History of the Marennes basin

Terra Maritimemsis”, the Marennes basin, is surrounded by the Brouage and Seudre marshes. In the past, these were little gulfs dotted with islands (St Just, Marennes…) inhabited since Roman times as evidenced by the sparse remains of former farmhouses. Despite the nature of the territory, Man rapidly transformed it into profitable salt-marshes that were gifted to the Abbaye aux Dames in Saintes in 1067. Exploitation of the marshes intensified and Marennes salt was exported all over Europe.

Although the 100 Years War slowed prosperity, the wealth of the 15th and 16th centuries rested mainly on salt, wine and cereal production. The Abbaye’s wealth enabled the churches of St Just and Marennes to be rebuilt in the 15th century. The wealth of the Lords of Pons founded Brouage in 1555.

The Protestant Reformation grew and Brouage became a major player in the struggle between Catholics and Protestants. The salt-farmers revolted against the salt tax and joined in the battles. Brouage became a Royal City and was besieged several times.

Richelieu turned Brouage into an important arsenal until it was ruined by the foundation of the arsenal at Rochefort in 1666. Fort Louvois, erected on the Chapus rock in 1694, completed the coastal defences.

Prosperity returned in the 17th and 18th centuries with the growth of cod-fishing and the sugar trade. Large agricultural domains such as La Gataudière saw the light of day. Sadly, the silting of the Brouage canal led to many salt-marshes being abandoned which led to squalor.

Brouage became a prison for clergy during the Revolution and Marennes a sub-prefecture. Le Terme (a sub-prefect) drew up general regulations for the marshes in 1824 and undertook canal works with the result that cattle-breeding and river transport developed. Initially a complementary activity for the salt-farmers, cattle and the production of oysters became important activities. “Oyster trains” left almost daily from the stations of Le Chapus and Marennes bound for Paris. 

Vos avis...