Saturday 29 January 2011

Cassini and our 'Lieu Dit'

ruin which is next to our chemin
We live just about 1.2 km outside of the village of Charnizay proper in what is called a 'lieu dit' (literally 'a place called') which is as small as you can get. Next up would be a 'hameau' and the next up from that a 'village'. The sun was out so we decided to have a nose around the ruins, being careful not to step on the daffodils which were beginning to show here and there.

house which has fireplace
Originally our lieu dit had a number of houses--all, except ours and the neighbours are now ruinous and almost completely reclaimed by the woods. As some buildings will have been barns or out buildings it is hard to say how many houses there were exactly; but we think there were at least another 2. One of the ruins has a bread oven (more modern brick-work than ours) so it could be part of a house; certainly the windows which still have some of their frames would suggest so. Another of the ruins still has its fireplace and also has the remains of window frames, in fact there's even some glass still hanging in there for grim death.

window frames still in evidence
We know from the maire that up until the 1960's all the houses were lived in. He remembers it as it was. Evidently there were a number of families and quite a few children. There is a communal well which we've mentioned previously and the houses are roughly scattered around it.

What we'd really like to know is how old the lieu dit, and specifically, our house is. We know we'll never get an exact date but a ball park idea would be nice. We thought we might be able to go a bit further back using old maps.

In the 18th century four generations of the Cassini family set out to map the country of France. They did so with great accuracy and throughness; taking full advantage of improvements in astronomy and used triangulation for accuracy. As they travelled around the country they often encountered deep suspicion and even hostility.

At the iGN website (use this link) there is a bit of general information on the Cassinis and you can click on Cassini maps link at the bottom of the page. This takes you to GeoPortal where you can type in your address. You are then presented with 3 maps each over laying the other. Top is the original Cassini, next is the iGN's (French equivalent of Ordinancy Survey) and third is an ariel photograph. You can vary the opacity of each so that they work as transparancies. What is so impressive is that the mid 18th century Cassini map is pretty much bang on when compared to the modern iGN map. The originals of these maps are in the Bibliotheque National in Paris.

Tinka 'exploring' the un-used well
To our delight our lieu dit was clearly marked so that takes back to around 1750; another 65 years earlier than the grafitti near the barn (see a previous post).

If you are interested Graham Robb's book "The discovery of France" is a good read and tells the story of early cartographers in France.


GaynorB said...

Fascinating and no doubt your research will turn up some interesting information. You should both have a 'head start' in the field of historical research!
I look forward to reading more about your discoveries.....

Jean said...

We have a copy of "The discovery of France" and Nick has read it - he found it fascinating and now that you have reminded me I will fish it out and read it too.
It's sad that there are so many unloved and unwanted properties in France. As you say, only 50 years ago there were several families in your lieu dit so one wonders what happened in the years in between to cause them to abandon the place.

Niall & Antoinette said...

Jean-- Robb has written another book called 'Parisians'. Each chapter is about an event in Parisian history. Also a great read.
We've been told that the inhabitants of one of the ruined houses moved to a modern house in the village; word on the other it's one of those endless heirs sagas. So while that remains unresolved things have quietly fallen into rack and ruin.

Susan said...

I'm going to write about researching the history of your house in the Touraine soon. We are very lucky with our archive service here.

Tim said...

It was great to see the Aigronne Valley so well defined.... and interesting to note the name changes, too!

Niall & Antoinette said...

The Cassini maps are impressive aren't they? Would love to see them for real one day; but not sure if they are on show to general public.