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Fumay (Municipality, Ardennes, France)

Last modified: 2021-02-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of Fumay - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 27 July 2020

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Presentation of Fumay

The municipality of Fumay (3,481 inhabitants in 2017; 3,756 ha; municipal website) is located within a loop or river Meuse, 30 km north of Charleville-Mézières, at the left base of the Givet tip (aka Givet finger), a narrow strip of French land protruding northwards into Belgium.

Fumay was allegedly established by St. Maternus, who built near river Alyse (now the border with Belgium) a chapel dedicated to the Virgin on the remains of a Roman temple. Since Maternus had previously killed "the famous snake that scoured the Fumay woods", the inhabitants of the region grouped around the chapel, subsequently ran by the collegiate church of Molhain.
In 762, Pepin the Short offered a big territory, including the today's municipalities of Ravin, Fumay and Fépin to the abbey of Prüm. The abbot appointed an avoué (protector) to rule the domain. Signed in 1222, the Fumay Charter established the respective duties of the abbot and the protector, who had became the de facto ruler of the domain. In 1288, the protector sold the domain to John II of Avesnes, Count of Hainaut, without the consent of the abbey of Prüm, which definitively lost control of Fumay.
John II's last direct heiress, Countess Jacqueline of Hainaut, had to transfer in 1433 her rights on Revin, Fumay and Fépin to her cousin, Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good, who sold it in 1453 to Antoine of Croÿ, Count of Porcien and Lord of Renty. He was succeeded by his son Philip and his grandson Philip II, Prince of Chimay, created Duke of Aarschot by Charles V. The next owners of Fumay were the Princes of Aremberg, who acquired it in 1610, and Count Jacques Théodore of Bryas, Archbishop of Cambrai, who acquired it in 1689.
Granted the statue of free land by Pepin the Short, Fumay was coveted for strategic reasons, by France and the Low Countries. The Second Treaty of Limits, signed in 1779, eventually incorporated the Givet tip and Fumay to the Kingdom of France.

Slate extraction was first documented in Fumay in the 12th century, when local religious communities required permission to extract it from the abbey of Prüm to cover their buildings. Control of slate trade, especially to the Low Countries, was taken over in the 15th century by merchants from Dinant, Namur and Liège. In 1466, the Fumay slate workers established the corporation of the Mineurs Escailleurs, to defend their rights and restrict access to the mines by foreign workers. Slate extraction declined in the 18th century, leaving only three mines. The Saint-Joseph and Les Trépassés mines were closed around 1790, while the Sainte-Anne mine maintained a limited but regular activity until 1835, when slate extraction boomed again with the creation of new companies.
The overall decrease in slate demand that started at the end of the 19th century was concealed by the reconstruction after the First World War. The new English market was not sufficient to absorb the production, though. After its closure in 1931, slate extraction was nearly stopped, leaving only two mines, Saint Joseph and La Renaissance.
The Société des ardoisiéres de Rimogne purchased in 1965 all the mines still active in Fumay, which did not prevent their definitive closure in 1971.

The Pied Selle (lit. Foot Saddle, because of its location near a ford) forge was founded in 1777 by ironmaster Jacques-François Ancienne. He was succeeded in 1815 by Eugène Mathys, who established in 1831 a sheet glass factory. The next owner, Louis-Antoine Péchenard, founded in 1841 a tinplate kitchenware factory, closing the glass factory in 1848. New shareholders led by Eugène Boucher boosted the development of the factory, increasing manpower from 70 workers in 1870 to 650 in 1885.
Transformed in 1893 in the Établissements du Pied Selle and specialized in stoves, the factory was acquired in 1923 by the Thomson group. Modernized, the Fumay factory employed up to 1,500 workers. Transformed into a cable factory, it is now owned by the Nexans group.

Ivan Sache, 1 August 2020

Flag of Fumay

The flag of Fumay, used at least since 2010 (photo, photo), white with an odd representation of the municipal coat of arms, "Azure, three wolf's heads proper", where the field azure has hatching horizontal lines and the wolfs'heads look like pink horse's heads.

The arms of Fumay are shown, with the wolf's heads or, in the Armorial Général (image). Rietstap's Armorial (2nd edition, Vol. 1, 1884-1887) gives the arms of the Fumay lineage as "Argent three wolf's heads and necks proper". Not given in the first edition of the Armorial (1861), these arms are doubtful since none of the successive lords of Fumay appear to have used such arms. There is no recorded, specific Fumay lineage, either.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 1 August 2020