Visits and discoveries

The Angosse forge in Arthez d'Asson

The forge of Arthez d'Asson, a heritage that bears witness to the industrial activity of the Ouzoum Valley.

Located in the Aoules district of Arthez d'Asson, below the castle of the forge masters, the Angosse forge introduced a new activity locally, driven by hydraulic energy in the 16th century.

History and operation

From the 16th century onwards, the reconstruction of old forges began in the Ouzom valley. The first forge is certainly that of Louvie rebuilt in 1512, property of the lord of Louvie-Soubiron (cassini 1813), then the Nougaro forge (cassini 1813) located at the cadastral border of Louvie-Soubiron and Arthez d'Asson, then the forge of Angosse (cassini 1820).

The Pyrenean gorge that is the Ouzom Valley, presents from an architectural point of view an industrial character less marked by the blast furnaces than in the rest of France. However, before the 17th century, there were buildings of some importance, notably the Angosse forge.
The forge used a process known as "Biscayan" metallurgy (originating in the Spanish Basque Country): the ore was transferred from a low furnace to the air by bellows. The resulting block of iron, also known as "massé", was cleaned by hammering with a heavy hammer. The hammer and the bellows were then driven by water wheels.
The forge used iron ore extracted from the Baburet mines in Ferrières, which had been known and exploited since antiquity, mainly between 1512 and 1866.
After the 17th century, the forges known as "à la catalane" are characterised by a device in which the passage of water inside vertical tubes (tubes) draws in air which is then separated from the water in a wind box. This pressurised air is blown into the tuyeres of a blast furnace.  This forge is then equipped with an internal combustion furnace, which was used from the beginning of the Fire Age until the Middle Ages. The iron ore is then transformed into a piece of metallic iron by direct reduction, a process that requires very high temperatures and significant water resources.
The forge consumed a great deal of wood, which was cut every 18 months. The iron was then exported to Oloron, Morlaàs, Tarbes and Lourdes.

In the 19th century, the valley's forges died out when Emperor Napoleon III authorised the import of foreign ore. After the forges stopped operating in the region, some companies tried to restart the machine, but without much success, as they were soon overtaken by the industrial blast furnaces that simultaneously smelted and deoxidised the ore. The exploitation disappeared, leaving only meagre vestiges, although these are still visible in the landscape.

Resources: Association Fer et Savoir-Faire website

Discovering the forge today

Today, the curious who venture to Arthez d'Asson can discover several short walks, including a route which retraces the creation of the village thanks to this strong economic activity and runs along the edges of this industrial site. A more scenic stroll to meet the memory of the inhabitants with the application Patrimoine en balade.

The forge is part of the cultural route of the Iron Route in the Pyrenees.