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 their 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 1950s. The bucket wheel and paddlewheel are both water engines.  – waterfalls 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 the 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 woolen 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 the 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 papermaker’s tear. Normally, the paper is ecru-colored. 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 color. 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

16 thoughts on “Le Moulin à Papier: Part I

  1. Marvelous tour, and you are an accomplished guide. Am I correct in thinking this is in the area of the “Albigensian Heresy” (Albi – region; gens – Latin – people) better known as the Cathars? They (complete pacifists) were wiped out by a Catholic crusade but the tradition lived on as the Gnostics still found in the area.

  2. Yes. I live in the Cathar region and while the paper mill is about 60k from here I believe it is included in the area. My house is on the Route de Cathar, it is also on the Route de Vin… I have a Croix de Cathar that my late neighbor made for me the first year I was here. He was an ironmonger.

    1. That is the area I would most like to live in. The Anthropologist in me would be absorbed in the people and places. I hope you have developed some candid relationships with people truly native to the region.

  3. Ah, someone after my own heart… most of the villagers in our little corner of the world come from very old local families. One of my neighbor’s ancestors owned the old salt mill and mine back when salt was still currency.

    1. Interesting. One of our properties in Rome was a penthouse near the Via Salaria, the Salt Road. The English word salary is derived from when salt was currency.

      1. That is also interesting. In the center of Narbonne is an exposed section of the Via Domita and it is in the square in front of Place d’Ville.

  4. Dear Léa, what a beautiful piece of writing and photography. There is nothing quite like an exploration in a place so beautiful and artistic. There is always something special when a factory/industry add the artistic factor to their production, it makes the product special and often shows good character of the people as well. Wishing you a great coming weekend, and I hope all is well during this year of uncertainty. Take care ~

    1. Dear Randall, when your posts stopped coming, I missed them. I shall have to find some extra time to go through them and try to catch up. It will be worth it. Have a wonderful weekend and keep inspiring all of us to what blogging could be. Bonne week-end et bonne sante.

      1. Dear Léa, it felt so good to be able to sit down with some photos and write once again – and also such a lift when I get to come back onto WP and find such inspiration with you. Bonne week-end et bonne sante ~ take care.

      2. Merci beaucoup mon cher ami.
        A post from you always brightens even the darkest day. Bonne semaine et bonne sante.

      3. “Brightens up even the darkest day” what a beautiful sentiment and it passes this good feeling to me today ~ thank you. Take care, Bonne semaine et bonne sante.

      4. When I can, I like to be positive and put that out there as there is already too much negativity around us. Bonne semaine et bonne sante mon ami.

    1. Jennie, having asthma, I am rather sensitive to such strong smells but didn’t find that there. This one was bright, open and immaculate. The area is heavily forested and perhaps the combination makes the difference?

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