Bicentennial of John Cockerill in Seraing


Seraing was a village of only 2000 inhabitants, mainly agricultural labourers, artisans and coal miners, when John Cockerill arrived in 1817. The young Englishman was 27 when he arrived. For 45,000 francs he bought the former palace of the Prince Bishops of Liege at Seraing. In 1820 he requested a permit for his first coke blast furnace. He then bought a coal mine. The industrial revolution that he sparked transformed Seraing into a rich, populous industrial town, a popular immigration destination and helped shape its urban development. By 1846 Seraing had 10,000 inhabitants and by 1868 this had more than doubled to 30,000. Many workers and their families came from the local industries of coal, steel and glass.

In his factories behind the palace the young entrepreneur employed 3000 workers. He produced locomotives and steam engines for textile mills and ships. By the end of the 1830s Cockerill's business lay in ruins. He died in Warsaw in 1840. The Cockerill factories became a public company, known today as "Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie" (CMI). His factories ensured the area's economic prosperity for over a century. The group has around 60 sites worldwide.

According to Bernard Serin, managing director of what was formerly Cockerill (now CMI) : "we forget that the most important thing of the last two centuries has been the machines, technology, locomotives and steamboat that have made Cockerill's name, as well as the greatness of Wallonia."