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"And yet, as the extract of the Register of Grievances describes it with relish: 

"… Trails are still deplorable! … and losses which the borough sustain due to the bad condition of the trails are more important than what is imagined. Grains of all species and edibles, building and fire woods, raw materials necessary to the fabrics manufacture, to arts and trades, and other imported products, are more expensive when transport is more expensive.

Trails are impassable during long and hard winters. The subsoil waters which spout out at mid-hillside form ices which spread all over their surface. We saw that during the winter of 1786, after five or six days of frost, a cart without any load, harnessed to four good horses which could not go uphill the way of Vimoutiers to Orbec, had to retrogress after three hours of efforts to cover a distance of perhaps ten "toises" (twenty meters). The difficulties with export are particularly prejudicial to fabrics, because these difficulties repel the foreigners who would come and make the purchase in the very place of manufacture, which is favorable to the seller. He proposes the sale with confidence, and always concludes it profitably. ... ►►



 ... It is considerably different when, thirty or forty "lieues" from home and laden with goods that he must sell, he depends upon the buyer and is obliged to sell at a loss. When the fabric is sold on the place of its manufacture, the purchaser who came to buy it does not return without having done it, so if he has paid it a high price, this increment value is reported to the consumer.

When, on the contrary, the fabric is sold on a distant spot, the salesman who did not make in vain the expenses of the trip, does not return without having sold it and if he does it at a loss, he reports the depreciation on the weaver, the spinner.


These comments are not metaphysics, and prove how much it would be desirable for the whole canton, that the accesses of Vimoutiers be passable, how much it would be profitable for all the fabric manufactures which are the resource and the life of the inhabitants.
If these ways were repaired and maintained in good condition, Vimoutiers would not be the only place to benefit : the parishes of its district would also find an advantage by transporting their cider, brandies, butter and cheeses, their only export trade, etc ..."




Manufacturing the canvas of Vimoutiers


Harvest of the flax


The bleacheries 

These large tanks in Vimoutiers

were used to bleach the fabrics


Drying and bleaching on meadows


La Gosselinaie, maison Laniel



In 1806, takes place the foundation of the Laniel Fontaine House, laundry in La Gosselinaie, close to Vimoutiers which now counts 3300 inhabitants.
In 1806 and 1819, the reputation of the "Fabrics of Vimoutiers" is confirmed by their success at the Exhibition of the Products of French Industry in Paris.

In 1820, the village takes the name of "town" and for the occasion, a few streets are paved, but it is with the arrival of Stanislas Gigon Labertrie, mayor from 1830, that finally, suitable roads and bridges are built. Vimoutiers then counts 4200 inhabitants of which more than ten launderers. The annual average production is of 1500 pieces in this first half of the 19th century and, within a radius of five "lieues", this manufacture makes work 5000 weaving looms and about 20.000 workers. Textile reigns all over the area.


In the same economic field, from the end of the 18th century, the mechanization of the Textile Industry* is finalized in England whereas France opposes a great resistance to the industrial evolution, and the Franco-English conflict reaches its paroxysm. England created the first a system of industrial patents and thus prohibits the export of its technologies up to 1825.


"In 1844, the three brothers Alexandre, Alphonse and Eugene Laniel, feeling the upcoming  crisis and presurmising the ineluctable future of the mechanical weaving, send one of them to England, in order to study the question. The messenger returns enthused by what he saw. He persuades his brothers to buy a factory close to the railroad. They find in Beuvilliers, near Lisieux, what they need and there, settle the first mechanical weaving of the West area"JB

This weaving which rises fast, supplies the laundry of La Gosselinaie, artisanal workshop of which they take the succession and which they transform into a factory of bleaching in 1849. The factory of Beuvillers starts with 99 weaving looms and the laundry of La Gosselinaie extends quicky from 5 to 40 hectares.


Then Vimoutiers has still a large industrial importance but according to a speech of Doctor Delaporte in 1853 :

"The main commercial branch of the town and the rural population of the "canton of Vimoutiers" belongs to the manufacture of canvas fabrics known as cretonnes. But even if our production has become very important regarding the quantity of products, due to the use of the flying shuttles and the continuous rolling, of which Sieur Trosley Mathieu, one of our fellow citizens, is the inventor,  we have to admit that the linen industry has not progressed in weaving ..."

 * The Industrial Revolution




In 1860, England benefits the Free Trade Treaty to flood the French market with their production, this competition added to Belgian imports, the French industry must face the sudden shock of the foreign competition in the difficult context of the scarcity of  flax and  food shortage of cotton. For a time, productions decrease by almost half.

At the World Fair of 1867, Eugène Laniel is decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor for his fabrics ...

The same 1867 year, nearly 5000 weavers are listed in the area and C. Gauthier, in his book relating the various aspects of the geography of the department of Orne, presents Vimoutiers as one of the two most important manufacturing centers in the department, equaling Alençon.

He writes : "It is there  that are manufactured the beautiful fabrics known as cretonnes, of the name of Paul Creton born in Vimoutiers and who was the inventor".


In 1870, there are no more looms and Vimoutiers is no longer a true industrial centre, but the famous name of "Fabric of Vimoutiers" is reserved for the Laniel fabrics which obtained the monopoly by several judgments, preserving it thus from the public domain.

The factory of Beuvillers is in full rise as well as the laundry of La Gosselinaie which maintains the prosperity to Vimoutiers : "initially because after having adopted the mechanical weaving loom, the Laniel factory could modify it to preserve the smoothness of the grain obtained from the manual weaving loom, and furthermore because they went on practising the bleaching on our meadows."JC/MC


The Laniel factory will resist the two WW and will count up to 300 workmen and 250 weaving looms at the beginning of the XXth century.
However in 1953, it will close its doors
whereas the Laniel family is at a political apogee, one of them, Joseph Laniel born in Vimoutiers, is actually President of the Council of Ministers. The closing of this factory marks the end of the textil industry in the area.


The regulation of 1738 having been removed, nowadays, the word of "cretonne" is misused for fabrics of flax and even very often of cotton. However, it still emanates from it a concept of solidity mingled to refinement.

World's Fair

Joseph Laniel, politician



Manufacturing the Canvas of Vimoutiers




Weaving room 



Laniel factory in Beuvillers






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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