The last fires

In spite of construction of the new Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Grande Saline in Salins-les-Bains never closed. It even underwent a resurgence of activity at the beginning of the 19th century due to the discovery of geological drilling techniques and to the arrival of the railways. As for the Petite Saline, it was replaced by a thermal resort in 1823.

The 20th century was nevertheless marked by the decline and closing of the Grande Saline of Salins-les-Bains. With its aging equipment and faced with competition from the Mediterranean, salt production in Salins became less and less profitable.  The saltworks closed in 1962, owing its long survival only to a contractual obligation to furnish the nearby thermal resort with salt water.


Testimony of Monsieur Legouhy, the last saltworker of the Grand Saline of Salins-les-Bains
taken from the film From factory to museum made in 2012 by the students of Collège Saint-Anatoile in Salins-les-Bains and ITEP (Institute of Educational and Pedagogical Therapy) of Novillars along with the MTCC network, under the direction of Mr Bertrand Picault.

When did you work at the saltworks ?
    I worked in the saltworks just after the war.

How long did you work there?
    How long? Oh, let’s say from 1945 to 1961.

How old were you?
    How old? Oh, I was about thirty.

Could you describe the different jobs you had at the saltworks?
    I held three different positions, I was a salt harvester, I heated the brine and I worked in maintenance.

Were the working conditions difficult?
    Very difficult!  We called it “the prison”.

Today do you still feel the fatigue from your profession?
    Oh, no.

Did you like your profession?
    I would have liked it to last until I retired.

What were your feelings when the saltworks closed in 1962?
    Well, I wasn’t happy.  So I just collected my last batch of salt and then I left.
    I didn’t want to see the saltworks die.

How do you feel about being the sole surviving witness of this place?
    Well, the others have died, I haven’t.  I don’t know what I can do about that.

Do you think it’s a good thing that the saltworks have been transformed into a museum?
    Oh yes, a very good thing.