Case Noyale

  • Case Noyale – An introduction

    Case Noyale is located on the western slopes of the Black River mountain range. Nestled right above the Case Noyale village is the Little Black River Peak more commonly known as ‘Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire’, the highest peak in Mauritius culminating at 828 meters.  The village area of Case Noyale comprises most of the slopes of the mountain range down to the coastline. 

    Case Noyale was acquired along with Chamarel by the Compagnie Sucrière de Bel Ombre (CSBO) in 1961. The area has been a place of unique economic ventures, one of them being Sisal aloe cultivation and transformation into jute bags, another one being the processing of Chamarel coffee  to date. On its coastline, Case Noyale has evolved from a small fishing village into a more residential development with small businesses and commerce’s including a supermarket and restaurants. Other features of Case Noyale are the touristic road leading to Chamarel as well as an embarkation point to ‘Ile-aux-Bénitiers’.

Case Noyale – Origins of the village’s name 

During the French period, as land was being divided and given to pioneers as concessions, it is believed that Mr. François Philippe Duguermeur de Penhoët was the first to acquire the area known today as Case Noyale. This occurred on the 16th of January 1771. It is likely that Mr. Duguermeur was the one to give Case Noyale its name. Indeed, in Brittany where this man came from, Noyale can mean “newly cleared land” or “an area planted with walnut trees” (noyale). A village with the name of “Noyale-sur-Villaine” in Britanny also exists; this town was known for the manufacture of sturdy fabric known as “noyale” made from hemp and used for sails.


A Soldier named “Noyal”

Despite these above connections, legends about the name have abounded. One of those relates to the story of a retired French soldier known as “Noyal” who obtained land in  the area and built a house – known locally as “case”. This soldier, renowned for his hospitality welcomed visitors on their way to Savanne. This was relayed by Walter Edward Hart, father of the famed Mauritian poet, Robert Edward Hart.


Case Royale?

Another legend about the origin of the name is attributed to Pierre Marie Le Normand who  obtained several concessions in Black River including the locality known today as Case Noyale. It is said that the quality of his hospitality earned the place the name of “Case Royale”, which was later misspelled into Case Noyale. However the information found in the register of concessions contradicts this hypothesis. [1]

 Of all of these theories, the first is the most likely scenario as it reflects historical records on concessions. With time, names such as Noyale which have roots in the country of origin, may have been lost and associations with more common words or names made.


Case Noyale – First developments  

Following the most likely tenure of Mr. François Philippe Duguermeur de Penhoët from 1771, Case Noyale was likely acquired by Mr. Thomas Estienne Bolgerd, a military officer and member of the colonial assembly. Mr Estienne Bolgerd is already mentioned by Bernadin de Saint Pierre as the administrator of Bel Ombre, at the time where this concession was owned by Simon de Réminiac, and as the person who arrested Matthew Flinders[2] [3].  Mr. Estienne Bolger went on to be a prominent figure in the South, himself obtaining concessions in various areas of Savanne and the west, some in his name and some in his daughter’s name.


Improvements in communications

In 1824, Case Noyale was acquired by Mr. Benoni Le Père de La Butte. The surface area of the land was then 3050 acres from mountain to sea. Mr. Le Père de La Butte had a road built between Case Noyale and Chamarel and with the help of his brother-in-law Théodule Cordé a canal bringing water from Chamarel was constructed. After his death in 1853, Case Noyale was split by the  Chamarel link road in two parts: Grande et Petite Case Noyale.

At the turn of the twentieth century, a telephone line was established by orders of Thomi Pitot, representative of Black River in the Assembly. The telephone line connected Chamarel with the rest of Mauritius via Case Noyale.


To present days

In 1935, Nemours Desvaux de Marigny acquired Case Noyale and united Petite and Grande Case Noyale, which was then acquired by the Compagnie de Chamarel in 1951.Ten years later, this large estate was acquired by the Compagnie Sucrière de Bel Ombre, where it proceeded to grow sugar cane on the gentle slopes of the region on approximately 200 acres. Most importantly, Case Noyale then became the site for the Chamarel coffee drying and roasting facilities.


Case Noyale – Sisal Aloes Fibre  

Case Noyale is known as being one of the sites of Sisal aloes, Furcraea foetida agriculture. This plant from Central America was introduced in Mauritius in the mid 18th century. Despite not being native to the country, its use has earned it the common name of Mauritius hemp. The first use for this plant on the island was for the manufacture of ropes, which was also manufactured at the Corderie du Roy, which gave its name to the present-day Corderie Street in Port-Louis.


From plant to textile  

Case Noyale was one of the more recent  locations where this plant was cultivated,firstly from 1924 until 1956, then again from 1970 until 1979. A scraping device with blades attached to a wheel was used to peel the leaves that were placed manually on a table holding the device. For a long time, it appears that the technology never fully evolved to turn this into a viable industry until 1879, when Governor George Bowen proposed a reward of Rs 2,500 for anyone who would invent a new technology to improve the peeling process. This encouraged innovations which helped keep the industry growing.


Multiple uses

From the extraction of fibre, bags were made for the primary purpose of holding sugar in 80 kilo bags. In Bel Ombre they were stored in the Batelage before boarding the Côtiers which would sail them to Port Louis harbour for exportation. Most of the time these bags found a second life in people’s homes, being used as mattresses and door mats and were used to store food staples such as onions and potatoes.


Rise and demise

Between the late 18th and the early 20th century, the number of spinning plants quickly rose from around 20 to 100, leading to the opening of a bag factory in 1932. This bag production did not last long as its prices were not competitive in comparison to the bags imported from India, and the factory closed within three years. The production started anew in 1941, however, since the 1950’s, the sugar industry started to transport sugar in bulk putting an end to an industry which had been  second in importance on the island for a century.[4] 


[1] Jean-Pierre Lenoir, Bel Ombre, entre mer et montagne, Editions du Corsaire

[2] Auguste Toussaint Le Domaine de Bénarès et les débuts du sucre à Maurice

[3] Jean-Pierre Lenoir, Bel Ombre, entre mer et montagne, Editions du Corsaire

[4] Jean-Pierre Lenoir, Bel Ombre, entre mer et montagne, Editions du Corsaire

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