The Boch Keramis factory

© photo collection Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles

A booming region

In 1841, faience maker Jean-François Boch and his son-in-law Jean-Baptiste Nothomb purchased an abandoned pottery factory at auction, followed by a plot of land belonging to the Sars-Longchamps coalmine, situated along a branch of the Charleroi Canal. Three full years later, production got underway. It was not the first earthenware factory in the region, which was undergoing rapid economic development, but the Manufacture Boch Keramis soon became a leading player and easily found its place amid the new 19th century industrialisation.

The hamlet grows into a town

Behind the factory, the family built the first series of houses. Victor Boch wanted to ensure neighbourhood cohesion and so he brought the workforce together and strengthened solidarity by setting up the Fraternité de Saint Antoine de Padoue (The Fraternity of Saint Anthony of Padua), named after the patron saint of potters. Father and son did their utmost to ensure the well-being of their workers: they set up a professional school and a domestic science school and they founded a brass band and a choir. Catteau, for his part, set up Les Amis de l’Art (Friends of Art) with a group of friends. Brick by brick, a new town emerged from the land around the factory and its neighbourhood. In 1869, the settlement was given the name La Louvière, a reference to the female wolf (la louve), symbol of the Boch Keramis company.

© photo collection Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles

© photo collection Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles

Unprecedented growth

Production at Boch Keramis quickly surpassed that of its competitors. The Boch family succeeded in taking over a porcelain factory in Tournai and established a decorative tile business in Louvroil, near Maubeuge. The healthy profitability of the business enabled Catteau to try out new ideas, modernise the Boch Keramis style and to deliver products of unquestionable artistic quality, whilst maintaining reasonable prices.

His projects quickly ensured international recognition for the company and it enjoyed unprecedented growth. Shops were inaugurated in Brussels, Antwerp and Paris and at the height of its success, around 1931, Boch Keramis employed no fewer than 1,300 people.

Unfortunately, and despite the construction of a new factory in 1972, the business went into inexorable decline and in 1985 the company was put into liquidation. Today, the site has become a museum.