1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lorient

LORIENT, a maritime town of western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Morbihan, on the right bank of the Scorff at its confluence with the Blavet, 34 m. W. by N. of Vannes by rail. Pop. (1906) 40,848. The town is modern and regularly built. Its chief objects of interest are the church of St Louis (1709) and a statue by A. Mercié of Victor Massé, the composer, born at Lorient in 1822. It is one of the five maritime prefectures in France and the first port for naval construction in the country. The naval port to the east of the town is formed by the channel of the Scorff, on the right bank of which the chief naval establishments are situated. These include magazines, foundries, forges, fitting-shops, rope-works and other workshops on the most extensive scale, as well as a graving dock, a covered slip and other slips. A floating bridge connects the right bank with the peninsula of Caudan formed by the union of the Scorff and Blavet. Here are the shipbuilding yards covering some 38 acres, and comprising nine slips for large vessels and two others for smaller vessels, besides forges and workshops for iron shipbuilding. The commercial port to the south of the town consists of an outer tidal port protected by a jetty and of an inner dock, both lined by fine quays planted with trees. It separates the older part of the town, which is hemmed in by fortifications from a newer quarter. In 1905, 121 vessels of 28,785 tons entered with cargo and 145 vessels of 38,207 tons cleared. The chief export is pit-timber, the chief import is coal. Fishing is actively carried on. Lorient is the seat of a sub-prefect, of commercial and maritime tribunals and of a tribunal of first instance, and has a chamber of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a lycée, schools of navigation, and naval artillery. Private industry is also engaged in iron-working and engine making. The trade in fresh fish, sardines, oysters (which are reared near Lorient) and tinned vegetables is important and the manufacture of basket-work, tin-boxes and passementerie, and the preparation of preserved sardines and vegetables are carried on. The roadstead, formed by the estuary of the Blavet, is accessible to vessels of the largest size; the entrance, 3 or 4 m. south from Lorient, which is defended by numerous forts, is marked on the east by the peninsula of Gâvres (an artillery practising ground) and the fortified town of Port Louis; on the west are the fort of Loqueltas and, higher up, the battery of Kernevel. In the middle of the channel is the granite rock of St Michel, occupied by a powder magazine. Opposite it, on the right bank of the Blavet, is the mouth of the river Ter, with fish and oyster breeding establishments from which 10 millions of oysters are annually obtained. The roadstead is provided with six lighthouses. Above Lorient on the Scorff, here spanned by a suspension bridge, is Kérentrech, a pretty village surrounded by numerous country houses.

Lorient took the place of Port Louis as the port of the Blavet. The latter stands on the site of an ancient hamlet which was fortified during the wars of the League and handed over by Philip Emmanuel, duke of Morcœur, to the Spaniards. After the treaty of Vervins it was restored to France, and it received its name of Port Louis under Richelieu. Some Breton merchants trading with the Indies had established themselves first at Port Louis, but in 1628 they built their warehouses on the other bank. The Compagnie des Indes Orientales, created in 1664, took possession of these, giving them the name of l’Orient. In 1745 the Compagnie des Indes, then at the acme of its prosperity, owned thirty-five ships of the largest class and many others of considerable size. Its decadence dates from the English conquest of India, and in 1770 its property was ceded to the state. In 1782 the town was purchased by Louis XVI. from its owners, the Rohan-Guéméné family. In 1746 the English under Admiral Richard Lestock made an unsuccessful attack on Lorient.