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Genuine Cretonne

Origin Vimoutiers

18th century


"We think that our peasants started weaving hemp fabrics in the XVIth century. Agricultural works did not occupy them all year long and this new occupation helped them live better ...

However, our campaigns produced neither hemp, nor flax. It was necessary to go to Maine, Flanders, Brittany to get these raw materials... But we had no suitable trails around Vimoutiers.

With our ground where so numerous sources fuse, with our ravines and our small valleys, the slopes were hard, our perpetual muds and deep ruts made these ways impassable ... whilst horse, beasts of burden or donkey pulled carriages had to transport the loads.

Can one imagine the work it was to go and seek thus the threads which then had to be distributed to peasants distant from Vimoutiers? ... It is greatly to their credit that Vimoutiotes  succeeded in such an enterprise."JB*...:



"Le cretonne merchant"

 Museum of Orbec



... : From 1600 onwards, Vimoutiers and surrounding areas took importance from the Fabrics industry. In 1640, a weaver of Vimoutiers, Paul CRETON, invents a new fabric made of hemp and flax initially, then made of pure flax : the "cretonne", of which the combination is such that the chain being larger than the weft, the fabric presents a pearly grain. It obviously combines beauty, luxury and quality...

In 1700, another inhabitant of the area, Pierre AUBERT, invents a weaving loom especially for flax. Local industry is in full development ... Two launderers use the river of the village. But neither hemp nor flax are grown and coaches still cannot travel without any trouble. The fabrics made by peasants of a hundred surrounding parishes are brought to Vimoutiers, sold there to merchants who then bring them to Lisieux in order to have them marked. Vimoutiers enumerates 565 fires, that is to say about 2000 inhabitants.






Culture of flax in Flanders



Paul Creton Street in Vimoutiers






Spinners at the distaff and

the spinning wheel,

winder to make the spools of threads,

and the "ball winder" !







In 1729, Vimoutiers obtained the right to mark/stamp its fabrics.

"Comes then to Vimonasterian traders, the idea that our borough should have a diligence to reach the main roads. But it meant to brave the hillsides of  la Hunière, la Bergerie or the trail of Livarot. They try to carry out their project and a first transport attempts vainly to link Vimoutiers to Bernay. An inhabitant, Mr Vicaire, tries to organize another one from Vimoutiers to Lisieux, but he must give up, considering the bad state of the trails"JB...

However Vimoutiers suffers from difficult supplies whereas Bernay and Orbec produce flax at much better cost for the town of Lisieux. And although Nicolas Lecoq opened in Vimoutiers a store supplied twice the week in flax which he finds in Lisieux, it is not sufficient.

..."The idea comes to Mr Billon to go and seek flax by stage-coach in Flanders. But he does not dare to launch out in this adventure : he fears the state of these ways which made Vicaire  miscarry on a much shorter course. And then maps are scarce, not very precise. At this time arrives to the borough the providential man : Mr Rosey, who returns from America ... yes, from America ! ... It is difficult to imagine now what that represented then. Billon talks to him about his project. Rosey decides to try the adventure with him. They leave both and the inhabitants await them in the fever...

What a triumph on their return ! What a welcome when their five horses pulled stage-coach, charged with flax, descends the slope of La Bergerie !" B/AP/JB

Their example is soon followed. The flax being supplied, if not at better cost at least in necessary quantity, stores prosper.

"Thence everywhere in our borough and campaigns, one could see grandmothers distaff in hand and the foot on the pedal of the spinning wheel, young girls and boys busy with the reel or making blades. One could hear the rotation of the warping frame and the sound of the shuttle activated by the father or the mother ... Thus everyone works under the same roof with family... "sic AP

From now on, the fabrics of Vimoutiers are either sold in the Halle or brought directly to Paris.

From 1780, Sainte-Anne, patroness of the textile merchants, is celebrated. It is a great festival, one sings, one dances and poor or rich, everyone takes part in it. In the 1780's, it is nearly 6000 pieces which are sold annually on the place of Paris and as an example, in 1789, more than 4.000 pieces are exhibited in the Halle of Vimoutiers.

  Pictures of Vimoutiers in a "basin"





Sources:*translated from JB/B/AP/CG/JC/MC/AB : Jean Bard, Brion, A.Pernelle,C.Gautier, J.Chennebois, M.Campion, Alfred Bell

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