Several locks have been placed consecutively on the Canal du Midi , allowing for a significant difference in height. This is called a flight of locks. Two locks are exceptional: the Castelnaudary lock is the only one to have a flight of four, and the Fonsérannes lock has a flight of eight, which remains the longest in France.
The quadruple Saint Roch lock is dated to 1678 and accounts for a drop of almost 10 meters. Two mills and a flour mill were built on a diversion on the right bank of the canal. The left bank housed the old administration and hotel buildings.
The lock takes its name from the Saint Roch chapel built in the 16th century by the brotherhood of Saint Roch, who were responsible for caring for lepers in this location, outside the town walls. Two mills were built in 1680 on the right bank of the lock, to take advantage of the waterfall. Near the Saint Roch lock, you can still see the remains of one of the five windmills that lined the left bank since the Renaissance.
The Saint Roch rope maker or ‘ficeleur’ – a short history
Ropes are essential for towing boats and mooring cargo. The main material used in their manufacture remains hemp. Castelnaudary developed a speciality in rope making in connection with the boat building activity. A contract was signed with a rope maker for a period of three years. In 1830, for a fee, the canal administration authorised a rope maker to set up in a room adjoining the Saint Roch lock keeper’s cottage. The rope workshop is 190 metres long and 60 centimetres wide, and was used for storing tools and for braiding ropes. The rope maker spent his days on the banks of the canal, walking backwards, weaving his ropes.
When it wasn’t a public holiday, by the canal, you could see a man moving backwards without ever looking at a clock; under the terrace or in Saint Roch, with hemp at the end of a stick, turning the crank, he tightened the string.
The Castelnaudary rope makers disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century with the arrival of industrially manufactured ropes.
The stables for the post boat horses were also located near the lock keeper’s cottage, in the administration buildings. Other stables can be found near most of the locks and entrepreneurs rent them within the marina.