Friday, 5 September 2014

Laundry and the lavoir at Massignac.

The view of Massignac taken from Lac Mas Chaban, a giant artificial lake just down the road.  For posts on Massignac see HERE and HERE.  Not sure why I missed out the lavoir when I posted these!

Lavoirs in France were first constructed around 1870. Before that, the village ladies had to go to the river (if there was one) or find a local spring or pond where they could wash their clothes. The process was aided by the use of large stones and timber frames. They were women's territory! Here, information and news were circulated; reputations were made and unmade and arguments were sometimes settled by fights with wooden clothes beaters, with the losing participant usually ending up in the water!

 A close up of the wash boards. See two on the side of the lavoir and two hung up on a roof beam. I wonder how long the clothes used to last with this scrubbing!

Piped water supply to the lavoir.

I would guess this bench is placed here in memory of one of the local people who was associated in some way with this lavoir. Perhaps in later life he used to sit and contemplate in this quiet, peaceful and pretty spot?

I should have taken a separate close up of the plaque on the bench, but only when I went through the photos did I realise my mistake! This is an electronic enlargement! Francois would have lived 83 years, through a great deal of the 20th century and all the change that brought!

At the back of the church garden.

There is a framed display hung under the lavoir's roof, informing visitors of stories and anecdotes of life at that time. The shots above and below, from September 2001, show local ladies re-creating the scene.

According to one anecdote, laundry washing at "grand houses", which possessed a lot of linen, was done twice a year, in spring and autumn  and the process wasn't a small affair! The calendar and state of the moon were taken into account and some luck was needed for drying! 

The washing procedure (called the  Budjedo) took place over two days and I'm summarising the French description of quite a complex process! I'd be glad to know if you have heard of this  activity! In the early morning of the first day, the "couleuse" (a woman skilled in this type of washing) arrived to supervise. Water was heated, over a wood fire, in a giant clay pot (a budjadier) with a cast iron overflow; a sack of wood ash being put in the bottom before the laundry was added to the very hot water. Cold water was added slowly to the pot all day while the laundry soaked. Water flowing from the overflow had always to be very hot, hence the skill required of adding wood to the fire as necessary to achieve this! 

Early on the second day, the ladies came to take their washing out of the budjadier, transporting it home in wheelbarrows reserved for the process (see photo!). They washed the laundry again with Marseilles soap, using river or other clear water and rinsed and dried it. Thankfully, it's all much easier now!


My thanks to Nigel for translating the writing from the framed display, and for writing most of this post for me.   Also for the use of his computer as mine is completely dead at the moment.  If I am slow on answering comments please note that my computer has not yet been fixed!!  (If it can be fixed!)



23 comments:

  1. i had never seen a lavoir until finding your blog. i am fascinated by them.

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  2. Hello Diane,

    This is a most informative post. It is easy to imagine the scene you describe at the 'lavoir' and what would have been the daily rituals there. It all looks to be wonderfully well preserved, even to the descriptions and old photographs. It is good to see that the local people are keen to preserve this slice of history.

    And, what gossip there must have been except, perhaps in the depths of winter when the laundry business would surely have been completed in record time. As you say, one wonders how long the clothes would have lasted with the continuous rubbing, but, perhaps, clothes were not washed as frequently!

    We do so hope that normal service may resume with your computer before too long.

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  3. I actually remember my mother (in Southern Italy) taking a whole day to wash our laundry, using ashes to "bleach" the whites, and spending hours scrubbing and rinsing, and so the whole day was taken up with laundry details. If the weather was cooperative, and the laundry dried on the line in one day, the next day was devoted to mending and ironing. Imagine, two whole days to get the laundry done.

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  4. Hi Diane .. sorry about the computer - on the other hand having a willing helper is always mighty useful!

    Love the story about the Laundry and Lavoir ... washing used to be hard work didn't it .. didn't the wood ash release something that eased out the dirt?! I cannot think what ..

    When I go back to Killerton, National Trust house in Devon, they had post cards of drying racks and there was reference to washing facilities ... but we didn't have enough time to linger and ask questions ... I shall endeavour to find out ..

    I am so glad for the washing machine and dishwasher .. love your photos and the wash day info .. cheers Hilary

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  5. What an interesting post, and well done Nigel for doing the translation. Makes me sooooo glad that I don't have to wash my clothes in the nearby River Adour!

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  6. What a pretty setting to do the laundry. I imagine lots of stories and gossip were shared on those benches. I can't imagine the drudgery that was involved to clean your clothes in those days. At least they had that wonderful Marseilles soap. Thank goodness we don't have to go down to the river anymore or push wheelbarrows :)
    Sam

    Have a lovely weekend Diane. I've missed you.
    Sam

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  7. What a great post, and I just love the photos. So sorry to hear about your computer issues, and I hope they will be resolved shortly. Thank you so much for sharing this, it brings me back to simpler times, and I love to reminisce.

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  8. Looks like it would make a nice swimming pool also. Sure glad we don't have to do laundry like that today. I'm bad enough about getting it done in the machine. Sure hope your computer can be repaired. And thanks Nigel for sharing this.

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  9. The photos are very nice and showing the way of life brings all into focus of how nice it is to be able to wash things more than twice a year. We truly are blessed.
    Catherine

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  10. Hi Diane. This lavoir is so pretty. We saw it on a bike ride around the lakes at Massignac. I have a photo of me pretending to do the washing using the old wash boards x

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  11. I still remember those laundry washing places on Lisbon's outskirts. They all should be preserved.

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  12. I remember when you visited another lavoir! It makes me very thankful for my automatic machines. Thanks to Nigel for his translation services!

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  13. hi diana, interestingf to know about the washing house and a little history about it. just wondering why they put the scrubbing boards on the roof beam? as decor?

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  14. This is so interesting! Sorry to hear about your computer, maybe you need a new one?

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  15. Hi Diane. I loved visiting some of the 'lavoirs' in France, especially on the river in Chartres. Thanks for the delicious photos that accompany your post. (I keep losing touch with you, so I have added you to my blogroll!) That should mean I'll remember to visit more often.

    Your blog is looking so good.

    Denise

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  16. I had to buy a new computer recently. The old one was so slow and not handling some programmes. It was also out of date after only 5 years. If that!. Interesting post about the laundry system. Wouldn't those ladies be astounded seeing how we wash today?

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  17. Nice and interesting posting:)

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  18. I have see old lavoir in our travels both in France and in Italy. All I can say is, we've come a long way. I can't imagine how hard those two days must have been. Thanks for sharing such an interesting post. Karen

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  19. I think the lavoirs are fascinating places. Of course, many are restored and looked after these days but I have come across a few that have seen better days and they're just as fascinating. One thing that I've never seen is anyone washing clothes in one of them, although I knew someone who claimed to have used them when travelling in France as an impecunious student.

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  20. Very interesting post. It is a lovely outdoor room and much more pleasant that today's laundry that is done in solitary.

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  21. I love the idea of the woodash in the pot. Did that loosen the dirt I wonder? Interesting too that the soap washing was elsewhere. What a lot of effort to do laundry. No wonder they didn't do it terribly often!

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  22. Interesting info on the Lavoir. When I was very young, we also use the wooden wash boards placed in big metal basins to wash our clothes. That was good exercise, scrubbing and washing the clothes. Back then, the clothes were made from more lasting materials. I am following you now and I am inviting you to follow me too. Thank you.

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