©Daniel Méha
Testimonies of a vanished industry

The Ardoisières

Disseminated in Les Grées

The first documents found concerning this activity are of the Chartres in 1542 reserving to the lords of Rochefort the exclusive right to exploit the slate quarries on the Grée de Guenfol. Despite the name “Ardoisières de Rochefort en Terre”, the Little City of Character has none on its territory.



An intensive production

Located on Pluherlin and Malansac, we can cite from west to east, en Pluherlin: La Grée Poutée, Le Pont de l’Eglise, La Vallée, La Croix aux Chênes, Quénelet, Le Pont aux Roux, Le Moulin à Tan. On the other side of theGueuzon Valley, begin the exploits of Malansac: La Ville au Blanc, Le Bois Julien, Guenfol -Union Renaissance-, La Croix Neuf, La Combe aux Biches, Chez Benoît, Bodelio, Le Vaubily.

The account books put the production of the Guenfol quarry at 5.7 million slates in 1861, 18 to 20 million in 1875-1878. By the 1903s, production was down to 12 million slates. The siteswould close in 1911, while others had already been closed since 1891 and 1902. In 1946, an attempt to resume the “blue” quarry at Guenfol abandoned in 1888 and to dewater “Renaissance” ended in failure. In 1970, 4 workers resumed the exploitation of the quarries of the Croix aux Chênes and the Church Bridge,again without success.

A travel guide published in 1869

It indicates that the slate quarries of Rochefort employed nearly 500 workers. “The merchandise was disposed of by the railroadfrom Malansac, Redon and Ploërmel and by the Nantes to Brest Canal, from the Guélin in Saint Martin sur Oust and the “port of Oust” in Saint Congard. The slates left even by sea, the boats then going up the Vilaine to the sea. For these shipments, they were directly transshipped from the wagon to the ship at the quay.”

Harsh working conditions for a paltry wage

Working in the Slate Mines is a depressing job where sometimes workers lose their lives. Several accidents have bereaved or marked the workers’ relatives. Despite this, the wages were quite discountable in relation to the risks taken.

By 1900, daily wages for laborers were

27 sous for waste-clearing laborers
32 sous for pumping water
32 to 34 sous for back men
20 sous for an ordinary splitter, but most of them worked piecework and managed to make a day’s pay of 2.00, 2.50 or 3 francs and even exceptionally, up to 5 francs.
Haphazardly along the way, it is possible to discover some slate quarries still up to date, it is however advised not to venture into them. Indeed, they still remain today sites that you must admire from afar with the utmost caution.