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.