1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Creuse

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CREUSE, a department of central France, comprising the greater portion of the old province of Marche, together with portions of Berry, Bourbonnais, Auvergne, Limousin and Poitou. Area, 2164 sq. m. Pop. (1906) 274,094. It lies on the north-western border of the central plateau and is bounded N. by the departments of Indre and Cher, E. by Allier and Puy-de-Dôme, S. by Corrèze and W. by Haute-Vienne. The surface is hilly, with a general inclination north-westward in the direction of the valley of the Creuse, sloping from the mountains of Auvergne and Limousin, branches of which project into the south of the department. The chief of these starts from the Plateau de Gentioux, and under the name of the Mountains of Marche extends along the left bank of the Creuse. The highest point is in the forest of Châteauvert (3050 ft.) in the extreme south-east of the department. Rivers, streams and lakes are numerous, but none are navigable; the principal is the Creuse, which rises on the north side of the mass of Mount Odouze on the border of the department of Corrèze, and passes through the department, dividing it into two nearly equal portions, receiving the Petite Creuse from the right, and afterwards flowing on to join the Vienne. The valleys of the head-streams of the Cher and of its tributary the Tardes, which near Évaux passes under a fine viaduct 300 ft. in height, occupy the eastern side; those of the heads of the Vienne and its tributary the Thaurion, and of the Gartempe joining the Creuse, are in the west of the department. The climate is in general cold, moist and variable; the rigorous winter covers the higher cantons with snow; rain is abundant in spring, and storms are frequent in summer, but the autumn is fine. Except in the valleys the soil is poor and infertile, and agriculture is also handicapped by the dearness of labour, due to the annual emigration of from 15,000 to 20,000 of the inhabitants to other parts of France, where they serve as stonemasons, &c. The produce of cereals, chiefly rye, wheat, oats and buckwheat, is not sufficient for home consumption. The chestnut abounds in the north and west; hemp and potatoes are also grown. Cattle-rearing and sheep-breeding are the chief industries of the department, which supplies Poitou and Vendée with draught oxen. Coal is mined to some extent, chiefly in the basin of Ahun. There are thermal springs at Évaux in the east of the department, where remains of Roman baths are preserved. The chief industrial establishments are the manufactories of carpets and hangings and the dyeworks of Aubusson and Felletin. Saw-mills and the manufacture of wooden shoes and hats have some importance. Exports include carpets, coal, live-stock and hats; imports comprise raw materials for the manufactures and food-supplies. The department is served by the Orléans railway company, whose line from Montluçon to Périgueux traverses it from east to west. It is divided into the four arrondissements of Guéret, the capital Aubusson, Bourganeuf, and Boussac, and further into 25 cantons and 266 communes. With Haute-Vienne, Creuse forms the diocese of Limoges, where also is its court of appeal. It forms part of the académie (educational division) of Clermont and of the region of the XII. army corps. The principal towns are Guéret and Aubusson. La Souterraine, Chambon-sur-Voueize and Bénévent-l’Abbaye possess fine churches of the 12th century. At Moutier-d’Ahun there is a church, which has survived from a Benedictine abbey. The nave of the 15th century with a fine portal, and the choir with its carved stalls of the 17th century, are of considerable interest. The small industrial town of Bourganeuf has remains of a priory, including a tower (15th century) in which Zizim, brother of the sultan Bajazet II., is said to have been imprisoned.