The town of Sèvres lies about 15 km west of Paris, across the River Seine. From the 16th century onwards the town was the site of limestone quarries. The mine galleries were imaginatively re-used from the 17th century onwards to serve as wine cellars for the Royal Family, after their arrival in Versailles. Versailles is about 8 km further west, but its surroundings were too waterlogged for the construction of wine cellars so Sèvres was chosen instead.
Wine was transported up the River Seine from Burgundy and elsewhere and stored for the use of the King and his Court. Coats of Arms were inscribed at the entrances to the former quarries. After the French Revolution and the wines were auctioned off in 1790. The cellars were then re-used as private wine cellars.
In 1847 the former Caves du Roi (King’s Cellars) were incorporated into a new brewery by Jean-Baptiste Reinart. The brewery exploited the recently-built Versailles Paris railway line to deliver the beer into central Paris. The brewery passed through several different owners including the Breweries of the Meuse for many years. The use of the underground galleries ceased in 1949 and the whole brewery was eventually demolished in 1985.
Although all surface evidence of the brewery has disappeared (replaced by modern housing), most of the undergound galleries remain. Sub Brit visited in 2008, under the guidance of the Michel Schneider, President of Sèvres Archaeology and History Society.
We entered the caves from an unmarked door at the rear of a block of flats and entered another world. Most of the evidence of the original quarrying has been effaced by later uses and some recent consolidation for surface buildings but much evidence of the brewery remains. Perhaps a kilometre of galleries remains accessible and bottles, barrels and vats were still scattered around the site. There is also evidence of a former ice well within the complex.