1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gard

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GARD, a department in the south of France, consisting of part of the old province of Languedoc. Pop. (1906) 421,166. Area 2270 sq. m. It is bounded N. by the departments of Lozère and Ardèche, E. by the Rhone, which separates it from Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhône, S. by the Mediterranean, S.W. by Hérault and W. by Aveyron. Gard is divided into three sharply-defined regions. Its north-western districts are occupied by the range of the Cévennes, which on the frontier of Lozère attain a height of 5120 ft. The whole of this region is celebrated for its fruitful valleys, its gorges, its beautiful streams, its pastures, and the chestnut, mulberry and other fruit trees with which the mountains are often clothed to their summits. The Garrigues, a dry, hilly region of limestone, which lends itself to the cultivation of cereals, the vine and olive, stretches from the foot of the Cévennes over the centre of the department, covering about half its area. The southern portion, which extends to the sea, and was probably at one time covered by it, is a low plain with numerous lakes and marshes. Though unhealthy, it is prosperous, and comprises the best arable land and vineyards in Gard.

Besides the Rhone, which bounds the department on the E., and the Ardèche, the lower course of which forms part of its boundary on the N., the principal rivers are the Cèze, Gard, Vidourle and Hérault. The most northern of these is the Cèze, which rises in the Cévennes, and after a course of about 50 m. in an E.S.E. direction falls into the Rhone above Roquemaure. The Gard, or Gardon, from which the department takes its name, is also an affluent of the Rhone, and, rising in the Cévennes from several sources, traverses the centre of the department, having a length of about 60 m. In the upper part of its course it flows through a succession of deep mountain gorges, and from the melting of the snows on the Cévennes is subject to inundations, which often cause great damage. Its waters not infrequently rise 18 or 20 ft. in a few hours, and its bed is sometimes increased in width to nearly a mile. Near Remoulins it is crossed by a celebrated Roman aqueduct—the Pont du Gard (see Aqueduct). The Vidourle flows in a S.S.E. direction from its source near Le Vigan, and after a course of about 50 m. falls into the sea. Below Sommières it forms the western boundary of the department. The Hérault has its source and part of its course in the west of Gard. The Canal de Beaucaire extends from the Rhone at Beaucaire to Aigues-Mortes, which communicates with the Mediterranean at Grau-du-Roi by means of the Grand-Roubine canal.

The climate is warm in the south-east, colder in the north-west; it is rather changeable, and rain-storms are common. The cold and violent north-west wind known as the mistral is its worst drawback. Les Fumades (near Allègre) and Euzet have mineral springs. The chief grain crops are wheat and oats. Rye, barley and potatoes are also grown. Gard is famed for its cattle, its breed of small horses, and its sheep, the wool of which is of a very fine quality. In the rearing of silk-worms it ranks first among French departments. The principal fruit trees are the olive, mulberry and chestnut. The vine is extensively cultivated and yields excellent red and white wines. The department is rich in minerals, and the mines of coal, iron, lignite, asphalt, zinc, lead and copper, which are for the most part situated in the neighbourhoods of Alais and La Grand’-Combe, constitute one of the chief sources of its wealth. Great quantities of salt are obtained from the salt marshes along the coast. The quarries of building and other stone employ a considerable number of workmen. The fisheries are productive. The manufactures are extensive, and include those of silk, of which Alais is the chief centre, cotton and woollen fabrics, hosiery, ironware, hats (Anduze), liquorice, gloves, paper, leather, earthenware and glass. There are also breweries and distilleries, and important metallurgical works, the chief of which are those of Bessèges. The exports of Gard include coal, lignite, coke, asphalt, building-stone, iron, steel, silk, hosiery, wine, olives, grapes and truffles.

The department is served by the Paris-Lyon railway. It is divided into the arrondissements of Nîmes, Alais, Uzès and Le Vigan, with 40 cantons and 351 communes. The chief town is Nîmes, which is the seat of a bishopric of the province of Avignon and of a court of appeal. Gard belongs to the 15th military region, which has its headquarters at Marseilles, and to the académie (educational division) of Montpellier. Nîmes, Alais, Uzès, Aigues-Mortes, Beaucaire, Saint-Gilles, Bessèges, La Grand’-Combe and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon are the principal places. Opposite the manufacturing town of Pont-St-Esprit the Rhone is crossed by a fine medieval bridge more than 1000 yds. long built by the Pontiff brethren. Le Vigan, an ancient town with several old houses, carries on silk-spinning.