Recently I have been corresponding by letter with our neighbour. Yes, I actually write letters and put them in her letterbox. It started because of one of the archaeologic finds in our garden here in France.
We found this very large stone ball in our archaeological Big Dig 1, Side B. One of our most amazing finds thus far. In researching, we think it could be, or at least hope it is, a Trebuchet Ball used in medieval catapults.
Of course, it is also possible it is simply an old garden ornament. But since we have a 12th century Chateau in our village, we are going to stick with the ancient ammunition theory. It’s far more exciting.
Most of the finds from our garden are old glass bottles. More often bits of old glass when they haven’t been able to remain whole. Also marbles. Personally this is one of my favourite things to find. They are hand blown and I love looking at the air bubbles trapped within.
And then there is the odd rusty nail. Well, lots of rusty bits of all sorts of things actually. Most are beyond re-use, but some of them retain their blacksmith origins well. (And have been added to our shop, with the other finds.)
The more we unearth, the more and more curious about the history of our house we become. And slowly now we are trying to piece together its story.
Our house was very obviously once part of a much larger and grand property. We share a cobbled courtyard with our neighbour. Also our and her barn extends across the width of both our properties. It was divided only recently on the ground floor with cement blocks and bricks.
Our neighbours house is the grander in facade, with larger and more windows. Whilst ours is narrow and long. What was typical in France was houses in towns and villages having their business next door. Sometimes referred to as ‘ateliers’, particularly if they were a workshop. In practicality they could be anything from a shop front to storage.
These days most of those ‘ateliers’ have been turned into houses in their own rights. And ours is one of them. But inside and out there are still signs of their connected past. If you look at an old village street in France you can often see by the roofline the shared properties. There was generally a separate door to the shop/workshop. Also smaller windows or a shop style window.
Our neighbour is in her 80s, so I was hopeful she would have some knowledge of our shared history. Even if only to confirm our suspicions. I wrote to her for two reasons. Well, three maybe. Like many people of her generation, her hand writing is beautiful. So a chance to see it is always a treasure.
Add in that my ability in spoken French is not (yet) up to understanding all the nuisances of historic vocabulary. So it is much easier to write down my questions to be, hopefully, better understood. And in return, I get a piece of ‘written’ history that I can save and refer back to.
As it turned out, our neighbour was not native to our village. I am not certain when she moved in, but it had to be in the latter part of the 20th century I think. She was able to confirm that the houses and garden were in fact once one. That a Mine Engineer had owned the property and that sometime in the 1900s the house was divided and given to his son and daughter. She has the daughter’s half, whilst we have the son’s side.
Interestingly, the son was a vigneron, a wine maker. It seems very apropos that we have bought his half since Mr P is a winemaker. And in fact, the man we bought it from (who was 94 when we did) was a vigneron and we know he was given the property. So though not proof positive as yet, we are assuming that he was the son.
The pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming in to place, and as we continue to dig into it history and unearth more archaeological finds, we are certain to piece together more of it.
The Ducks always love to help me in digging up our garden. Though I think for them there is less excitement about glass bottles and rusty nails then there is about worms. Go figure.
Our Archeological Finds in our Shop
Our Restoration Wish List
If you are particularly interested in our restoration work, we have set up a Wish List on Amazon of items we must buy to help us restore our old house and garden. If you wish to help with any of these (anonymously or not), you can purchase and they will be sent direct to us.
It is through Amazon.fr (eg. fr = France) so don’t be surprised if the information is in French. C’est la vie / Such is life. But it means the item can be shipped from within France.
Amazon works the same no matter which countries version you go to. You log in the same, review the same, purchase the same – just with different looking words. (So, also a chance to practice your French?) Good luck! Bonne chance et Merci!