Last modified: 2021-06-19 by ivan sache
Keywords: leforest |
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Flag of Leforest - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 26 December 2020
The municipality of Leforest (7,232 inhabitants in 2018; 622 ha; municipal website) is located 10 km north of Douai.
Leforest was known as Forestum (1132), Forest and Forests in the next four centuries, Le Forest (18th-19th centuries). The town's name refers to forests once located on the municipal territory.
The first known lord of Forest is John of Luxembourg (1388). The feudal castle, built in the 13th century, was acquired in the 16th century by François de la Tramerie, whose descendants were lords of Leforest until 1722.
The castle was purchased in 1856 by Alexandre Royaux, founder in 1858 of a tile factory that was eventually closed in 1987.
The Compagnie des Mines de l'Escarpelle discovered coal in Laforest in 1847; the pit No. 2, of 2.5 m in diameter, was inaugurated in November 1853. To accommodate the miners, the company built several workers' housing estate known as "vieux corons". Pit No. 2 was replaced in 1893 by pit No. 6, which yielded 97,977 ton coal during its first year of exploitation. The company employed 911 miners in 1911.
Dynamited by the Germans in 1918, the pits were restored and production fully resumed around 1920. Lacking local manpower, the company organized the emigration of Italian, and, mostly Polish miners coming from Westphalia, and built new workers' housing estates. In 1926, the town had 546 houses vs. 381 in 1921; population increased to 3,316 inhabitants, 870 foreigners included. Pit No. 10 was inaugurated on 1926, while pit No. 6 was used only for ventilation since 1927 and eventually filled up in 1936.
In 1931, Leforest had 5,013 inhabitants, 2.191 foreigners included. Not really welcomed, especially because they came from Germany, the Polish miners organized a strike on 7 August 1934; 84 of them were expelled from France on 11 August 1934. Among them was Edward Gierek (1913-2001), First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party from 1970 to 1980, who visited Leforest in 1972.
In 1946, the French government nationalized the mines, grouped under the Charbonnages de France umbrella, and proclaimed the miner's status, a professional charter that offered several social advantages to the miners. The status was not really applied, causing in 1958 a miners' strike deemed France's most violent ever. At the national level, the number of miners decreased of 40% between 1947 and 1960 while productivity increased by 50%; in Laforest, however, the number of workers did not stop increasing until 1964. Pit No. 10 was awarded te regional productivity prize, which did not prevent its closure the next year. The pit was filled up in 1991 and its headframe put down in 1992.
Ivan Sache, 17 February 2021
The flag of Leforest (photo) is white with the municipal greater coat of arms, "Sable a chevron or between three merlettes of the same a bordure of the same". The shield is surmounted by a mural crown and supported by two lions rear-regardant sable.
The arms of Leforest, adopted in 1950, are those of the de la Tramerie family with a bordure or added as a mark of cadency. The de la Tramerie were made knights in 1598 and Marquesses of Forest by Royal Letters signed in 1667.
Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 17 February 2021