CHARLEROI, a town of Belgium, in the province of Hainault, about 33 miles south of Brussels, on the Sambre, a navigable tributary of the 'Meuse. It is the seat of a court of primary instance, and possesses a gymnasium, an academy of painting, a hospital, a parish church dating from the time of Louis MN., and a prison erected in 1852 in the style of a feudal castle. Situated in the midst of an extensive mining district, it has developed into one of the most important industrial centres in the country, carrying on a large manufacture of glass, iron, cutlery, cotton cloth, and woollen yarn. Several thousand persons are engaged in the nail trade alone ; and the forges of Couillet. about two miles from the town, supply a third Of the whole quantity of cast-iron produced in the kingdom. In 1870 upwards of 24,000 people were employed in the coal mines of the district ; and 3,832,850 tons of coal were brought to the surface. Abundant means of transit are afforded by the railways, which form a junction at the town, and by the Brussels and Charleroi canal, which was opened in 1832, and forms a connection at the capital with the Willebroek canal to Antwerp. In 1866 the population of the town was 12,150.
Charleroi was founded in 1666 by Charles II. of Spain, on the site of the village of Charnoy, which changed its name to the present form in honour of the king. The fortifications, however, which the Spaniards had commenced, were interrupted by the approach of the French, and their completion was due to the genius of Vauban. During the rest of the century it passed more than once from French to Spanish, and from Spanish to French possession ; in 1746 it was captured by the prince of Conti, but in 1749 it was restored to the house of Austria. During the Revolutionary War in 1794 it was four times besieged by the French, to whom it was ultimately compelled to surrender on the 25th of June. The following year saw the destruction of the fortifications, but they were restored in 1815.