Historical monument since 1988, the Maillé-Brezé is the first naval museum afloat in France. It participates in the enhancement of a heritage that might otherwise be forgotten.
Because of the fast urban development, we could forget that Nantes was born and grew thanks to its river. Yet, “in the middle of the twentieth century, shipbuilding was still one of the major activities in Nantes. Nowadays, only the tramway station Chantiers Navals and the Maillé-Brezé still remain”.*
From this period, we remember with nostalgia the name “Dubigeon”. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Nantes was the leading manufacturer of merchant ships. In this context, Julien Dubigeon created in 1760 its first shipyard at la Chézine (a few meters from the current location of the Maillé-Brézé). It was transferred in the mid-nineteenth century to Chantenay where was built in 1896 “le Belem”, the last survivor of this period. In 1916, a misunderstanding between the heirs of the site led to its acquisition by the Chantiers de la Loire. During the twentieth century, many mergers appeared in order to maintain a shipbuilding business in Nantes. Thus, the shipyard became “Dubigeon-Normandie” after its merger with les ateliers et chantiers de Bretagne. In this shipyard, three frigates of the same type as the Maillé-Brézé were built between 1952 and 1956 (“le Cassard”, “le Guépratte” and “le Tartu”). After 1969, Dubigeon-Normandie shipyard, located on l’île de Nantes at the Prairie aux Ducs, covers fourteen hectares and launched, on October 1986, the last ship built in Nantes: “Le Bougainville”.
The association “Nantes Marine Tradition” was founded in 1983, under the leadership of François-Régis Bouyer. The association had the objective of preserving the memories of sailors and shipyard workers. In 1988, the association brought the Maillé-Brézé to Nantes, which is now listed as historical monument.
*: Cailleton Bruno, La construction navale et vivile dans l’amirauté de Nantes au XVIIe siècle, Hérault Cholet, 2000.