The most significant earth in France

Through luck rather than intention I booked a holiday near a site that is of vital importance to the history of French porcelain. The site is called Marcognac, and it is the first location within France where kaolin was found in 1786.

Kaolin is a white clay that is one of the two ingredients needed to make porcelain. This find meant that French porcelain, produced at Chantilly, St Cloud and at Vincennes as early as 1736 and 20 years later in Sèvres, was no longer dependant on imported kaolin. The value of porcelain in the 18th century was enormous, so you can imagine the significance of this find.

Kaolin mining in Marcongac in the 19th century

Marcognac is also the reason why the name of the nearby town of Limoges is synonymous with porcelain. Up to this day Limoges has a very significant porcelain industry. It should by noted that the while region around Limoges is dotted with active and formerly active porcelain workshops and that Limoges porcelain is not necessarily made in the city itself.

Adding to the unqiueness of Marcognac is that much of the early industial buildings still survive. The site was active until 1986 and since it was declared an industrial monument in 2002 it has been lovingly restored. I went over there for a guided tour, but the French being the French the information on the sign was incorrect and no one was there. It was still great to visit a site that is of such great importance to the history of porcelain.

The site at Marcognac today


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