THEUX, land of history
Bathed by the Hoëgne, Theux is located at an altitude of 220 m to the north-west of the Hautes-Fagnes plateau and to the south of the Herve plateau In the bottom of the valley, there are very fertile alluvial areas. All around, the forest offers an excellent refuge and is a vital resource for all kinds of activities.
The Theux area has been inhabited since the Mesolithic era. Proof of this was the discovery of microliths in the Ourlaine deposits. The bronze age is represented by pottery and traces of charcoal. What seems to be a chariot burial is a testimony from the iron age. From the first century AD, the Gallo-Romans occupied the site of Theux and gave it the name TECTIS. Archaeological digs, carried out since the 19th century, have unearthed three cemeteries (approximately 200 graves), and the remains of a fanum (temple) and a hypocaust. They also discovered some small statues and utilitarian objects made from very diverse materials: iron, bronze, glass, pottery, lead, etc.
The Gallo-Roman site of Theux was destroyed in the 3rd century. It was active again at the end of the 4th century and was destroyed in the early 5th century by Germanic invaders. They were probably behind the construction of a small pagan building dating from before the 4th - 7th centuries, located on the current site of Theux church. This place of worship was probably Christianised by a Merovingian sovereign. It was converted into a chapel and served the needs of the court and the people managing the royal forest and estate.
The earliest reference to Theux can be found in a certificate of 814 by which Louis the Debonair donated properties to Stavelot-Malmédy Abbey. The palatium of the Merovingian kings is mentioned in 820 and 827. On 8 October 898, King ZWENTIBOLD granted FRANCON, Bishop of Liège, the domain of Theux, reserving the hunting rights for himself, and these rights were in turn transferred in 915 by Charles the Simple.
The original territory of Theux was made up of the districts of Theux, Sart, Jalhay and Spa to which the district of Verviers was added later. (The name FRANCHIMONT, however, does not appear before 1155). Later, from the 16th century only, it formed a vast castellan domain called the "Marquisate of Franchimont". At its head was a castellan who held the role of prince-bishop. From 1550, he took the title of governor.
It was in the second half of the 9th century that the Carolingian church was built. It measured 19 metres long by 6 metres wide, and its foundations still remain. Part of the current church, the three naves, was built around 1019. It is a hall church, the only one still preserved between the Loire and the Rhine. It houses some fine Romanesque baptismal fonts. The tower was built in the third quarter of the 13th century: it is surmounted by remarkable wall walks. A dendrochronological study dates them from 1345. The Gothic choir was built in the 16th century.
As for Franchimont castle, it was mentioned for the first time in 1155, but was built during the 11th century. It was the military, judicial and administrative centre of this enclave of the Liège lands. The castellan was appointed to represent the prince-bishop: he was appointed by him or by the cathedral chapter. In the 12th century, the castle was occupied for several years by the Duke of Brabant. In 1236, Theux was burnt down and the castle partially destroyed by Waleron de Limbourg. In 1263, Lorraine troops besieged the fortress in vain. In 1285, it was the former Prince-Bishop of Liège, Henri de Gueldre who attacked the castle and was killed at its foot. In 1387, it was destroyed by an accidental fire and rebuilt by the Prince-Bishop Arnould de Hornes. In 1456, Theux, the chief-district of the castellan domain, received the title of Town. As a symbol of the bourgeois rights, it was given a '"perron" in 1457.
On the night of 29 to 30 October 1468, "Six Hundred Franchimontois" attempted in vain to seize Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, whose troops were threatening the city of Liège. In reprisal, the Burgundian army ravaged the Franchimont region: they destroyed all the iron mills of which there were many in the region, along with the Theux Perron (replaced since on two occasions). In 1477, the Franchimont castellan domain was ceded in pledge to Guillaume de la Marck. In 1487, the Prince-Bishop Jean de Hornes besieged the castle in vain.
The negotiations to stop the pledge ended in 1504 and, the following year, a ceremony marked the return of the castellan domain to the Principality of Liège. That same year, 1505, Erard de la Marck was elected Prince-Bishop of Liège. The security of the land was one of the major concerns of his outstanding reign. He had the principality's fortresses maintained and rebuilt, and in particular Franchimont. At the end of the 16th century, the castle played host to people going to take the waters at Spa.
From 1574 to 1789, the Lynden family governed the Marquisate of Franchimont. Theux district covered 22 hamlets: La Reid, Becco, Desnié, Winamplanche, Hodbomont, Mont, Jevoumont, Juslenville, Pepinster, Oneux, Polleur, Fays, Jehanster, Mangombroux, Spixhe, Sassor, Sasserotte, Rondehaye, Chaityfontaine, Hestroumont, Devant Staneux and Marteau. It was administered by a "Regency" made up of three bodies:
1) representatives of the hamlets or electors
2) noble representatives
3) the Magistrature, involving two mayors and seven commissioners.
However, the village of Marché was administered separately, a privilege conferred on it because of its obligations to watch the castle. It was only in 1712 that it was put at the same level as the other 22 hamlets.
Theux had a court of justice. Franchimont castle remained the only prison for the five districts until the Revolution. At the start of this, the castle was spared. It even served as the meeting place of the Congress of Polleur, but from 1793 it was handed over for pillage and destruction. In year IV (1795), La Reid and Polleur were separated from Theux and set up as independent municipalities. The same happened to Pepinster in 1848. In 1866 cholera ravaged the area of the municipality. The first epidemic produced 171 victims, the second, 26. On 9 August 1944, a bombardment caused the death of several people and the destruction of many houses in the centre of Theux.
The original parish of Theux covered almost all the land of the old Marquisate. It was dismembered over the centuries by the creation of new parishes: Sart, first of all at an unknown date, Jalhay and Spa in the 16th century, Becco, La Reid and Polleur in 1803, Pepinster in 1834, Jehanster in 1842, Desnié in 1845, Juslenville in 1888, Oneux in 1903, etc. A Dominican convent was founded in 1640 by Anne de Boemael. It disappeared after a decree of 1824 banned it from receiving novices.
Traces of a pottery industry, and iron mining and black marble quarrying from the Roman period have been found. The inhabitants' main resource, the iron industry, picked itself up after the disaster of 1469. Many watercourses were granted to operate the bellows of blast furnaces and the hammers of forges and sheet metal works. After its remarkable rise, the iron and steel industry declined completely at the end of the 17th century. At that time, the inhabitants spun and prepared wool at home. They also lived off sheep farming and cereal crops. In the 19th century, iron and lead mining, and black marble quarrying were abandoned for ever. Fallow land was wooded or converted into pasture and grazing crops replaced cereals.
The industry developed by the installation of washing plants, spinning mills and tanneries. Theux benefited from improved means of communication: the road from Liège to Spa, via Louveigné was completed in 1766; that from Theux to Verviers via Heusy in 1771, and that from Chaudfontaine to Theux via Pepinster in 1825. The Verviers-Spa railway line was opened in 1853, and lastly, the Verviers-Prüm motorway crosses the municipality.
Currently, in this municipality of 8633 ha, 3165 ha are used for agriculture. There are 163 farms some of which are very small. The tanneries have disappeared but not the textile and metal industries. Trade is flourishing.
Theux has three old people's homes, a convalescent home, and a home for socially disadvantaged children. The Institut Saint-Roch, an independent secondary and normal education institution, is based in Marché. The provincial agriculture, forestry and paper-making college has been set up at La Reid. Also at La Reid is an animal park where many representatives of European fauna can be found.
On 1 January 1977, La Reid and Polleur municipalities were joined to Theux following the law of 30 December 1975 on mergers of municipalities.