La Cimentelle :A century of success for Vassy cement…… yet the work lasts an eternity.
....And now a charming Guest House in Avallon to welcome you in Guest rooms.
Vassy cement is one of France’s most solid inventions dating from the industrial revolution of the 19th Century.
In 1830, the Gariel Brothers discovered the remarkable hydraulic properties of the ash-blue Vassy stone after firing : a clayey, magnesium limestone of Jurassic formation (superior lias)
They transformed this great discovery into a conclusive trade which brought about the success of the cement for a whole century and contributed to the economic prosperity of the Avallonnaise region.
Although other factories were being built nearby, that of Vassy was considered to be at the origin of the cement’s reputation and the factory continued to evolve and expand until 1860.
In 1855, the Vassy factory installed the first steam-powered machine in the whole of the Yonne ‘departement’.
The ‘quick setting’ cement of Vassy brought undeniable resistance and waterproofing to the building trade; Otherwise known as Roman cement, it allowed craftsman to revive building techniques that had been forgotten since the Middle Ages. These techniques had previously allowed the Romans to build their remarkable creations such as the Coliseum or the ‘Pont de Gard’.
Lost through the ages, due to a lack of resistant mortar, the art of construction had followed, thankfully, Roman and Greek styles.
First and foremost, France, which had mainly depended on Portland cement (used in the United Kingdom since the middle of the 18th Century), was able to regain its independence in the building trade. The use of new deposits of clayey limestone such as the “Vassy” provided a hydraulic binding agent adapted to the new needs of masonry. Just as Haussmann, had realised, (Prefect of the Yonne ‘departement’ in 1850, before becoming Prefect of the Seine in 1953) the Vassy cement played a huge part in Yonne’s deep history.
Before the rail track was built in 1871, the cement was transported along the rivers Yonne and Seine that were already being used for the flourishing timber and wine trades of Auxerrois.
Thus, the Vassy cement contributed to the restauration of many Parisian roads and bridges during the great transformations of the 19th century and you can still see this work in the Haussmannian buildings today. The “Vassy” helped build the Parisian ‘metro’, the main sewers in Paris and Oran, the Montsouris reservoirs , the canalizations of the Vanne near the capital and even the Suez Canal. It was used in the building of the midi canal, and the ports of Marseilles, Dieppe, Alger and Constantinople.
At the Cimentelle, the egg-shaped furnaces used for firing, the millstone and the millstone paths can still be seen today.
The factory buildings offer various examples of the Roman cement which has replaced the dressed stone everywhere. All these works of art, undertaken more than a century and a half ago, have been conserved as they were built to last: from the quite recent shuttering walls, to the construction of prestigious and impressive archways.