During the reign of Louis XIV, the famous politician Colbert, who was aware of the importance of developing a naval force, came to the conclusion that France had to build an arsenal between Nantes and Bordeaux.
After carrying out the necessary research, Rochefort, which lies 14 mi inland, was hit upon as the right site. Work began on the arsenal in 1666 and it was completed in 1670.
At the same time, the architect Blondel had the 'Corderie Royale' rope factory built. The construction of this building was only made possible by the impressive technical skills of the time, because the ground soon turned out to be unstable, and the edifice thus had to be built on a kind of giant oak raft made of 14,000 cubic metres of wood joined together in an oak framework.
Work on the 'Corderie' started the same year as on the arsenal, but owing to the problems outlined above, the building was not completed until 1679.
The 'Corderie' is 374m long and 8m wide, these impressive dimensions being linked to the kind of work that was carried out there: this factory, the longest in 17th century Europe, was where ropes of cable lengths (200m) were twisted before being sent to equip the big battleships of the French navy.
Working in partnership with the arsenal, which constructed more than 350 boats over the course of 250 years, the 'Corderie' supplied the navy with rope until 1867.
However, this old factory was unable to resist the emergence of steam-powered vessels and their enormous metal chains that signalled its decline. The arsenal fared no better, and the two closed together in 1926.
It was burned down during the war in 1944, but its buildings were restored 32 years later, between 1976 and 1988.