1. The History
The Ghent cotton industry can be traced back to 1801 when Lieven Bauwens when he smuggled a spinning jenny from England to Ghent via France. It led to an unprecedented growth in the Ghent factories who produced most of the Belgium cotton during the 19th century. the Manchester of the mainland", Ghent owes its international fame to the textile industry. As part of this industry, the Brasseur family had a modest but successful textile company. Father Octave Brasseur, however, liquidated the old family business and joined the Board of Directors of the cotton spinning, twisting and dyeing company S.A. Cotonnière Nouvelle Orléans, which he became one of its first directors on its foundation on 12th June, 1896. The first buildings, the ground-floor spinning mill and office buildings, were erected in Flemish Neo-Renaissance style and were quickly expanded with the gigantic five-storey Manchester building, complete with stair-tower and closing water reservoir in 1899 (most likely designed by S.Detaeye & Co). In the same year Octave’s son, Robert Brasseur, succeeded him. In 1903 he became managing director, and then in 1928, Chairman of the Board of Directors. The company grew and at its peak apparently had work for 9,000 employees.

In 1957 he led the transition to the production of synthetic fibres and Cotonniere Nouvelle Orléans merged with De Waele and Rothlisberger to form Filature Nouvelle Orleans. Continuous modernisation ensured that the company continued to grow and had around 700 employees in 1969. It managed to remain profitable as an independent company until 1972 when it was purchased by UCO. In the 1980s, the FNO name gradually disappeared and the site effectively became part of UCO-Maïsstraat. When it turned out that the factory was not able to cope with the foreign competition, the factory closed in 1988 and the site was sold in 1990 to the Brussels project developer, Immoperel. The building was used by a company called Barco until they then moved out in 1996. Various parts of the factory including the boiler room, the engine room, the horse stable and one of the cotton sheds were demolished illegally. The demolition of the Manchester building was stopped just in time on 3rd January, 1995. Later that year the Manchester building, chimney, cotton house and office buildings were granted protected status. The city eventually became the owner in 2006 and the factory has been derelict ever since for years.

2. The Explore
Having arrived in Ghent after working my may up from Charelroi the day before I started looking at the few places I had pinned in the city. This placed turned up on a search I did earlier and looked like it merited a shufty. It was very easy to get in and a nice way to spend an hour while the autumnal sun went down. Sadly, we weren’t able to access the imposing Manchester building. The main entrance had been sealed with a metal door. We walked all the way round the building to no avail. We even looked under the building in the basement but were finally beaten. But all was not lost. There was plenty of other of the factory to look at and some decent street art too.

3. The Pictures

img4293 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4294 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ghent Factory 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4256 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Strange looking bird!

img4255 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4265 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The listed office buildings. NO stands for “Nouvelle Orléans”:

img4257 by HughieDW, on Flickr

More graff:

img4259 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4261 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4262 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Most of the factory is in a poor state of repair:

img4264 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4275 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4276 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4277 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4279 by HughieDW, on Flickr

But the saving grace is some more decent graff:

img4280 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ghent Factory 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ghent Factory 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

On to the Manchester Building:

img4269 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4268 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4271 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Old van round the side:

img4270 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Underneath there was no way in:

img4281 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ghent Factory 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ghent Factory 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And not forgetting the listed chimney:

img4289 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4290 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4298 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And a bonus gasometer around the corner:

img4300 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img4301 by HughieDW, on Flickr