Key events in Bel Ombre under French rule (1765 -1810)

  • Context

    Although it is thought that the Bel Ombre region was traversed by early explorers and its northern limits may have been the home of maroon slaves, no official development existed prior to 1765. It is in 1765 that the first land concessions in the area were granted, allowing Simon Réminiac and Claude la Roche du Ronzet to acquire 2,200 acres[1]. At the time[1] , Mauritius had already been under French colonial rule for 50 years, and the island was administered by the French East India Company, although just two years later in 1767, it was transferred to the French royal government of  King Louis XV.  


    [1] Yvan Martial,  Compagnie Sucrière de Bel Ombre, Notes d’Histoire


Delayed developments

Despite these concessions, Bel Ombre did not develop in any significant way until the early 19th Century, with up to a century delay in comparison to other regions of the country. In the period up until then, Bel Ombre nonetheless hosted several authors and historical figures as . One of them is Bernardin de Saint Pierre, French author most known for his novel Paul et Virginie, but also his travel notes in Voyage à l’Isle de France, à l’Isle Bourbon et au Cap de Bon Espérance. He travelled around the island in 1769.

The locality is also described by Maximilien Wilkinsky, page of Polish King Stanislas Leszczynski in exile in France, who visits Mauritius and Bel Ombre in 1778.  Both describe the steep slopes of rocky mountains plunging into the sea in Baie du Cap, the savannah prairie around Bel Ombre, the lush forests further up the mountains and the large number of rivers to cross all along this southern coast.[1]  An important town in the South is Souillac, as its’ port was developed under the supervision of Thoreau de la Martinière to allow the transfer of goods and materials between the remote villages of the South and Port-Louis.[2]


Noteworthy events

These rare visitors to the region also described the area as being sparse in inhabitations and agricultural developments. One visitor, Mr. Coudray, makes mention in 1802, the same year of the construction of the first sugar factory, “of a poor dilapidated farmhouse, of the miserable aspect of the sugar factory, of plantations, and of improper work", with only the master’s house appearing in good condition.

In 1803, the area was visited by Matthew Flinders, an Englishman who moored his schooner named Cumberland to restock his supplies. With French-English relations and tensions at the[2]  time, at a high, Mr. Flinders was arrested and imprisoned in Plaine Wilhems. 

In 1807, the factory was sold to Calixte Chamoiseau, who then sold it to Mr. Charles Telfair in 1816. The latter is credited with the major agricultural and infrastructural developments which permitted the sustainability of the Bel Ombre establishment.



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


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