The terracotta pipe, an institution in Saint-Omer

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Saint-Omer is known for its know-how in the manufacture of clay pipes. A look back at this 400-year-old institution. Decryption.

Tobacco in Saint Omer

In 1635, the first tobacco plants were grown in Saint Omer and its surroundings. However, it was only 25 years later that the first manufacture was born. At the end of the 18th century, the number of factories rose to 30 and no less than 450 people were employed there.

This French tobacco is all the rage with amateurs, so much so that the manufacture of by-products such as tobacco jars or even clay pipes quickly come to market.

Pipemakers from father to son

The art of being a pipemaker is passed down from father to son in Saint Omer. One of the best-known families remains the Fiolet house. Towards the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 20th century, production became industrialised. Even children are quickly exercised since the manufacture of pipes is entrusted to them from the age of 10! In all, the Fiolet family produces 80,000 pipes a day.

A second pipe house was born in Saint Omer: Constant Duméril. Between them, they produce 50 million pipes that are shipped around the world. However, with the arrival of cigarettes and wooden pipes, the Fiolet house was forced to close its doors in 1919.

The First World War virtually erased all vestiges of this glorious era since the factories were bombed and then razed in the 1960s and 1970s. Only the Fiolet house has survived the years and has now become a school: the Saint-Bertin school. The Pipers chapel on rue de la Commune-de-Paris has become the Perpignan neighborhood centre. It is still possible to find some traces in the street of the pipe makers where the police station is located.

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