The archives

Meta-morphosis

To understand Cheratte and the men who worked at the mine for a few decades, we need to look back on the history of the coalmine and the migratory flow. Enclosed are archival pictures, postcards from “back in the day”, and testimonies from former miners.

History
The 1907 building still inspires many photographs and enthusiasts of architectural heritage. That is undeniably because of the specific care that was brought to the design of its redbrick façades, in a neo-medieval style that bestows on it a romantic quality that, in theory, is not compatible with an industrial function.

On 30 November 1962, four people died at the Hasard coalmine.

Cheratte Manor House, now protected as a listed monument, is a Mosan-style building from the 17th century,; it was acquired in 1913 by the coalmine from the Saroléa family. One section was turned into a hospital for the coalmine’s staff, another into a grand residence for its manager.

Another important building project handled by the Charbonnage was the construction, between 1923 and 1926, of a cite jardin (garden city) for its workers. It is located between the canal and the road that links Liège to Visé. It is a great example of the evolution of the workers’ habitat since the industrial revolution. The cité has 200 homes and a 128-room hostel for single people.

Specific care was brought to the well-being and to the living environment of the inhabitants, who benefit from a tree-filled milieu, a central park, and public lighting. The houses are inspired by English cottages; each house, has connections for running water, electricity, and sewerage. There are also two outdoor areas: a garden at the front, and a vegetable garden at the back.

Life in the barracks in Cheratte

Galibot (galibo): a masculine noun.
A child or young worker employed for light labour in the coalmine.

The Hasard coalmine was shut down on 31 October 1977, leaving 589 miners (including 435 foreigners) out of work. In the 1950s, over a thousand of miners worked at the Hasard.
Almost 40 years later, the deserted Cheratte coalmine is still significantly marked by the memory of the coal industry that defined it.

Migratory Flow
“Men came to work at the mine to fill jobs that locals didn’t want. They left their families behind, their lifestyle, friends, possessions, and had one goal, to buy a land, a tractor, a house, or a business, to allow their family to live better.”

In 1946, a treaty between Belgium and Italy allowed Belgium to benefit from considerable manpower.

The play: "The Sons of Hazard, Hope and Good Fortune" In Cie du Sud, from the Theatre de la Renaissance, tells the story of the arrival of the Italians at the mine.

Over a period of more than 50 years, the village would undergo great change, welcoming a variety of cultures, languages, and religions. In 1846, there were 2,343 inhabitants; that number rose to 3,775 by 1930, and exceeded 5,000 in the early 1950s. However, in the mid-1970s, the population fell due to the decrease in coal-mining.

1956 to 1967:
The Marcinelle disaster of 8 August 1956 caused the deaths of 262 miners (of whom 136 were Italian), and led to Italy suspending its policy of legal emigration to Belgium. That decision led to miners being recruited in other Mediterranean countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal, Morocco, and Tunisia. Turks arrived in Liège in 1965.

The history of a site like Cheratte coalmine is inseparable from the history of the humans who worked there. What would have become of it without the everyday presence of hundreds of miners, whose courage and labour ensured the prosperity of a whole region?

The life of the workers at the Hasard coalmine was certainly similar to that of other miners in Belgium at the time. Here, as well as in other places, it constitutes a chapter of our shared social history. This collective story is composed of everyday events, often mundane but sometimes violent and dramatic. Rock falls, derailment of trolleys, sudden flooding, etc.

Incidents were common at the bottom of the mine: around 1,000 a year, fortunately not all deadly. The newspaper “La Meuse” gave an average of 1 person killed a year in 1950. Some years were particularly traumatising, like 1963, with the death of 6 miners.

Despite progress, coal-mining remains difficult and dangerous; the history of the Hasard coalmine lists many sick days and strikes.

As in many companies, the workers made a varied set of demands.
Those demands were often part of national politics: the struggle for better salaries in 1932, for the displacement of workers in 1953, against doctors in 1956, against the Unitary Law of the Eysksens government in 1960-1961, etc.

Giuseppe, AKA Peppone, miner in Cheratte from 1961 to 1964

Credits: Story

Archives: Musée de la vie Wallone et de Visé
Migratory Flow: Altay Manço et Christophe Partoens

With the support of Wallonie

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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