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After a bend, the Aa river enters the Audomarois marshes at Arques
The story of the town is closely linked to water. First of all, Arques was a mill until the French Revolution and then a village depending on the Saint-Bertin Abbey.
The church, castle, and houses in town are witnesses of its rich past. The digging of the Neuffossé canal at the end of the 18th Century simplified the creation of a first glass-making factory in 1825, situated on its banks near the water locks, in a place known as les Fontinettes.
Nowadays, it is the headquarters of the global tableware leader.
The village became a 10,000 resident working class city comprised of a mix of industrial and residential architecture.
To link the city centre to the city of factories, a square and a building, comprised of the city hall and a school, were built at the beginning of the 20th Century. These new buildings helped solidify the town’s new worker identity. Nearby, there is also a pleasant public park on one part of the Aa river.
It is like going back in time when you walk through this town. Strolling from the square to the church, you can see many old examples of industrial architecture in the spinning mill and brewery. There are also many beautiful traditional yellow brick mansions from the 18th century, as well as the church and medieval castle. In addition, the treasures of hydraulic engineering are remarkably clear in the impressive modern lock systems of the town.
The boat lift dates to 1885 and is the British engineer Edwin Clarck’s fine work. It is entirely unique in France and was listed as a historical monument in 2014. Its restoration is beginning promptly.
The big winnow was made in 1782 in order to regulate the entry of the Aa river water into the marshes, through a siphon under the canal.
Finally, the river base and its marina replaced former shipyards. One more surprising thing are the preserved beautiful natural areas like the Clairmarais national forest and the Malhove ponds, which are the products of former quarries, used for industry and construction.
Another journey back in time can be found at the train station where visitors can board a railcar from the 50s or a steam train, taking them up the Aa valley to discover its mills, its paper production history, and the Coupole.