TOUR AND DISCOVERY OF THE « GRANDS-BOIS » SUGAR FACTORY
Grands-Bois is a district of Saint-Pierre, after that of Terre-Sainte, Terre-Rouge and Cafrine, towards the south of Reunion Island. Its landscaped coastline called « the fishermen’s path » attracts walkers, sports enthusiasts and picnickers who like to enjoy the natural beauty of this basalt coast on which the swell comes crashing down.
But Grands-Bois has also its history.
And for the inhabitants of Grands-Bois, it began and will revolve for a long time around its sugar factory.
It is indeed from 1835 that the archives relate a request for authorization for a water intake in order to operate a sugar cane factory in the district of Saint-Pierre named Grands-Bois.
There were then many changes of owners until 1880, when the property was purchased by Count Blainville de Choppy. At the time of the succession of Count Blainville de Choppy bequeathing the entire Estate to his son Charles Augustin Choppy, this Estate then comprised nearly 2000 hectares. There were master and employee houses, farm buildings and a sugar cane factory.
In 1919, the story of the Choppy family ended in the south of the island, when Charles Augustin Choppy, residing in Paris, sold the entire estate for the price of 3 million francs.
It was sold in February 1922 to the Compagnie Foncière de Maurice Réunion Limided. To finally become the property of the Société Anonyme de Grands Bois, which kept it in its heritage until 1948.
In December 1948, the Sucreries de Bourbon acquired it and undertook a major industrial transformation of the factory. This then became for several decades one of the most important sugar refineries and distilleries in the south of the island.
But the dismemberment of this immense property had already begun in 1920. It continued until 1991 with the conclusion of the final closure of the factory at the end of the sugar campaign on November 25, 1991.
As of June 14, 2002, the chimney and the factory buildings were listed as Historic Monuments of France.
But it was in 2009 that a major development and rehabilitation program for the site was undertaken by the municipality of Saint-Pierre. Thus, this important historic industrial site will regain its place within the district.
Since then, it has been a large cultural center including a museum of objects from the old days. Any visitor can come and discover the ingenuity and know-how of our elders.
If you pass by Grands-Bois, do not hesitate to stop there to visit this place of discovery.
I advise you to be accompanied by an English-speaking guide who will help you understand this place full of history. Do not hesitate to contact a tour guide from the Compagnie des Guides de l’Océan Indien.