Châtellerault is a smallish town (about 30,000 people) in the Vienne department (part of the Poitou-Charentes region), 100 kilometres (62 miles) or so north of us. It's well situated on the river Vienne, very near to the A10 motorway linking Bordeaux and Paris. The high speed train line between these two cities also runs through here. We parked the car and the first thing we saw was this beautifully restored building, now apparently containing private apartments.
Lavish decoration, all done to a tight curve!
This stone plaque records the site of the Saint Catherine's gate, once an entrance into the town and through which passed the French heroine Joan of Arc in March 1429 during the 100 Years War. You will recall that Joan, a young lady of seventeen, was inspired by "voices" to raise a force to recapture the town of Orleans, held by the English. She successfully did this in May 1429 and went on to win a series of battles against them, including the capture of Reims, where Charles VII was crowned king of France in July 1429. In May 1430, Joan was captured and tried by the English as a heretic. They burnt her at the stake in 1431 in Rouen, but in 1920 she was raised to sainthood in recognition of her efforts and sacrifice for France.
Pont Henri IV. THE thing to see in the town, so the guidebooks say. The work was ordered by Catherine of Medici (queen of France, wife of King Henry II) in person, during quite a frenzy of such projects at the time and started in 1572 by Charles Androuet, whose brother built the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. This one is 144 metres long and 21 metres wide, but it took a looooong time to build! Androuet's son Rene took over the supervision in the last 5 years up to completion in 1611.
This second bridge nearby, is the bridge Camille de Hogues, built in 1900 and notable for being the first reinforced concrete bridge in France! Chimneys at the motor museum (see later) in the background.
Église St-Jacques is yet another church on the pilgrim route to Saint Jacques de Compostelle in Spain, featured in other blogs! It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, but the towers were added in the 19th century.
The beautiful roof vaulting inside.....
....and the stained glass windows.
But now to the main reason for our visit, the car and bike museum. These are only a very few of the photos I took, and if you are in the region, it is well worth a visit for a modest 5 euro entrance fee. The museum is large and there are loads of things to see. It is housed in a 19 century former armaments factory, which is eye-catching in itself, but in 1970 the space was provided for the motor museum. These two beautiful and shapely brick chimneys below form part of it and can be seen from a long way off. A masterclass in brickwork!
Below is a very small selection of those which caught my eye! I've tried not to be too technical, limiting myself to the brief descriptions on the signs in front of each exhibit.
Draisiaenne - A replica of a German design of 1820, pioneered by Baron Drais. It allowed the rider to be "seated" and the front wheel to be steered. They excited great curiosity and amusement in the public who saw them on the streets of Paris and London!
Tricycle from 1889 offering more comfort, technical design advances and manoeuvrability than available with the bicycle of the time
Werner from 1903. The 2,5 hp 4 stroke engine was started by the cyclist pedalling. it could attain 35 -45 kph. Note: 100 kph is 62 miles per hour! It won at least 2 long distance races in 1901; Paris - Bordeaux and Paris - Berlin but the marque disappeared in 1906, when regulations were changed.
Panhard - Levassor. State of the art in 1890! One of the first models with a petrol engine. Similar to the car which Levassor drove non-stop in 1895 for 48 hours and 48 minutes! Brave man!
1906 Brouhot. Four cylinder engine with maximum speed of 60-80 kph. This car was rebuilt from pieces in 1969 and is the only known surviving example.
The Darmont from 1929, developed under licence from the English company Morgan, who had started with 3 wheeled cars in 1908. This French version has an 1100cc engine powering the car to a very respectable 150 kph!
Longchamp was an engineer who built chassis and bodywork for speed recordbreaking competition cars. The engines were ordered from other specialists. This car is from 1953 and doesn't look out of place today!
1939 Peugeot 402B , although the 402 model first appeared in 1935. A 2100cc engine gave it a top speed of 135 kph. Production was stopped in 1939 with the start of World War 2.
Teilhol electric car, with Paris registration, from 1972! Useful for parking where there isn't much space. Powered by batteries to maximum speed of 75 kph. Weighing 500 kg, it could be driven for 75 km before recharging was required.
The world famous English marque, a BSA, with sidecar from 1918. Only 4.5 horsepower! Birmingham Small Arms Company (hence BSA) manufactured rifles in the 19th century but later turned to motorcycles. The sidecar was relatively modern for its era; shaped metal panels on a wood frame.
Just a glimpse of the host of interesting exhibits following the evolution of personal transport from the wooden bike to the more familiar machines of today!
Thanks to Nigel once again for all his research and writing the article to go with my photos.