Let's go back in time to unravel the history of Niort and discover the place it once occupied. Its rich and captivating past shaped the identity of the city as we know it today. The Sèvre Niortaise played a crucial role in its development and contributed to its current transformation. The remains of its medieval heritage are manifested among other things through its narrow streets, its half-timbered houses and its imposing Donjon.

Of commercial tradition

1203 is an important date for the city because Niort becomes one of the first communes in France, which means that it is administered by a mayor. She devotes Niort as trading city equipped with royal privileges commercial freedoms and tax exemptions.

The navigability of the Sèvre Niortaise

The Sèvre Niortaise, navigable, plays a determining role in the economic growth of the city from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Between the plains of Poitou, the vineyards of Saintonge and the flat country of Aunis, Niort is an important transit area thanks to its port protected by the castle.

Virginie Pegoraro

The Sèvre Niortaise

Crosses Niort, then descends into the Marais Poitevin of which it forms the main hydraulic artery.

In the 13th century, the city emerged from its sole military function to acquire a business role of first rank, thanks to the Sèvre whose course extends towards the West, as the swamp forms while filling up.

Niort unites with Saint-Jean-d'Angely et La Rochelle to form an economic arc in order to export products far and wide in complete safety. The old town is surrounded by ramparts to better control and tax the entry and exit of goods (wine, fabrics, sheets, fish oil, skins, etc.).

Alphonse of Poitiers, built the large covered hall (in current rue Victor Hugo) because Niort develops its trade with Flanders and England. It was even said under Jean Le Bon, in 1354, that it was the “the biggest and most beautiful mob in the kingdom”.

The fairs are also famous. In 1445, Charles VII freed the three fairs from all taxes, which he declared free and royal. In 1466, Louis XI proclaimed it a merchant city and in 1565, Charles between merchants and buyers.

Port activity is performing well until 1722, 26 boats circulate per day between Niort and Marans.

The Poitevins established in New France from 1608, maintain links with their lands of origin and transport skins via the Sèvre to Niort chamois, a prosperous industry, with the manufacture of luxury gloves and uniform parts for the army.

But the loss of Canada in 1763 and the poor condition of the Sèvre and the port disrupted trade.

In 1808, Napoleon 1er, during a visit to Niort, noted that the chamoiseries have outdated and insufficient facilities. This is how the Quai de la Régratterie et the development of the port basint in order to facilitate access to the Sèvre aux mégissiers.

That same year, the Sèvre Niortaise will be declared a waterway of general interest. The course of the river must be free and maintained from Niort to the sea. The Niort inland waterway industry is declining with the arrival of the railway in 1856, the siltation of the Sèvre and periodic floods which hamper boat traffic. The Second World War put an end to river navigation.

Commerce shapes the appearance of the city

One of the largest squares in the West

In 1745, the mayor of the time, Rouget de Courcez (cousin of Rouget de Lisle) plans to transfer the 4 city fairs to a place called la Brèche, for public hygiene measures and bring communication axes closer together. Therefore Place de la Brèche will come into being, and will become a place for funfairs, artistic exhibitions, agricultural and industrial equipment and a walking area.

3 ports and 3 markets will be built over the years

Today we can admire the Baltard style halls (the first generation of metal halls in the provinces) built between 1867 and 1871 and listed in the inventory of historic monuments in 1987.  The commercial tradition continues and life abounds every day of the week, even on public holidays (except Mondays).

The two pediments above the main entrance doors represent two allegories: Mercury (the Roman god of trade, travel and thieves) and Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture.


Some Niort industrial jewels… past and still present!

Automotive sector

From the 19th to the 20th century, the territory experienced an economic revival thanks to the automobile industry with Barré automobiles, Brivins coaches and Baillon transport.

Wood sector

The wood sector, with the Rougier company, is primarily intended for the manufacture of packaging for the booming dairy industry. The group is now one of the world leaders in timber production and trading.

Agricultural sector

The Marot, Clert and Biscara families from Niort left their mark in the grain sorting factories.

Food sector: Panzani pasta

Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani imagined his first recipe for fresh pasta, made from flour. The semolina was unobtainable during the Second War, in the attic of his parents-in-law on rue du Maréchal Leclerc in Niort. Pasta which dried on the backs of chairs, before being delivered by bicycle to the gourmands of Niort. Unable to find premises spacious enough to accommodate his small, thriving business, he moved to Parthenay in 1946.

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