Musée de la mine de Noyant-d'Allier

Musée Jean Le Mineur

Useful Information

Location: 31 rue de la Mine, 03210 Noyant-d'Allier.
Noyant d'Allier, 20 km west of Moulins.
(46.482714, 3.129203)
Open: MAY to JUN Sun, Hol 13:30-18.
JUL to AUG daily 13:30-18.
SEP Sun, Hol 13:30-18.
Tours at 14, 16.
Fee: Adults EUR 6, Children (10-17) EUR 4.50, Children (0-9) free.
Groups (): Adults EUR 5.
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=90 min.
Address: Musée de la mine de Noyant-d'Allier, 31 rue de la Mine, 03210 Noyant-d'Allier, Tel: +33-7-68-59-46-95. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1569 coal mining in Noyant first mentioned in the writings of Nicolas de Nicolaï, King Henry II's geographer
1730 exploited by the Matthieu family, an industrialist family from the north of France.
1802 sold after accidents and finncial difficulties to the Compagnie Chatillon-Commentry-Neuve Maison.
1920 Puits Central sunk to a depth of 430 m.
1922 buildings and headframe constructed by Eugène Freyssinet, the inventor of prestressed concrete.
1943 mine closed.
1988 museum opened to the public.



The Musée de la mine de Noyant-d'Allier (Noyant-d'Allier Mining Museum) is located at the headframe in the town of Noyant d'Allier in the department of Allier. It is also known as Musée Jean Le Mineur (John the Miner Museum). It has a collection of mining equipment, railway equipment in operation, reconstructed galleries, and mine buildings with a concrete headframe. The museum is an open air museum with numerous exhibits around the main building. The museum is for security reasons only visited on guided tours, it's not possible to visit the exhibition unguided. The tours start with a 20-minute film coal mining in France. Then visitors take a ride with Marie, a mining train, which will allow them to discover the mine with its equipment and its buildings.

The museum was named after Jean Gawlas, who is also dubbed Jean Le Mineur (John the Miner). He became famous as he is the last living miner who worked in Noyant. He worked from 1941 to 1943 at the Noyant mine, until the mine closed, then in other coal mines for 33 more years. When he worked here he was a galibot, he pulled the carts filled with coal from the mine front to the elevator. Actually, the carts were pulled by Mouton, the mine horse, which was intelligent enough to count, and refused to work when it had pulled the usual eight coal trains per day. He cared for the horse, and when it was low he had to rub its back, and when it was narrow he had to be careful not to be pushed into the wall. There was a stable with 4 horses underground, and two horses were known to be good horses while the two others were bad horses. Jean Gawlas recalled that the coal was of an exceptional quality.

"le charbon de Noyant était de très bonne qualité: c’était des chantiers magnifiques, brillants, où l’on pouvait se voir dedans comme dans des miroirs! Le charbon était du flambant très léger. Les mineurs en remplissaient des pleines pelles, très larges mais légères! Le terrain était si friable qu’en enfonçant un poing dans les parois, on remplissait la galerie! Ça poussait d’en haut, sur les côtés, ça levait les rails ! Trois boiseurs devaient remplacer en permanence le boisage qui se serrait!"
"Le charbon de Noyant était de tellement bonne qualité, que pour se chauffer, on donnait aux mineurs de Noyant du charbon de Saint Eloy qui était de moindre qualité, avec la moitié de cailloux"

"The coal at Noyant was of very good quality: the pieces were magnificent, shiny, and you could see yourself in them as if in mirrors! The coal was also very light. The miners filled shovels full of it, very wide but light! The ground was so friable that if you pushed a fist into the walls, you could fill the gallery! It pushed up from above, on the sides, and lifted the rails! Three limbers had to constantly replace the woodwork, which was getting tight!"
"The coal from Noyant was of such good quality that, for heating, the miners from Noyant were given coal from Saint Eloy, which was of lesser quality, with half of it unburnable stone.".

Jean Gawlas

This probably needs some explanation. Coal is originally plant matter which then becomes peat, which is wet and has a lot of sulfur and other substances. To burn it, it is necessary to dry it first. Then the peat is covered by rocks and becomes lignite or brown coal. It is still of low quality, it burns, but drying helps and burning it still produces sulfuric acid. The increase of covering layers causes high pressure and temperature, and a process called coalification starts. This reduces the amount of water and anything except carbon, at some point lignite becomes coal and then anthracite, which is pure carbon. Without water, it is rather light, and it is brittle, which is the way Jean Gawlas describes the local coal. Quite exceptional is not those properties, but the fact that they differ so much from regular rocks and even from low quality coal.

Coal mining in Noyant started probably in the 14th century. It was first mentioned in 1569 in the writings of Nicolas de Nicolaï, King Henry II's geographer. At that time shafts with a depth of 5 to 6 m were sunk. From 1730 to 1802 the coal was exploited by the Matthieu family, an industrialist family from the north of France, who lived in the château in the centre of the town. There were numerous accidents at the mine, and the family had financial problems, so the business was bought by the Compagnie Chatillon-Commentry-Neuve Maison. They modernized the mine and installed steam engines. Over the years they sunk 24 shafts in the Veine, the last called Puits Central, was sunk to a depth of 430 m in 1920. Around 1922, several mine buildings were erected around this shaft. The buildings and the headframe were constructed by Eugène Freyssinet, the inventor of prestressed concrete. This is the site of the museum. It was closed with a decision by the Comité d'Organisation de l'Industrie des Combustibles Minéraux Solides, dated 03-SEP-1942. On 07-JAN-1943 all miners were sent to Saint Hilaire to extract oil shale, which was more valuable. The machinery was immediately dismantled and sold.

The houses called Corons were miners' houses, and with the closure of the mine, the miners lost their jobs and the houses were abandoned. After France lost the Indochina War at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the French soldiers and their families who had served there had to be repatriated. The French government was looking for accommodation for them, and the mayor of Noyant suggested the abandoned Corons. During winter 1955-56 some 400 families came to the small town.

The museum is operated by the non-profit association des Amis de la Mine (Friends of the Mine). The large collection of mining equipment originates from some twenty sites in France. It shows the development of mining techniques during the 20th century until the last mines in France closed. The organization was created in July 1988 and has renovated the whole site and collected tools, mining and railway equipment. The site is the property of the municipality. It includes the headframe, the revenue building, the engine room, the boiler room and the hot room, the office building, three engineers' houses and the infirmary.