An old farmhouse is located on the edge of the forest, just off the road that leads to the Church of Notre Dame de la Gorge. Still occupied at the beginning of the XXth century, it remains intact today (particularly with regard to its interior layout) – an excellent opportunity for visitors to discover housing conditions three centuries ago! One of the features of this farmhouse,(not necessarily present in other parts of the Alps) is the cohabitation of men and animals. This building housed people, animals and hay under the same roof.
Ready for a trip back in time? Then go ahead and enter…
ON THE GROUND FLOOR:
The door once served as access to both people and animals and led to the entrance. To the right was the best room in the house (because of its south facing exposition). It was reserved for the family mule or mare! Straight on a door leads to the cowshed, a large room that housed both animals and men, separated by the manure channel. The men slept on the right side of the room, near the two windows, and the cows on the left by their mangers. The other animals ( sheep, young heifers, chickens and pigs) lived at the back of the cowshed where the hay was dropped from the hay barn above. To the left a door led through to the kitchen. This room had no windows but a large fireplace provided heat and light.
Two doors located at the back of the kitchen, on the north side, gave access to the larder (where the cheese, bread and potatoes were kept) and to the back bedroom (often used as a storeroom because it was too cold for people). Adjacent to the kitchen, on the west side, was the cellar. On the south side, the door to the left led back to the entrance via a corridor and the door to the right led to a room where parents and children slept. Two beds and a bench on which to place the baby’s cradle were the only pieces of furniture in this room.
ON THE FIRST FLOOR:
A staircase gave access from the entrance to the hay barn above. There were however two independent rooms within the hay barn: a storeroom for tools and a bedroom (known as the top room) where more affluent families sometimes housed a “valet” or a farmhand.
The outbuildings were totally separate from the main building.
The wood shelter: located to the west, near the forest.
The milk cellar: a small shelter located in front of the entrance. A clever spring water pumping mechanism enabled to keep the milk cool and regularly extract the cream!
The toilets: recently demolished, were located at the rear of the house.
The bread oven: overgrown with vegetation, is due to be cleared and restored.
My thanks to the owners of the house, the Bessat family. They not only allowed us to visit the house, they also patiently explained how their elders lived.
My thanks also to Gerald Mattel for his availability, his professionalism and his photographs which I hope will enable you to understand a little more.
Finally a special thank you to Hubert Bessat (sadly posthumous) without whom this modest article could not have been written.
Want to play a game?
The names of the rooms and outbuildings visited are listed below. On the left in english: 1-14. On the right in local dialect: a) – n). Perhaps you have already seen some of these words on the frontage of a house, restaurant or nightclub in the region! Try and link them correctly.
1) Entrance hall a) La cressoua
2) Kitchen b) Le sarto
3) Bedroom c) L’étrablo
4) Fireplace d) le beu
5) Barn e) la borna
6) Stairs f) la kouzna
7) Cellar g) la cortna
8) Larder h) le peille
9) Stables i) les boutiquins
10) Cowshed j) le fredzé
11) Wood store k) le sollier
12) Toilettes l) la cava
13) Milk cellar m) le dègneux
14) Hay barn n) l’égra