main museum in the area. It is surprising how little in the surroundings reminds of the mining era. Nothing like the raw industrial beauty of the Ruhrgebiet just over the border in Germany. It just looks like a quiet rural setting. Coal was mined here from the 18th century til the 1970s. The harsh working and living conditions were immortalized in Emile Zola's Germinal, which happens to be one of my favourite 19th century novels.

The mining center is pretty large and modern, though not yet well-equipped to receive visitors that do not speak French. Also, at the exhibitions I did not find anything that I had not seen before at similar sites around the world. It indeed is a big question what the OUV of this site is, and the short description at the Unesco website does not help to clarify it. What I've learned while researching it on the internet, is that this probably will be a serial nomination with single monuments scattered along the whole 1200 km2. It is marketed as an "evolved cultural landscape", as the mono-industry of coal mining has lastingly transformed the landscape and the lifestyles of the inhabitants.

Community Reviews


Tsunami - August 2016

I visited Chateau Hermitage, which used to be the manager's house of the mining company.

This Chateau is located inside the huge Park Hermitage, which is designed for hiking and biking today, and it was quite a nice hike in the afternoon I visited.


Ian Cade - May 2015

Another day, another North Western European mining landscape to visit. And like the others here we headed to the mining museum at Lewarde.

It was quite an enjoyable visit, helped by the wonderful late winter weather. The guided tour in French was complimented by an easy to use audio guide in other languages. The initial walk through the above ground processing plants was the most interesting. Then there was a walk through a mock mine housed in above ground tunnels. It was an interesting way of recreating the mining experience, of course it takes away many of the most disconcerting aspects of working underground, but then I guess almost all tours of European mines will do that. It did mean that the different mining technologies could be displayed next to each other to allow for comparison, and showed how technological advances improved life and safety in the mine. There was also a brief section on immigration from North Africa, which grew to staff the masses of mines in the area.

The guided tour lasted a little longer than we planned, as such on finishing we had to rush off in a dash to catch our ferry. The rest of the landscape, scarred and sculpted through centuries of heavy industrial work, flew past quickly, but human activity is really evident. The towns seemed like many once great industrial areas that now seem sleepy and down at heel, having lost the central focus of their existence, hopefully some international recognition can bring economic benefits as well as boosting local pride.

I appreciate this site being on the list, and the local community should be very proud to have their contribution to the industrial heritage of the world recognised. Having said that, it isn’t really something that would get me to come back and forgo the other treats of this area, such as Lille, and this is one of those WHS that I probably won’t spend much time reminiscing about in the future.

Site 3: Experience 2


Clyde - February 2014

I visited this WHS in February 2014 on a cold sunny day. I decided to "visit" a number of sites included in the buffer zone and marked on the official UNESCO website. After a few attempts that yielded nothing more interesting than a couple of mounds of earth, a few desolate brick houses, a small church near Aniche and a closed-down railway, I decided to drive straight to France's largest mining museum, the Nord-Pas de Calais Mining History Centre in Lewarde, which is actually a former coal mining plant where various trains, railways and rusty machinery can be seen. The visitor centre is quite interesting to visit although not as grandiose as the Ruhrgebiet in Germany. The information available near the 18 viewpoints across the mining site is only in French so an audioguide is necessary to be able to appreciate the history behind this place. Certain places are only accessible with a guided tour that takes around 1 hour (you have to wear a bright yellow helmet inside too!). The highlight of my trip was the hanging clothes room where I could really appreciate how tough life must have been for coal miners. The museum is very expensive (14 euro or 12.50 euro) but at least there are all the facilities you could think of such as a restaurant, a cafeteria, toilets, a souvenir shop and also a pic-nic area outside. I would judge this WHS as France's least interesting. To be honest, I very much preferred other industrial heritage sites on the list such as Volklingen or the Ruhrgebiet in Germany, Salins-les-Bains in France, Crespi d'Adda in Italy, the Woudagemaal in the Netherlands or the nearby Wallonia mining sites in Belgium.


Alan Murray - September 2012

Miners' Centre, Lewarde, France -

As an Australian coal mining historian I attended the 2010 Lewarde Colloquium. This centre is an absolute marvel in terms of its presentation of the life and hard times of coal miners and their communities. It is a living link with Zola's Germinal. It is well-managed, welcoming and not to be missed.

For professional mining historians, students or family visitors, Lewarde is a treasure and a credit to all who continue to remind us of the debt the present owes to the past.

Alan Murray, Australia.


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Site Info

Full name: Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin

Site History

Locations

The site has 108 locations. Show all

  • Ancienne Fosse n
  • B
  • Camus Haut
  • Ch
  • Ch
  • Ch
  • Ch
  • Ch
  • Chevalement de la fosse Dutemple
  • Chevalement de la fosse n
  • Chevalement du n
  • Chevalement du n
  • Chevalement du Vieux-Deux
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Cit
  • Compagnie des Mines d'Anzin: Ensemble comm
  • Coron des 12
  • Dispensaire Soci
  • Ensemble minier de a fosse n
  • Ensemble minier de la Bellefori
  • Ensemble minier de la Compagnie des Mines de Thivencelles
  • Ensemble minier de la fosse Cornuault
  • Ensemble minier de La Sentinelle
  • Ensemble minier des Argales
  • Ensemble minier dun
  • Fosse Delloye, Centre Historique Minier
  • Fosse Mathilde
  • Fosse n
  • Fosse n
  • Fosse n
  • Gare de Lens
  • Grands Bureaux de la Soci
  • Grands Bureaux de la Soci
  • H
  • H
  • Les cit
  • Maison syndicale Lens
  • Monument
  • Monument aux morts
  • Monument aux morts 1914-1918
  • Monument aux morts et grilles de la cit
  • Monument comm
  • Monument comm
  • Monument du soldat Marche
  • Monument Emile Basly
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers d'Auchy-les-Mines
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers d'Escaudain
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers d'Estevelles et de Harnes
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Barlin
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Chabaud-Latour et Paysage et ensemble miniers de Sabatier
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Drocourt
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Fouqui
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Grenay-Mazingarbe
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de la fosse n
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Libercourt
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Noeux-les- Mines
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers de Wallers-Arenberg et Paysage et ensemble Miniers d'Haveluy
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers des Pinchonvalles
  • Paysage et ensemble miniers du secteur d'Amaury
  • Pompe
  • Stade Parc
  • Temple protestant
  • Terril 125a
  • Terril 14
  • Terril 140
  • Terril 244
  • Terril 31
  • Terril 32
  • Terril 34
  • Terril 49
  • Terril 80 et cit
  • Terril n
  • Terril Renard
  • Terrils 143 et 143 a
  • Terrils 87 et 92
  • Terrils Jumeaux 28

Connections

The site has 21 connections.

Architecture

  • Art Deco Gare de Lens
  • Brick architecture 
  • Garden City Movement For example, in France, the first garden city, which was built in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais coal mining basin from 1904, offered up a new way of looking at housing for workers (see link)
  • Modern Urban Planning Criterion (iv): The living and evolving mining landscapes of the Nord-Pas de Calais Basin provide an eminent example of the large-scale development of coal mining in the 19th and 20th centuries, by large industrial companies and their considerable workforce. This is a space structured by urban planning, specific industrial structures and the physical vestiges of coal extraction (slag heaps and subsidence).
  • Reinforced Concrete Headframe of the Fosse Dutemple

Constructions

  • Hospitals numerous hospitals, dispensaries, pharmacies, maternity clinics, milk depots, etc., for the miners and their families (AB ev)
  • Railways 3 railway stations for heavy transport were built (AB ev)

Damaged

  • Damaged in World War I During the 1914-1918 War, the Basin was cut in two by the Front. The occupied eastern section was flooded when the invasion occurred; it suffered lasting damage (AB ev)

Geography

Human Activity

  • Coal Mining 
  • Literature Criterion (vi): justified by the State Party on the grounds that the Mining Basin is closely associated with the description of workers' conditions in Continental Europe, notably starting from a novel by Émile Zola, Germinal (1885) [Unesco did not fully copy this, but the criterion vi was granted]
  • Locations for playing sport Stade Parc in Bruay-La-Buissière

Individual People

Religion and Belief

Timeline

Trivia

WHS Hotspots

World Heritage Process