- France, Atlantic Coast, La Rochelle, Rochefort, Royan, Island of Re, Island of Oleron, Charente, Estuary of Gironde - Tourism and Holiday Guide



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Site map - Rochefort, France, French Atlantic Coast

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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 river.

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 navigation.

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 dockyard.

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

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.

The Royal Rope factory

In the 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.

Inside, 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.

The Royal Rope factory and the "Hermione"

To prepare for your visit of the ship building yard where the frigate Hermione is rebuilt or to remind what you saw, visit the beautiful website of the Hermione-La-Fayette association,

The "Jardin des Retours"

The Garden "Jardin des Retours" laid out around the Royal Rope Factory is an interesting place to walk and the area of riggings at the edge of the Charente illustrates the subject of ropes very well at the time of naval sailing ships.


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