Le Moulin à Papier: Part I

Le Moulin à Papier
Le Moulin à Papier: Entrance

The paper mill of Brousses is located in the Montagne Noir. The village and the mill are nearby Montolieu (village of books).

Once again with someone visiting, it was off and the paper mill was one we both had never seen. There is a tour and you can follow in French or English. I believe there may be printed tours in other languages but will leave there site information so that you may check should you be in the area.

Even without the paper mill, the trip is well worth making. The beauty is stunning and invites exploration, photography and perhaps a picnic.

Upon entering the mill we had a wait of but a few minutes before setting off on the tour. Yet due to the lush setting, it is a surprise we got in at all. The paths and the river beckoned me to continue wandering.

The Bucket Wheel: This water engine drove the paper machine which stands in the current shop up until 1981 and has produced electricity until the 1950’s. The bucket wheel and paddlewheel are both water engines.  – water falls down onto the bucket wheel to produce waterpower; this type of vertical wheel is primarily in the mountains. – the paddlewheel is driven by water running underneath and can be

The turbine
The turbine

found mostly in the plains.

The turbine: Upstream, the watercourse of the river “La Dure” is diverted through a canal and brought into a pond right above the mill. Prior to 1920, there had been three bucket wheels, one on each floor. In 1920, two wooden bucket wheels were replaced by turbine, due to the damage obtained with the period of inactivity during World War One.  The structure of the turbine consists of a horizontal wheel inside a cylindrical tank; water drives this wheel, which drives a horizontal axis and driving the machines on the upper level.

Watermarks: A watermark is a tiny lightness in the paper, where the paper is actually thinner. To obtain this lightness, the paper-maker lays a wire on the paper canvas; the result is that the paper past is less thick where the wire was placed. The paper-maker can create his own watermark… his signature! The first paper-maker was named Polère; he settled in Brousses in 1694.

The region of Carcassonne was renowned for its woollen fabrics. Among the Royal Factories who would produce fabrics, two were on the river La Dure.  The paper-makers produced cardboard used for the presses and leaves used to wrap the fabrics.

Watermark Window
Watermark Window

There were 617 water mills and hundreds of windmills spread out over the region. The river Dure was home to 67 waterwheels and 27 textile workshops. The village of Brousses alone was home to 12 watermills of which half were paper mills.

Today, the sole working paper mill in the region is Brousses. The Chaila family has been producing cardboards since 1820. They purchased the mill in 1877 and made paper from machines up until 1984. The seventh generation of the family made the decision to handcraft paper in 1994.

Watermarks were used to specify the size of the paper. Bell and grape were among the names to designate what are now standard sizes A4, A3 and others.

When paper was held against a light source the network of lines could be seen. You were assured that this was laid paper. If the paper were


plain it was called vellum paper. An imperfection or stain was a defect and known as the paper-maker’s tear. Normally, the paper is ecru-coloured. However, paper-makers frequently add some blue when combining the paper paste with the intention of increasing the whiteness of the product. When this has been done you can see the increased whiteness of the paper when the light has been turned off and it produces a vast difference.

The watermark on banknotes is created by a metal plate that the printer engraves, heats up then presses against the paper canvas. This results in an accumulation of paste in the hollow parts and they turn darker in colour. The flat parts which receive less of the paste will turn significantly lighter.

Papyrus: made from a water plant by the Egyptians around 3500 B.C. Stems from the plants were cut into long, thin and wide strips; these were tightly woven together.

Parchment: From the second century B.C. Pergamon, Asia The hides of various animals such as goats, sheep calf’s were used as writing paper. For a thinner product the hide of a calf that was born dead or died within a few days. This higher quality hide was thinner and whiter.




Guide holding form alongside atub of paper past for dipping
Guide holding form alongside atub of paper past for dipping
Forms, paper paste and cloths for drying
Forms, paper paste and cloths for drying
Guide begins documentary beneath paper garments
Guide begins documentary beneath paper garments
Formed page will be placed on damp cloth to dry slowly
Formed page will be placed on damp cloth to dry slowly

9 thoughts on “Le Moulin à Papier: Part I

  1. This is a fabulous post Lea! I so wish I could visit all these lovely places of yours. But seeing them and hearing about them plus a little imagination and a magic carpet and I do get there! You can start to worry about me when I insist you get a chair ready for me at the cafes!!

    I have often wondered about how watermarks are created in paper!




    1. Christine, all you would have to do is say the word and the chair, cafe and anything else would be anticipating your arrival! 🙂 It is a stunning place and right next to Montolieu. Perhaps we should have stopped and looked to see if there were anymore chestnut cakes… 🙂

      I only wish the watermark window had shown up better in the photo. As you probably noticed, we are not finished with the paper-mill just yet…


    1. Oh Polly, you are so very kind. Currently my being technically challenged is plaguing me. So many blog posts are in cyberspace or ??? It is hit and miss and on top of being away for a week, I am not dealing with internet problems… Your kind words are getting me back to work. Merci beaucoup!

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