Ferrière Larçon ~ further history & views of this remarkable village in the South Touraine

For the past month or so I have been taking weekly French lessons with my friend Patrice Arnould who lives in Ferrière Larçon in the South Touraine. So, recently, I took the opportunity to walk around and explore further the streets and dwellings of this fascinating and lively village. The notice boards for the guided walk has this to say about the troglodyte dwellings and the old industry of hemp fabric weaving:

‘Ferrière Larçon was an important centre for the production of hessian.
The production of hemp nourished a tradition of te caves being used for weaving. Knowing how to take advantage of the local geology, the inhabitants tunnelled galleries for stone with parallel caves between them. These rows of caves face the mid-day sun and dominate the valley of the River Larçon.
The street (Rue des Caves) consists of about a hundred troglodyte caves built on two levels which were inhabited by numerous weavers in he 18th and 19th centuries.
The caves provided ideal conditions for the hemp spinners, it was cool (between 11 and 15 degrees), with a humidity level sufficient to keep the fibres pliable.
Wandering along the Rue des Caves you can admire the “troglos” with their rock hewn frontages dating from the early Middle Ages, each with its chimney, gutter and stone sink. Down the slope you can see the gardens and vegetable plots belonging to the troglodytes which were laid out in rows of terraces down to the stream.’
‘Hemp was, for a long period, the poor people’s fabric. In the valley, hemp was sown in May and gathered in August. The long stems were then beaten and soaked in the River Larçon to wash away the sticky substance biding the fibres in the leaves (“rouir”).
Winter evenings were spent on the “tellage”, separating the hemp fibres from the wood (chenevotte”). More beating resulted in “peloutons”, balls of fibrous material which in the spring was given to a travelling carder. His implement, with its sharp metal teeth, combed the impurities out of the peloutons and the fibres were graded according to their purpose. The highest quality were destined for shirts, smocks and aprons, the coarsest for corn or potato sacks. Women then span the hemp either with a spindle or a spinning wheel and would wash it before taking it to the village weaver.
Hessian cloth was sold at the local fair which was held on 7th May.’

Below are some of the images I took during my walk ~ just right-click on any photo to see a larger image.

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About Jim McNeill

I am a blogger on 'The Social History of the Touraine region of France (37)' and also 'The Colonial History of Pennsylvania and the life & Family of William Penn'. I am a Director of Fresh Ground Group Ltd.
This entry was posted in 18th Century, 19th Century Touraine, Cannabis and Hemp production, Ferrière Larçon, Hemp Weaving, Larcon, Le Brignon, Markets, Water Mills and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Ferrière Larçon ~ further history & views of this remarkable village in the South Touraine

  1. Hemp was a valuable commodity as fibre and seed and in Europe it was never developed as a THC hallucinogen as it was in the Middle East and North Africa, mainly because we did wines and beers but also because the resin producing flowers/buds dont come out well in our damp autumn – and after the harvest crucially.

    However, its medicinal properties due to the CBD content were valued and it is clear some plants were kept after the harvest for this purpose. There is a difference between the mind-altering and spiritual uses of high THC strains as used elsewhere and the more medicinal high CBD relaxant and endocrine toning medicinal properties. So hemp/cannabis flower (buds) extracts were part of the folklore and cottage industries in Europe to the extent that it would flower in the damp flowering season of october long after the plant was harvested for its more valuable fibres and seeds.

    I just spent a week at Ferriere Larcon. Was impressed by the Rue des Caves (i am a stonemason) and we visited Chatelier and met the cat hanging around the castle. What is happening with the Auberge? Becoming a home or being brought back into use?

    • Jim McNeill says:

      Hi…Thanks for the comments…most welcome & informative.
      The Auberge has been bought by a Parisian family and they are renovating it at weekends. It’s great when they are around as they have youngsters who liven up the hamlet.
      If you have any images of the area you’d like to see posted on my blog just let me know and I’ll oblige.
      Kind regards,

  2. Colin Dyson says:

    Nice post Jim, I was wondering do you think the hemp was smoked? assuming it is hallucinogenic. Also I think rotting off the sticky stuff would of stunk. What do you think?

    Best Regards Colin

    • Jim McNeill says:

      Hi Col
      Hemp has been growen in France for well over 2,000 years and hemp extract was used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments from epilepticy to rheumatoid arthritis. The, subsidised, production of hemp still continues in Central France and the current variety has the following properties: THC Content (Psychoactive ingredient): 0.05-0.145%. This seems pretty low to me – but then I’m a non-smoker – I know that Russia and other industrial hemp producers have activly reduced the THC levels of their crops. Any thoughts? Of course the variety(ies) grown in the 18-19th Centuries may well have had a higher THC content and varieties produced on site for just that purpose. Were such plants sold at the annual market? Did the visiting corder buy and sell on such plants?
      I wrote an earlier blog on C15th hemp production at Chinon at https://jimmcneill.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/33/ . There’s more info on present day hemp growing in the region at http://eap.mcgill.ca/MagRack/SF/Fall%2094%20K.htm
      As to the smell and the gunge in the river….perhaps the folk of Ferrier Larcon would be the best to ask abouit this. I may well do that on one of my visits to the village.

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