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LOIRE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 925 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LOIRE, a department of central France, made up in 1793 of the old district of Forez and portions of Beaujolais and Lyonnais, all formerly included in the province of Lyonnais. Pop. (1906) 643,943. Area 1853 sq. m. It is bounded N. by the department of Saone-et-Loire, E. by those of Rhone and Isere, S. by Ardeche and Haute-Loire, and W. by Puy-de-Dome and Allier. From 1790 to 1793 it constituted, along with that of Rhone, a single department (Rhone-et-Loire). It takes its name from the river which bisects it from south to north. The Rhone skirts the S.E. of the department, about one-eighth of which belongs to its basin. After crossing the southern border the Loire runs through wild gorges, passing the picturesque crag crowned by the old fortress of St Paul-en-Cornillon. At St Rambert it issues into the broad plain of Fotez, flows north as far as its confluence with the Aix where the plain ends, and then again traverses gorges till it enters the less extensive plain of Roanne in the extreme north of the department. These two plains, the beds of ancient lakes, are enclosed east and west by chains of mountains running parallel with the river. In the west are the Forez mountains, which separate the Loire basin from that of the Allier; their highest point (Pierre sur Haute, J381 ft.) is 12 m. W. of Montbrison. They sink gradually towards the north, and are successively called Bois Noirs (4239 ft.), from their woods, and Monts de la Madeleine (3822 to 1640 ft.). In the east the Rhone and Loire basins are separated, by Mont Pilat (4705 ft.) at the north extremity of the Cevennes, and by the hills of Lyonnais, Tarare, Beaujolais and Charolais, none of which rise higher than 3294 ft. Of the affluents of the Loire the most important are the Lignon du Nord, the beautiful valley of which has been called " La Suisse Forezienne," and the Aix on the left, and on the right the Ondaine (on which stand the industrial towns of Chambon-Feugerolles and Firminy), the Furens and the Rhin. The Gier forms a navigable channel to the Rhone at Givors, and has on its banks the industrial towns of St Chamond and Rive-de-Gier. From Mont Pilat descends the Debme, in the valley of which are the workshops of Annonay (q.v.). The climate on the heights is cold and healthy, it is unwholesome in the marshy plain of Forez, mild in the valley of the Rhone. The annual rainfall varies from 39 to 48 in. on the Forez mountains, but only reaches 20 to 24 in. in the vicinity of Montbrison. The plains of Forez and Roanne are the two most important agricultural districts, but the total production of grain within the department is insufficient for the requirements of the population. The pasture lands of the plain of Forez, the western portion of which is irrigated by the canal of Forez, support a large number of live stock. Good pasturage is also found on the higher levels of the Forez mountains, on the north-eastern plateaus, where oxen of the famous Charolais breed are raised, and on the uplands generally. Wheat and rye are the leading cereal crops; oats come next inimportance, barley and colza occupying a relatively small area. The vine is cultivated in the valley of the Rhone, on the lower slopes of the Forez mountains and on the hills west of the plain of Roanne. The forests of Mont Pilat and the Forez chain yield good-sized pines and wood for mining purposes. The so-called Lyons chestnuts are to a large extent obtained from Forez; the woods and pasture lands of Mont Pilat yield medicinal plants, such as mint. Poultry-rearing and bee-keeping are considerable industries. The department is rich in mineral springs, the waters of St Galmier, Sail-sous-Couzan, St Romain-le-Puy and St Alban being largely exported. The chief wealth of the department lies in the coal deposits of the basin of St Etienne (q.v.), the second in importance in France, quarrying is also active. Metal-working industries are centred in the S.E. of the department, where are the great manufacturing towns of St Etienne, Rive-de-Gier, St Chamond and Firminy. At St Etienne there is a national factory of arms, in which as many as io,000 have been employed; apart from other factories of the same kind carried on by private individuals, the production of hardware, locks, edge-tools, common cutlery, chain cables for the mines, files, rails, &c., occupies thousands of hands. Cast steel is largely manufactured, and the workshops of the department supply the heaviest constructions required in naval architecture, as well as war material and machinery of every description. The glass industry is carried on at Rive-de-Gier and St Galmier. St Etienne and St Chamond are centres for the fabrication of silk ribbons, elastic ribbons and laces, and the dressing of raw silks. Between 50,000 and 6o,000 people are employed in the last-named industries. The arrondissement of Roanne manufactures cotton stuffs, muslins and the like. That of Montbrison produces table linen. The department has numerous dye-works, flour-mills, paper works, tanyards, brick-works, silk-spinning works and hat factories. It is served by the Paris-Lyon railway, Roanne being the junction of important lines from Paris to Lyons and St Etienne. Within the department the Loire is hardly used for commercial navigation; the chief water-ways are the canal from Roanne to Digoin (13 m. in the department), that from Givors to Rive-de-Gier (7 m.) and the Rhone (7 m.). Loire comprises three arrondissements—St Etienne, Montbrison and Roanne—with 31 cantons and 335 communes. It falls within the region of the XIII. army corps and the diocese and acaderie (educational circumscription) of Lyons, where also is its court of appeal. St Etienne is the capital, other leading towns being Roanne, Montbrison, Rive-de-Gier, St Chamond, Firminy and Le Chambon, all separately noticed. St Bonnet-le-Chateau, besides old houses, has a church of the 15th and 16th centuries, containing paintings of the 15th century; St Rambert and St Romain-le-Puy have priory churches of the itth and 12th centuries; and at Charlieu there are remains of a Benedictine abbey founded in the 9th century, including a porch decorated with fine Romanesque carving. LOIRE-INFERIEURE, a maritime department of western France, made up in 1790 of a portion of Brittany on the right and of the district of Retz on the left of the Loire, and bounded W. by the ocean, N. by Morbihan and Ille-et-Vilaine, E. by Maine-et-Loire and S. by Vendee. Pop. (1go6) 666,748. Area 2694 sq. m. The surface is very flat, and the highest point, in the north on the borders of Ille-et-Vilaine, reaches only 377 ft. The line of hillocks skirting the right bank of the Loire, and known as the sillon de Bretagne, scarcely exceeds 250 ft.; below Savenay they recede from the river, and meadows give place to peat bogs. North of St Nazaire and Grande Briere, measuring 9 M. by 6, and rising hardly to ft. above the sea-level, still supplies old trees which can be used for joiners' work. A few scattered villages occur on the more elevated spots, but communication is effected chiefly by the canals which intersect it. The district south of the Loire lies equally low; its most salient feature is the lake of Grandlieu, covering 27 sq. m., and surrounded by low and marshy ground, but so shallow (62 ft. at most) that drainage would be comparatively easy. The Loire (q.v.) has a course of 7o m. within the department. On the left bank a canal stretches for 9 m. between Pellerin, where the dikes which protect the Loire valley from inundation terminate, and Paimbreuf, and vessels drawing 17 or 18 ft. can reach Nantes. The principal towns on the river within the department are Ancenis, Nantes and St Nazaire (one of the most important commercial ports of France) on the right, and Paimboeuf on the left. The chief affluents are, on the right the Erdre and on the left the Sevre, both debouching at Nantes. The Erdre in its lower course broadens in places into lakes which give it the appearance of a large river. Four miles below Nort it coalesces with the canal from Nantes to Brest. The Sevre is hemmed in by picturesque hills; at the point where it enters the department it flows past the beautiful town of Clisson with its imposing castle of the 13th century. Apart from the Loire, the only navigable channel of importance within the department is the Nantes and Brest canal, fed by the Isac, a tributary of the Vilaine, which separates Loire-Inferieure from Ille-et-Vilaine and Morbihan. The climate is humid, mild and equable. At Nantes the mean annual temperature is 54.70 Fahr., and there are one hundred and twenty-two rainy days, the annual rainfall being 25.6 in. Horse and cattle raising prospers, being carried on chiefly in the west of the department and in the Loire valley. Good butter and cheese are produced. Poultry also is reared, and there is a good deal of bee-keeping. Wheat, oats, buckwheat and potatoes are produced in great abundance; leguminous plants are also largely cultivated, especially near Nantes. Wine, cider and forage crops are the chief remaining agricultural products. The woods are of oak in the interior and pine on the coast. The department has deposits of tin, lead and iron. N.W. of Ancenis coal is obtained from a bed which is a prolongation of that of Anjou. The salt marshes, about 6000 acres in all, occur for the most part between the mouth of the Vilaine and the Loire, and on the Bay of Bourgneuf, and salt-refining, of which Guerande is the centre, is an important industry. The granite of the sea-coast and of the Loire up to Nantes is quarried for large blocks. Steam-engines are built for the government at Indret, a few miles below Nantes; the forges of Basse-Indre are in good repute for the quality of their iron; and the production of the lead-smelting works at Coueron amounts to several millions of francs annually. There are also considerable foundries at Nantes, Chantenay, close to Nantes, and St Nazaire, and shipbuilding yards at Nantes and St Nazaire. Among other industries may be mentioned the preparation of pickles and preserved meats at Nantes, the curing of sardines at Le Croisic and in the neighbouring communes, the manufacture of sugar, brushes, tobacco, macaroni and similar foods, soap and chemicals at Nantes, and of paper, sugar and soap at Chantenay. Fishing is prosecuted along the entire coast, particularly at Le Croisic. Among the seaside resorts Le Croisic, Pornichet and Pornic, where there are megalithic monuments,may be mentioned. The department is traversed by the railways of the state, the Orleans company and the Western company. The department is di\ ided into five arrondissements—Nantes, Ancenis, Chateaubriant, Paimboeuf and St Nazaire—45 cantons and 219 communes. It has its appeal court at Rennes, which is also the centre of the academia (educational division) to which it belongs. The principal places are Nantes, the capital, St Nazaire and Chateaubriant, which receive separate treatment. On the west coast the town of Batz, and the neighbouring villages, situated on the peninsula of Batz, are inhabited by a small community possessed of a distinct costume and dialect, and claiming descent from a Saxon or Scandinavian stock. Its members are employed for the most part in the salt marshes N.E. of the town. Guerande has well-preserved ramparts and gates of the 15th century, a church dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries, and other old buildings. At St Philbert-de-Grandlieu there is a church, rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries, but preserving remains of a previous edifice belonging at least to the beginning of the 11th century.
End of Article: LOIRE
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