Rochefort, a unique maritime heritage
Less than 50 km North of Royan, Rochefort is
worth a visit for its unique maritime heritage.
This "new town" from the middle of the 17th century is
easily reached, thanks to the viaduct on the Charente, in service since
1991, the town is built downstream on the left bank in a bend of the
From the viaduct, upstream, the old aerial ferry of Martrou, a
masterpiece of metal architecture built in 1900, is clearly visable,
originally built for crossing the river without disturbing the
origin of a "New Town"
In the middle of
the 17th century, the harbour of Brouage silted up and the
site of Rochefort was selected by Colbert to build a naval base and a
This site, 15 km from the mouth of the river Charente, was
well protected against the English threat of raids and established a
good base for the defence of the Atlantic coast.
The naval dockyard
which extends along the Charente was created in 1666 and there were a
considerable number of vessels built there up until its closure in 1926.
The shape of the dry docks , gives an idea of the size of the vessels
which came in
for maintenance and repair.
One can visit a replica of the ship building
yard where the Frigate Hermione was built in Rochefort in the 18th
century, aboard which La Fayette crossed the Atlantic Ocean to join the
Americans in their War of Independence.
It is from Rochefort that La
Fayette left in 1780 for his second journey to America.
Royal Rope factory
middle of the naval dockyard, is a building 374 metres long, remarkably
restored, and impressive in its dimensions and its proportions. It is
difficult to imagine that this magnificent building was built for
industrial purposes . This Royal Rope factory, built between 1666 and
1670 and supported on oak beams because of the swampy ground, is a
testimony to the industrial architecture of the 17th century.
one is also impressed by the immense room built to accommodate the
dimensions of ropes which were being made.
Tools and machines, raw materials, processes and methods of
manufacturing are presented in a very comprehensible way. Animated
scenes of life aboard the vessels complete this fascinating visit.