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 Countdown to Oignies - 2022

 Images: description and information

Week 52

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At this very moment, we should all be on our way to share a glass together in Oignies, but Covid has decided something else for us.

We all hope this event is now merely postponed until May 2022, and to help us to anticipate next year's visit, in collaboration with Images - our local Photographic Club, we propose to share a new picture of Oignies every week with all our Friends in Buxton.

So let's begin the countdown with week 52.

Alain Cieslak - 29th May 2021

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Week 51

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The Villa les Floralies was used as the English headquarters during the battle of Oignies in May 1940.

On the 28th of May, as the German troops took the town, an English soldier tied to a chair was burned alive in the villa, which has since been known as "La Maison de l'Anglais Brûlé / The house of the burned Englishman".

The soldier could not be identified and remains "known only to God", where he rests, among his brothers in arms, in the town graveyard.

Week 50

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Oignies is well known for the quality of its sporting facilities. The Stade Municipal offers an opportunity to participate in multiple sport disciplines; not only athletics, with our renowned local club L'Etoile de Oignies, but also basketball, volleyball, football, tennis and judo, amongst other sports.

Guy Drut - gold medallist in the 110m hurdles at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 - was born in Oignies and trained wearing the colours of L'Etoile. Also born in Oignies was Michel Jazy - 1500m silver medallist at the Tokyo Olympics in 1960. His career, which included 9 world records including the mile, 2000m, 2 miles, 3000m, and the 4x1500m relay, began too at L'Etoile de Oignies.

Who will be next... ?

Week 49

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Memorial to Henriette Crombez - de Clercq


Henriette Crombez - de Clercq (1812 - 1878) is well known in Oignies as a town benefactor. In 1842, having bought the Château de Oignies with her husband, she began excavations in order to create ponds in the park. In addition to water, coal was also discovered.

It was the beginning of an industrial era that saw the small village develop into a substantial town.

Henriette played a significant role in the development of the town, overseeing the construction of schools, public facilities, churches, and the installation of gas lighting, amongst other civic projects. Reminders of her life and work are to be found throughout Oignies.

Week 48

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Construction work on Pits 9 and 9bis (9 & 9a) at the colliery in Oignies commenced in 1927, and in 1933 the first coal was extracted using these shafts.

On December 20th, 1990, it was also here that the very last wagon of coal mined in the Nord - Pas de Calais was brought to the surface, bringing an end to this major chapter of industrial history.

Today the 9 - 9bis site is listed as a World Heritage Site.

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Week 47

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You could almost be in a scene from Star Wars, at the boarding gate for a far off planet...

But the Métaphone offers an entirely different journey, into a concert hall that can accommodate an audience 650; it is equipped with a sound system ready for all manner of musical concerts - rock, rap, pop...


...The building also becomes a musical instrument itself, when the wind vibrates the panels of its outer shell, which tinkle and chime; creating sounds reminiscent of the machinery noise which came from the nearby pithead - La Fosse No. 9, in times gone by.

Week 46

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9-9bis la Salle des Pendus


Serving as both changing room and showers for the 9 and 9bis (9 & 9a) pitheads, the Hanging-Up Room (or literally the room of the hanged) takes its name from the way it was organised. Every miner had a token with his number on it, which corresponded to a chain at the end of which he hung his clothes. As each shift finished, it was thus easy to check at a glance if everybody had returned safely to the surface.

Now renovated, along with the rest of the mine buildings, the hanging-up room serves as a venue for many musical events.

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Week 45

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14th July - Bastille Day, la Fête Nationale

On the 14th July 1789, the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille - the city's fortified prison. This date has since been recognised as marking the beginning of the French Revolution.

This historic day is celebrated every year with firework displays, held in towns and cities all over the country.


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Week 44

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Le jardin de l’église St Barthelemy

The recently laid out gardens of St Barthelemy's Church, situated right in the centre of the town, offer the passer-by a tranquil place to relax.


Legend has it that Henriette de Clercq had a tunnel built from her nearby house to the church, for use on rainy days. If the town gardeners ever discovered it, they have kept the secret to themselves...


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Week 43
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Covering an area of over half a million square metres, the Delta 3 Multi-Modal Logistics Platform is a vast freight management and transfer facility located between Dourges and Oignies. Goods, shipped in containers from all over the world, arrive at the warehouses via the connecting motorway, railway and canal, to be processed, repackaged and dispatched all over Northern France, all the way to the nation's borders.

Week 42

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Les Terrils

Jacques Brel sang of the flat lanscapes of Northern France, and in the heart of these lies the town of Oignies. The only features providing relief from the endless plain are the slagheaps, man-made mountains of waste, extracted along with the coal from deep underground during many decades of mining.

Today many of these terrils are now green, having been planted with grass and trees; and a walk to the summit will be rewarded with fine views over the countryside for tens of miles around.


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Week 41

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- The Museum of Mining and the Railway

Pit N°2 at the colliery in Oignies was decommissioned in the 1970s. The only building to be conserved was the machine shed, which housed the huge steam engine used to raise and lower men, material and coal between the surface and the workings, up to 800 metres below.

Since the 1990s the old machine shed has been home to the CMCF and also to the model railway society, thus showcasing machinery ranging from miniature scale all the way up to full size. The building also houses the Mine Image - Multi-media

Mining Experience and the Mail Train Museum.

Every year, during the last week-end of August, the site hosts an international festival, which is attended by collectors and enthusiasts from all over Europe.

Week 40

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La Mine Image

- Multi-Media Mining Experience

Located on the site of Pit N°2, and an integral part of the CMCF (Museum of Mining and the Railway), the ‘Mine Image’ was formerly a training facility for mine workers. In a series of purpose built galleries, trainees were able to learn how to operate machinery, about extraction techniques, safety protocols and other aspects of coal mining.

Today, it is a living museum, where visitors can learn directly from former pit-men just how hard the working life of a miner was in real life.

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Week 39
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Pacific 231

In July 1938, King George V and his wife Elizabeth, parents of the current queen: Elizabeth II, visited France on a state visit.

The train which carried the royal family to Paris, along with their accompanying entourage, was hauled by the legendary locomotive known as Pacific 231; the very same locomotive that enthusiasts from the CMCF (Museum of Mining and the Railway) in Oignies are in the process of restoring; with the ambition of bringing her back to full working order.

During the 1990s the Queen Mother agreed to become the principal patron (la marraine) of the project.

Week 38

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The International Festival of Living Steam

For over 30 years, during the last weekend of August, the CMCF (Museum of Mining and the Railway) have organised an international festival which celebrates everything about railways and steam power.

Enthusiasts travel from all over Europe to display their prized exhibits to a fascinated public.

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Week 37

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Les Baraques à Frites

In the UK we have our ubiquitous fish and chip shops, but Northern France and Belgium have their very own versions: les baraques à frites (chip shacks). Also known as food trucks avant l'heure (fast food trucks), they serve a very wide range of customers: school kids and workers at lunchtime, the young and the not so young out for a night on the town, and not forgetting the families, happy to buy ready cooked chips to go with their evening meal.

It may have changed owner and name several times, but 'le Petit Maxime's' is undoubtedly the oldest baraque à frites in the town of Oignies, and was already in business when the town was twinned with Buxton in 1968.

Week 36

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Le Centre Culturel de la Fosse N°2

Last week-end (18/19 September, 2021) the Municipality of Oignies held a mass garden party to mark the commencement of works on the new Cultural Centre. The old pit-head buildings, which formally served Colliery Shaft N°2, will be fully renovated to house this centre. They are located opposite the CMCF (Museum of Mining and the Railway).

The centre, destined to become home to the new Multi-Media Library and the School of Music, will additionally host many other events and activities.

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Week 35

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La Chapelle St Joseph

Between 1920 and 1930, local mining companies made extensive use of Polish workers to fill labour shortages in the coal industry.

Entire neighbourhoods were dedicated to housing the incoming working-class families, particularly between the Lille to Paris railway line and the town of Ostricourt, in an area which became known as "la petite Pologne" (Little Poland).

St Joseph’s Chapel, built in 1925 by the mining companies for the Polish community, bears testament to this past; and it is here that, to this day, a Polish priest can still be heard celebrating mass in his mother tongue.

Week 34

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In 1994, the British Isles lost a little of their island status with the opening of the Channel Tunnel, which established a fixed transport link to the continent.


The TGV line connecting Paris, Lille and London, runs nearby to Oignies, alongside the motorway. Construction of this high speed railway caused considerable disruption to daily life in Oignies for well over a year. Fleets of heavy lorries passed back and forth through the area, transporting shale from the surrounding slag heaps, for use in the building of the railway and it’s trackside infrastructure. It was subsequently necessary to repair the extensive and severe damage caused to the town’s roads during this period.


Today, the line is used by TGV, Eurostar and Thalys services carrying thousands of passengers every day; taking them safely and securely to their destinations across the continent.

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Week 33

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Les Teuf Teuf du Neuf - The Old Bangers of (Pit Number) Nine.

Founded in 2017, the Teuf Teuf du Neuf Automobile Club caters for the vintage car enthusiasts of Oignies. Always ready to share their passion, you can often see club members exhibiting their four wheeled treasures at numerous fairs and events, both in the town and the surrounding area.

Week 32

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The Batcave

The First World War saw Oignies occupied by German soldiers, who built many fortifications both in the town and on the surrounding roads. Most of the bunkers that were built in the town have since been demolished, but many still remain in the fields and alongside the roads around Oignies.

This 'blochaus' in the Bois des Hautois (Hautois Woods) has been converted into a shelter for bats, and children in particular always find it very exciting...

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Week 31

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The Pharmacy du Centre de Santé des Mines

From the middle of 19th century the French government required private mining companies to take responsibility for the wellbeing of their workers. Health centres were duly built to fulfil this purpose, whilst also giving the mining companies an opportunity to display their considerable wealth and resources.

The Pharmacy du Centre de Santé des Mines (Colliery Health Centre Pharmacy) in Oignies dates from this period. It remains in operation to this day, and has been recently been expanded with additional facilities. Today the Centre provides multi-disciplinary healthcare access for the general population.

Week 30

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Halloween à la Française

The people Northern France are renowned for their warmth, openness to outsiders and their party spirit, including, of course, our friends from Oignies. No surprise then that Halloween has been swiftly adopted, even if it has distinctly foreign origins.

…And so Halloween marks the beginning of the winter festivities, occasions to meet up and share a little communal warmth to compensate for the lack of sunshine. Festivals such as St. Cécile the feast of musicians, St. Barbe the feast of miners and firemen, followed by Christmas, of course, and then in February by the famous Dunkirk Carnival, which will last for a month until the beginning of spring.

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Week 29

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The German Military Cemetery

During the First World War, Oignies rapidly found itself in a sector occupied by the German army. The front line, which was about twenty kilometres to the west, passed through Arras, Vimy, Lens, Aix Noulette and the Artois Hills; a front line which saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

Located within a few dozen meters of the British graves, and surrounded by a brick wall, the German Military Cemetery, which very few people from Oignies even know exists, holds the remains of 743 soldiers.

Week 28

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The Miners’ Welfare Fund, as represented in Stained Glass

On view to the general public, this magnificent stained glass window illuminates the staircase at the offices of the Health Care Centre. It is very much in the style of a past industrial age, representing the ideals of family and of hard work.

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Week 27

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La Brasserie Alceste

It was almost twenty years ago that Nicolas and his partner Sophie signed up with the Amis de Buxton. In 2007 their oldest daughter became the youngest ever member to make the trip to the Derbyshire town, celebrating her first three months of life whilst staying with Jane and John McGrother.

Nicolas is an engineer in the field of bio-computing, and during the past year he has become very absorbed in brewing his own beer. After several very successful trial brews, Nicolas decided to take the plunge, and in September he launched la Brasserie Alceste his own commercial microbrewery. His trademark ‘BD Bulle’ beer is available in several styles, including: Blonde, Trippel, IPA, and a Christmas Special, all brewed in the best local tradition.

    Pictures 26 and below here   

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