ROCHEFORT (PART III)
ROCHEFORT: A DETAILED DISCUSSION OF PLANS:
In the preceding part (Part II) we have tried to understand the relationship of the Corderie, the 'ville royale,' and the Northern part of the 'ville bourgeoise,' paying special attention to the development of what may have in fact become a working class neighborhood, close to the foundry works and the Northern harbor basin.
In this part of our study we shall look at similar aspects
- if they can be identified, with regard to the Southern section of Rochefort,
including the arsenal proper and adjacent terrains.
But before we turn to possible zones of working class housing, we will again quickly look at the entirety of the Southern 'ville bourgeoise,' moving from plan to plan and briefly commenting on aspects that seem to deserve attention,
The above plan is again (because we have to keep it in mind) the original planning proposal of 1666.(1) But of course we need a close-up.
The following excerpt from the 1666 plan has been
colored only slightly. We have accentuated the powder magazine that has
been emphasized in the plan. (It is surrounded on its Eastside and Northern
side by a fairly large square.)
The grid is visible but still not clearly.
Southern part of the grid-patterned layout, as planned (plan of
The following excerpt is easier to read. The streets have been colored slightly. The same is true of the trees of the dual East-West axis from the new château to the Western gate. The powder magazine is emphasized by stark red. A house (perhaps a pre-existing farm building?) is visible at a planned street corner a few blocks to the West of the powder magazine. Lonlas has entered into the plan the new château (the encircled black building, indicated by a (1)).
The strong prominence of the rows of trees lining the streets running westward from the new château cannot be cherished enough. By accentuating them in this way, Lonlas has given us a fine impression of the importance of the Southern town's main axis - a dual East-West (or should we rather say, West-East) axis, leading to the Western ramparts and obviously, a city gate.(2)
The backbone of the 'ville bourgeoise': two tree-studded streets 20 meters wide
Lonlas writes about these main streets of the 'ville bourgeoise',
"Two major streets (today the Avenue de Gaulle and the Avenue Lafayette), 20 meters wide, are 'doubled' by two other ones (today the rue Cochon-Duvivier and the Rue Grimaux) that are 14 meters wide. They take up the [old] axis from the hôtel de Cheusses [the new château produced after the old one was razed 40 years ago] to the church [of the parish Notre-Dame, outside the city-walls]" (3)
It is Lonlas who also points out the creation of three squares, not isolated [or cut off ("coupée")], as they would have been in the Middle Ages, but lined by roads." (4) One of them is surely the square West of the new château. We shall identify further rectangular greens on later plans but in fact do not find any additional 'modern' square on the 1666 plan. (The quare surrounding the powder magazine is exactly what Lonlas says the three squares were not: "cut-of" (coupée) or at least, partially cut-of from the 'ville bourgeoise." And rightly so, in view of the function of the building it did surround.)
The 1666 plan excerpt under scrutiny also lets us recognize the departure from the rectangular grid immediately North of the new château that was foreseen by the original planning proposal. The block next to Northern side of the château thus becomes even smaller than it would have been anyway had the grid pattern been maintained here. The block accentuated by an encircled building (which was inserted into the plan by Lonlas and marked by him as number (2)) is of course also affected.
We note something else: There is a street leading from the new to the old château and further on, as we may presume, to the Corderie... It is integrated into the grid pattern and at the same time delimiting the Eastside of the Southern well-laid-out town.
However, there is not necessarily
a street East of the blocks situated between the powder magazine and the
new château. Here, the grid-patterned town seems to fade into a sort
of 'no-man's land,' or empty 'waste land.' (The same can be said of the
square surrounding the powder magazine. It has no clear Eastward delimitation
but merges with the Eastern terrain adjacent to it.)
* * *
Let us proceeed to what might be a depiction of the next
stage of development: the plan of 1672. In 1672, as we know,
not only the Corderie but the Southern half of the atelier buildings of
the arsenal proper had been completed.
Plan excerpt showing the Southern part of the grid-patterned layout
as of 1672. (Superimposed on
The details readable on the enlargement of the 1666 plan excerpt are not recognizably entered into this plan of 1672, or they have been blotted out when it was reworked and the built-up and empty blocks were indicated.
The two dark blots between the ditch or canal surrounding
the arsenal (which is situated towards the South) and the added figure
One (1) a little bit further North must not be mistaken
The pre-1677 plan also has to be considered, of course.
Comparing this plan with the previous one, let us briefly reflect on the changes that affect the Southern half of the grid-patterned town as a whole.
What do we note?
The course of the Southern ramparts
has changed since 1672. Instead of three rounded 'bastions', we now discover
four V-shaped ones. The 'art' or technical expertise, regarding fortifications
is reflected by these changes. But they do not have to interest us in our
context, except where they have repercussions on the way the town is being
planned and realized.
What we can say however is that
the blocks close to the Southern ramparts that were not rectangular in
1672 have changed their form and are rectangular now. The space between
them and the ramparts thus has been partly increased. A rectangular form
of the blocks affected of course the subdivision (lotissement; Parzellierung);
it would provide for more rational, i.e. rectangular building
The blocks most decidedly subject to change
have been emphasized by color in the left plan
The features of the pre-1677 plan have been entered into today's
Of the three large blocks in the Southwestern corner of the grid, situated to the West of the North-South axis that also touches the Western corner of the royal garden in the pre-1677 plan, one has been cut up into four small blocks. This would make, of course, for much smaller plots, to be given to less prominent and less affluent newcomers willing to build. Large building lots would require large houses which in turn would require more capital input, that is to say, wealthier builders.
The 2 blocks betweem Ave. Lafayette (N), Rue Ed. Grimaux (S),
Rue de la
Among the six blocks lined up in East-Westerly direction, along the Southside of the main East-West axis (an axis of two parallel, tree-studded roads, in fact), two have been cut up as well: by introducing a narrow alley, they have been effectually halfed. Here too, more modest houses were made possible in this way, especially on the sides of these blocks that did not touch upon the prominent E-W axis. If by this time parcels were sold rather than given away "for free" (as was the case, we are told, in the early phase when Rochefort's workers obtained 'lots' and 'construction wood'), this redrawing and shrinking of blocks must have reflected market pressures, anticipated or actual demand, that is. Obviously, a well-laid-out town could not exist only of large and exquisite townhouses, not even close to the major (representative, tree-studded) "dual axis" from the château to the Western gate.
If the grid pattern thus has been
modified quite a bit at some point between 1672 and 1677, many core characteristcs
have remained stable. Thus, with regard to the equally distanced North-South
streets, their distance has not been changed between 1672
and the situation on the later, pre-1677 plan.(5)
We can assess that because the 3 blocks just South of the royal garden
have not undergone any change but remained stable.
1672 pre 1677 today
These three plan exerpts are again reproduced
Several features of the pre-1677 plan have been entered into this early 21st C plan
In other words, it is the shortest
distance (via the Avenue Charles de Gaule or Avenue Lafayette) between
the Eastside of the new château and the North-South axis that is
touching the Westernmost tip of the jardin royal (in the pre-1677
plan) respectively forming the Western border of the jardin (in the 1672
plan) that has been kept stable.(6)
This distance is still made up of four blocks of equal width. And
therefore we can say that not only have the 4 main East-West streets of
the Southern 'ville-bourgeoise' mentioned by Lonlas remained in place.
But the 5 blocks which can be counted from the old chateau westwards to
the ramparts on the 1672 plan are still intact. If we now, in the pre-1677
plan, count one more block (6 instead of 5, counting from the old chateau
westwards to the ramparts, and 7 instead of 6 block, counting from the
block North of the powder magazine westwards to the ramparts, this is because
the Western ramparts have been moved West by one block.(7)
Otherwise, the grid is basically intact, except for the minor corrections
While the main East-West dual axis (Ave. Ch. de Gaulle; Ave Lafayette) is still in place and so is the minor East-West axis to the South (rue Grimaux) as well as the one to the North (rue Cóchon-Duvivier) of these two central streets, the two East-West streets closest to the Southern ramparts in the 1672 plans have changed their position in the pre-1677 plan.
This sketch shows the two east west streets
just North of the Southern ramparts
Small wonder if the course of the ramparts was modified, too. Or were there additional reasons for changing block sizes? Probably.
Several blocks South of the block
between the Rue Pierre Loti and the Rue de la République (that had
been split into 4 parts) were much larger in 1672 than they are a few years
later on the second (pre-1677) plan. Again, a diminuition of block
sizes in this area South of the central East-West dual-axis probably
amounted to nothing else than an adaptation to the market. Smaller blocks
meant smaller plots which in turn made for more modest houses with smaller
gardens in the rear. It affected, in all likelihood, the cost (if any)
of the acquisition of plots by private builders as well as construction
costs. The decrease in size of the blocks in question (Situated between
the Rue Edouard Grimaux and the Rue Emile Combes) meant of course
a shift of the Rue E. Combes to the North.
shift of the rue Emile Combes to the North in the pre-1677 plan
What is remarkable, however, is that this shift of the Rue Emile Combes to the North and the diminuition of block sizes between this street and the rue Grimaux was taken back again in the next plan (of 1677) and today's course of the rue Emile Combes is in fact that presaged by the plan of 1672. If the pre-1677 plan was not merely inaccurate, the transfer and transfer back of its location would indicate that few if any houses had been erected here in the years in question.
In the 1677 plan, the rue Emile Combes s again in the position
identified in thje 1672 plan.
(1) The rationality of the 1666 planning
proposal is, at first sight, striking.
(2) As mentioned already in one of the
earlier PARTS on ROCHEFORT, it is Maxime Lonlas who has instinctively emphasized
this axis in the 1672 plan. He does not speak, however, explicitly of a
He has inserted this unmistakable dual axis (Doppelachse) because,
prior to the foundation of the town in 1666, he finds here "a dual
row of elm trees leading to the parish of Notre-Dame" ("une double rangée
d'ormeaux qui mène à la paroisse Notre -Dame") and because
he, too, cannot overlook the fact that the chevalier de Clerville who drew
up the 1666 plan "retained the château, the axis which departs
from there in order to lead to the parish of Notre-Dame, [and] an arm of
the Charente which seved as ditch" ["le chevalier de Clerville ... retiendra
le château, l'axe qui en part pour aller à la paroisse Notre-Dame,
un bras de la Charente qui servira de fossé."(Cf. Maxime LONLAS,
"L'évolution de la ville d'un point de vue architecturale", in:
(3) "Deux grandes rues (aujourd'hui avenues de Gaulee et La Fayette) de 20 mètres de large, doublées de deux autres (aujoud'hui rues Cochon-Duvvier et Grimaux) de 14 mètres de large, reprenant l'axe de l'hôtel de Cheusses à l`´eglise." (M. LONLAS, "L'évolution de la ville d'un point de vue architecturale: 1666 et 1672", ibidem.) - As for the "parish of Notre Dame" at a later stage (i.e., in the 18th century), cf. Robert FONTAINE, La Paroisse Notre-Dame de Rochefort au XVIIIe siècle. Rochefort 1993
(4) "Trois places seront crées, non pas coupés comme elles l`étaient au moyen âge, mais bordées par des rues." Ibidem)
(5) Only the block on which the new château is situated as well as the blocks South and (by implication, North) of it depart from this rule of sticking to equal width of blocks in the Southern 'ville bourgeoise,' a 'rule' which holds true for all the plans from the 1672 plan to today's plan (despite very minor pssible alterations made, especially in the ramparts area?). -We must explain here, by the way, why we take the 1672 plan as a point of departure. For one thing, our copy of the planning proposal of 1666 is not very clearly readable. On the other hand, it is readable enough to show that two grid designs overlapped inconclusively in the area just West of the future jardin royal. And furthermore,.they tentatively overlapped also in the Southern town in so far as the East-West direction of the streets to the South of today's Avenue Lafayette corresponds with the orientation of the later grid pattern but does not exactly correspond with the kind of East-Westerly orientation chosen between the new and old château - which somehow interfered (as a small, separate grid) with the larger grid, radiating into areas West of it. Thus, in the 1666 planning proposal, the three blocks South of the jardin were not properly rectangular blocks, it seems. The later rue Cóchon Duvivier was not forming angles of 90 degrees with the streets it was crossing, as far as we can tell from our copy of the plan. We have eliminated any consideration of the changes made in this respect between 1666 and 1672 from our above discussion.
(6) In other words: From the Southeastern
entry point into the jardin (where the Rue Toufaire meets the Rue Audry
Puyravault) [the rue Toufaire is practically identical with
the the Westside of the newly inserted addition to the park (covering
the area of the old chateau)] to the Westernmost tip of the jardin
(intersection of Rue Audry Puyravault and Rue de la République)
, we get again three blocks in both plans.
(7) It is quite obvious that the difference
of blocks counted in an East-Westerly direction (6 as against seven in
the later plan) is due to a Westward expansion of the town's plat by one
(8) On one of the plans of the arsenal,
published by Antoine Bourit, this area is referred to as the "ancien quai
de commerce." (Antoine BOURIT, "[Rochefort], Domaine èconomique:
2) Arsenal", in: http://rochefortsurmer.free.fr/eco_arsenal_1666.php, p.
5 of 6) That is to say, it is put out of use. Another source notes that
the location of Rochefort, before 1666, comprised the razed and new château
as well as an old landing site (apparently of minor importance, and used
to ship local produce).
* * *
The area of the "ancien quai de commerce" (the pre-1666 "port") and adjacent terrains
Looking for workers' houses by the riverside
In the course of this brief study
on Rochefort we have repeatedly asked us where the considerable work force
needed to build the Corderie, the arsenal proper, and the town found accommodation.
We also asked where the work force of the diverse large, State-run works
(that is to say, the employees of the Corderie, the foundry works, and
the ateliers in the ditch-surrounded 'Arsenal proper') were housed.
In our opinion, they were certainly marginalized, socially, at any rate, and spacially (that is, in terms of the urbain space allotted to them), as well.
It is Antoine Bourit who supports this hypothesis at least partially, or to be exact, with regard to the initial phase of Rochefort's development. While the Corderie and the first installment of ateliers in the arsenal proper were being built, while the grid pattern as devised was put in practice and the first well-aligned houses were being produced, makeshift workers' huts seem to have been banned from all or most of the the grid-patterned area of this well-designed new town.
In keeping with the social and spatial
segregation that separated the kings's palace and garden as well as the
new town in Versailles (which was made for aristocrats and members of an
extremely wealthy haute bourgeoisie) from the thousands of workers
entrusted with the travaux publiques of a grand royal project, here
too only the most miserly accommodation was accorded the work force.
This is exactly what we would have
But where exactly would we have
to look for these 'bâtments collectifs' (that according to Bourit
where merely 'provisoires')?
What we know is that even in the early period, no workers' houses (provisional or not) are indicated on the terrain of the "arsenal proper." In fact, the ateliers, constructed or planned, would not have left much space for them. More importantly, the plans transmitted historically are so detailed in their depiction of certain buildings (the pre-1677 plan and the 1688 even detail the tree trunks and other construction wood stored in the "parc des bois" [Holzlagerplatz] of the arsenal) that it would be strange had they omitted workers's houses.
As for the workers of the arsenal proper, they had only one exit route from this well-guarded, ditch-surrounded work place: the bridge crossing the ditch or canal at its Northside.
And what do we find North of the
arsenal proper? Exactly: the former local port, referred to on one plan
as ancienne quai de commerce (out of use because ships anchored
in front of the arsenal proper and the Corderie and because, in addition,
new ships' basins were being built).
Obviously, the blocks of the
well-laid-out, grid-patterned town were too valuable to have them studded
with the wooden 'cabanes' of a working class population. Obviously the
design the authorities had in mind for this newly founded towen was part
'grand' and 'representative', befitting a 'ville royal,' part 'bourgeois'
and respectable, and of course, in this respect, adaptations to the facts
of life, realistic adjustments to their factual 'ability to pay' for fine
houses had to be made.
But here, in the swampy wasteland
close to the arsenal bridge, close to the previous 'landing site,' half
way between arsenal proper and Corderie, was in all likelihood the earliest
core of the 'proletarian Rochefort.' Its (early modern) 'proletaires'
housed, quite appropriately so, in casernes, just like the males
employed in Verviers woolen mills that found accommodation in the three
"casernes" of "les Grandes Rames" since about 1809-1810. Or the Fuerstenberg
manufactory workers who found accommodation in a "long row" of houses (Lange
Reihe) in the 18th century.
Among all the plans available to
us, it is the 1688 plan which most conclusively proves the existence of
'provisional structures' close to the river bank, in a site also well attainable
from the arsenal proper.(3)
In this enlargement, the buildings by
the Charente have been slightly redrawn
Looking at another plan that is preceding the 1688 plan, we again find buildings here, next to the bridge leading into the arsenal, and close to the river as well as the ditch surrounding the arsenal. The plan incorporating such information is the "pre-1677" plan.
pre-16777 (post-1672) plan
Three houses of considerable size are clearly identifiable in the terrain left otherwise fairly empty. They have been placed close to the site where the canal or ditch meets the Charente river
This plan very clearly shows three buildings put squarely on the 'wasteland' bordering on the old quai.(4)
What is astonishing though is that the subsequent 1677 plan omits all reference to buildings in this area.
Were the provisional houses taken down and built anew, in the manner shown on the 1688 plan? It would confirm the information regarding provisional buildings to put up the working class population by the riverside.
The former area between the 'arsenal proper', the grid-patterned town, and the Southern fringe of the Corderie. Various features of the plan drawn up in 1688 have been entered in today's plan. Blocks indicated as 'built-up or partly-built up' on Lonlas' version of the 1672 plan have been colored orange (other blocks are yellow)
If we look for further workers' houses near the river in the above 1688 plan excerpt, of course there are the buildings just South and immediately North of the Corderie that we have already suggested as possible workers' houses in the preceding part of this study on (Northern) Rochefort.
South of the C. North
of the C.
Of course, in the light of Antoine Bourit's information that collective buildings for workers were produced by the river bank, our hypothesis that these buildings were also 'casernes de ouvriers' gains added weight.
But the houses pointed out next to the Corderie were of course not provisional buildings but important structures executed in stone.
In contrast to the houses close to the former quai de commerce, the buildings North of the Corderie appear both on the plan of 1677 and of 1724.
The house close to the Southern tip of the Corderie does appear on the "pre-1677" plan but may or may not be lacking on the 1677 plan.(5) It is then shown on all subquent plans starting with the 1688 plan. (6)
Apart from suggesting a possible mistake in dating the "pre-1677" plan and the assumption of an inaccuracy of certain plans with regard to such details as individual (even though major) buildings, we can still offer yet another explanation: that here today, a provisional structure constructed rather early on was subsequently broken down and replaced by a more permanent one.
If we take note of the fact that
in the case of the building in question as shown on the "pre-1677"
plan, its Southern tip is closer to the wall of the jardin royal
than its Northern tip while it is the other way round with later depictions
of a building in "this" location, perhaps the third hypothesis reflects
the likeliest course of events.
The 'elongated building' on the Northside of the Eastern section of the rue Edouard Combes
But there is yet another 'candidate': the elongated building on the Rue Emile Combes, to be exact on the Northside of its Easternmost block. Its location is among the most perfectly attainable, with regard to the 'arsenal proper,' the rue Emile Combes leading practically up to the bridge.
The elongated building on the Rue Combes is
The site of the 'elongated building' shown in the 1688 plan is however fairly close to the château. Was this therefore not a 'caserne de ouvriers' but an important building destined for aristocratic use or use as an office and dwelling of important administrators? If the location as well as the situation as shown in the pre-1677 (post 1672) plan seem to support such a possibility, another fact (that we will soon point out) speaks against it, however.
Let us first look at the plans that speaks against the hypothesis of workers' housing:
The post-1672/pre-1677 plan shows
here practically the same long building aligned on the North side of the
Eastmost block of the Rue Emile Combes; but it is not standing by itself.
It is forming part of a larger complex of buildings.
While the pre-1677 plan shows an impressively large complex of
buildings on the block just South of the
The 1677 plan shows a much more
narrow building than the earlier plan, and the elongated building shown
is even longer than on the 1688 plan.In other words: While the pre-1677
plan shows an impressively large complex of buildings on the block just
South of the château, the situation looks very different only a few
years later (in 1677). But the situation keeps changing. Nothing is stable.
If the plans are accurate (which we must assume if we are to draw any conclusions
as to the kind of details here discussed), only one assumption can
explain this change: that ad hoc use was made of this bolock in the land
East of it, depending on urgent needs. One of the most urgent needs in
this early period was of course to provide accommodation for the vast work-force.
If our claim that workers' huts were not desired in the well-laid-out town
(and least of all in the parts crossed by wide representative streets),
then the choice of sites here identified becomes plausible.
For the sake of accuracy, we want
to point as well to the three parallel structures visible on the 1677 plan
only a few meters South of the narrow and long building under review.
However, the story of these provisional buildings does not end here.
As the 1724 plan shows, there is
a return, in concept, to what we saw on the pre-1677 plan: a larger, less
narrow compex of buildings has been realized by the end of the 1st quarter
of the 18th century, this time apparently more stable and in close connection
with the château. We would say that the pressing need to overcome
a shortage of workers' housing while avoiding large-scale settlement of
workers in the well-laid-out town has been overcome.
(A) Workers were housed, as the
historical documents tell us, near the river bank. The arsenal area was
an area of work. Accommodation was not provided on these terrains.
(B) Workers were housed, in all likelihood, in the neighborhood of the royal foundry works. (We have discussed this hypothesis in detail in the part dealing with the Northern section of Rochefort.)
(C) Workers may have also been housed
in other marginal sites of the town, most prominently on blocks bordering
on the powder magazine, and the block(s) near the Southwestern ramparts,
in the Southern town. We shall briefly look at these possibilities now
before turning to the (Western) faubourg.
The area close to the Gun Powder Magazine
Lets us now focus on the area close to the powder magazine.
As the 1666 plans informed us already,
the Southern part of the well-laid out town was meant from the beginning
to comprise as its earliest structure a large building right behind the
ramparts - the State-owned gun powder magazine (shown in pink /red on
the 1666 / 1672 plan excerpts)
The "pre-1677" plan gives us no information with regard to the expectable construction process in this area, except that the establishment of a 'caserne' for the military West of the powder magazine can be ascertained.
If we compare the "pre-1677" plan and the 1677 plan, we note that the Eastern alignment of the block North of the gun powder magazine (formed by the Rue Vaudreuil, the rue Emile Combes, the Rue Toufaire and the Rue des Mousses) has been changed. The course of the Rue des Mousses in 1677 departs from the grid pattern; the angeles are larger respectively smaller than 90 degrees and thus its course is now slightly slanted.
We do not know which details are featured immediately East of the Rue des Mousses, between this rue and the Arsenal ditch. But the change of course affecting the street and specific activities here may be related.
In the plan of 1724 (shown below),
the slanted course of the rue des Mousses has been preseved.
These small blocks are somewhat
irregular in shape; they relate to the grid but don't form truly
a part of it. Rather, they can be described as a fringe area.
On the 1845 plan, the three small
blocks identifiable in 1724 have been abandoned again. Were they too covered
by 'provisional' buildings?
In view of the expansion of these
iron works just East of the Rue des Mousses and the Rue de la Ferronerie,
a bourgeois character of the adjacent blocks was even more out of the question.
Today's grid pattern and features of the "pre-1677" plan (left)
and 1688 plan (right)
The Southeastern area close
to the ramparts
The 1672 plan excerpt showing the
Southwestern area close to the ramparts contains the information offered
by Lonlas with regard to blocks not covered by any buildings (turquoise
green) and at least partially covered by buildings (red).
We have discussed already (further above) the subdivision of what is the 3rd large, elongated block when counting Eastwards from the Western ramparts.It is now formed by four much smaller blocks.
We have also mentioned that the
Southern aligment of the three blocks in the Southwestern corner of the
town has been rectified. These are rectangular blocks now. That they were
not subject to any building process up to at least 1672 has been mentioned.
In other words, no housing for the subaltern classes was produced here
in the 1666-1672 period right beneath the ramparts.
The block in the Southeastern corner of the town, with a row of houses along today's Rue Thiers
In the 1677 plan, we see a decisive
change: the building process seems to have made considerable headway. If
Lonlas is to be believed, the overwhelming majority of plots on most
blocks in the Southern 'ville bourgeoise' has seen houses spring up. In
view of the fact that little more than a decade has passed since the planning
proposal was formulated as a drawn-up plan, this would be truly astounding.
Though we have some reservations, let's not dispute the assumption of Lonlas
The part of town under review, as shown on the plan of 1688. The row of houses is again pretty visible
Any such row of houses, close to
the ramparts, would qualify nowhere in Western Europe at the time as a
bourgeois neighborhood. We depart from the premise that these must be workers#
houses indeed. The transfer is beginning to be felt that will end up by
a relocation of Rochefort's work force from 'terrains malsains' close to
the Charente (in the Easternmost part of the town, its "wasteland" between
arsenal and Corderie [respectively the fringes of the Corderie, mentioned
above, as well])to the West, both inside and - above all - outside the
walls.We shall come back to that in some detail below.
The information of the row of houses referred to has been (very approximately) enterted into today's plan
We refrain from commenting
here on the plans of 1724 and 1845 as they do not add any information beside
the fact that over time, the area of the block in question was filled with
A similar neighborhood for the 'subaltern
classes' in all likelihood was produced on the triangular block to the
Southeast of the long row of houses just referred to, and on a small, four-cornered
adjacent block that is not rectangular, however. An even smaller, very
narrow block is added to its East on the plan of 1845. This neighborhood
is pretty close to the caserne shown on the 1688 plan that seems to have
'disappeared' by now. A square may have by now originated between the rather
small blocks we have commented on and the gun powder magazine. It may have
served as a market. Situated close to the ramparts, it would have to be
considered closer to 'medieval' designs than to modern ones, except for
its rectangular shapes. In other words, it is marginalized rather than
well-integrated in a (typically bourgeois) quarter in order to 'beautify'
it. Its purpose would therefore be functional trather than aestheric. in
keeping with the area as a whole (powder magazine, terrain of the former
military 'caserne', surmised workers' houses).
(1) As Antoine Bourit puts
it, "Colbert de Terron fit construire des bâtiments collectifs, provisoires
le long du fleuve pour y 'camper' la population." (Antoine BOURIT,
"[Rochefort] Domaine Économique. La ville nouvelle", in: http://rochefortsurmer.free.fr/eco_villenouvelle_1666.php,
p. 1 of 2) Bourit does not specifically speak of workers, just of "the
population" (which of course consisted initially above all of workers).
He does not elaborate on the significance of his information, nor does
he point out an exact location of these "collective dwellings."
(3)Any attempt to locate workers' houses
in this area has of course to face the question why it starts with the
1688 plan if there are earlier plans to look at.
(4) On the "pre-1677" plan we see the 'parc
des bois' at the Northeastern edge of the Arsenal which is also given on
the 1688 plan.The bridge is not indicated. On the other side of the ditch
or canal, to the North of it, a large empty terrain is visible South of
the well-laid-out toen.The powder magazine is visible to the West of the
forge. The adjacent blocks have not been occupied so far.
(5) We cannot read the 1677 clearly enough. The excerpt shown has been colored by us to emphasize what may be the building in question (just South of the Corderie). But was a building shown here, or rather a stretch of road that we mistakenly colored?
(6) Do we have to revise our assumption that the undated 17th century plan was drawn up later than 1672 but earlier than 1677? - We came to this conclusion because the 1677 plan was showing features not included in the "pre-1677 plan" but included in the 1688 plan. No matter how we approach these observations, we will be stuck with a problem.
(7) Alain DURAND, Les anciens noms de rues
de Rochefort. Rochefort (A.R.C.E.F.; Soc. de géogr. de R.) 1995;
cf. also Robert ALLARY, Histoire des rues de ma ville: Rochefort (Charente-Maritime).
n.p.[Rochefort] 1977. [We also want to point out here the publication
edited by the A.R.C.E.F., Une rue de la ville maritime au XIXe siècle,
la rue des fonderies à Rochefort (Rochefort 1995) which probably
concerns a street close to the old 'fonderies royales' in the Northern
part of town. As shown in another PART of our CHAPTER on ROCHEFORT, this
area must have developed into a working class neighborhood, as well.]
The Western faubourg
The Western faubourg: either a large farm or a hamlet (perhaps
the parish of Notre-Dame?) is indicated by Lonlas by way of
The planning proposal of 1666, again
reproduced above, shows only one distinctive settlement beyond the future
ramparts. Although we know that there existed the 'paroisse Notre-Dame'
(the parish of Notre-Dame: that is to say, a church with (in all likelihood)
a few 'cabanes' of peasants, formerly subject to the Seigneur de Cheusses),
we cannot say for sure whether the settlement or farm indicated on the
above planning proposal of 1666 is in fact this parish.(1)
The next plan on which Lonlas inserted
information as to built-up and partly built-up blocks (in 1672) gives us
no information on the faubourg(s), which is why we turn now to the post-1672,
A parish church ("ancienne paroisse") entered on a later plan further South, but closer to the walls, is not shown in this plan.
The 1677 plan shows the location
of the "ancienne paroisse" as a cross- [ ---|- ] -shaped
The two nuclei of faubourg development shown on the 1677 plan
What would be important to understand
is the concrete dynamics of faubourg development to the West of the ramparts
that occurred between 1677 (when only the "beginnings" of a new dynamics
can be sensed) and 1724 when the faubourg has already grown to considerable
We are interested in this smal detail
reported by Lonlas because it confirms our hypothesis that workers in Rochefort
were spatially marginalized. Those who moved went from one marginal location
Apart from indicating the "ancienne paroisse" and giving us the name of the "chemin de la Rochelle," the 1688 plan is not very conclusive, with regard to the western faubourg. It shows of course the "road network" [Wegenetz] in more detail than the previous plans.
The 1724 plan is trhe first plan that shows a substantial faubourg development, as does of course, to an even greater extent, the subsequent (1845) plan.
We shall not concern ourselves herewith any further with details of the faubourg development which Maxime Lonlas has explored and documented very nicely.
Suffice it to say that the the working
class (or its 17th and 18th century predecessor) which was delegated to
the margins of the grid-patterned town (albeit within the ramparts) and
especially to its wasteland by the river, later on found itself centered
in Rochefort's faubourg(s).
Rochefort was after all a modern
town; its foundation fell into a phase of waning feudalist remnants, of
ascending commercial (and agrarian) capitalism, appended by the first beginnings
of an early industrial 'régime de travail.'
LONLAS, "[Rochefort] Domaine Historique. L'évolution de la ville
d'un point de vue architectural. 1666 et 1672", in: http:/rochefortsurmer.free.fr/hist_archi1.php,
p 2 of 2
Camille GABET, Le Réseau routier de Rochefort de la fin du XVIIe
au début du XVIIIe siècle.
Robert FONTAINE, La Paroisse Notre-Dame de Rocghefort au XVIIIe siècle.
Maxime LONLAS, "[Rochefort] Domaine Historique.
L'évolution de la ville d'un point de vue architectural. 1666 et
1672", in: http:/rochefortsurmer.free.fr/hist_archi1.php
The "Waste Land, Again
A terrain of inferior quality?
The terrain between grid-patterned town and Corderie
It is necessary to ask why the grid
pattern of the new town of Rochefort did not extend up to the river.
This speaks very much against a likelihood that these sites would be in great demand by private builders of heavy stone buildings. They could however support lighter 'cabanes', thatched huts constructed to temporarily house workers. Even larger wooden structure may not have been a problem.
If we maintain (and rightly so, it may be claimed) that the early workers' houses were marginalized and NOT A PART of the comprehensive grid-patterned lay out of the 'ville royale' (which was, in fact, a 'ville bourgeoisie' cut off from the Corderie and the jardin royal), then the terrains left empty between grid pattern and arsenal, a kind of waste land, possibly swampy and unhealthy, is the most likely site.
Another exerpt from the post-1672/pre-1677 plan
But other areas, incidentally, were marginalized as well, even though they fell into the grid pattern (or almost so). We are referring here to the area near the Southern ramparts, dominated by the gun powder magazine.
On the pre-1677 plan presented
here (in the form of an extract showing the Southeastern part of the grid-patterned
town), we can identify a 'caserne' near the Southern gate (a bit West of
the powder magazine). This was neither an item that would increase land
values and the desirability to acquire plots here, at least not from a
bourgeois point of view and when seeing the 'caserne' in conjunction with
the powder magazine. (The soldiers in the 'caserne' could be a rowdy lot,
and to have them as neighbors was not the most enviable option.)
But let's come back to the supposed
Perhaps we can identify two reasons why the area was exempted from the well-laid out town's rational plat.
(1) Space for workers' houses had to be reserved (in the least desirable, least marketable area, yet protected by the ramparts).
(2) If this 'wasteland' led up to the old point of embarkment (the local 'port' that had existed here already before 1666), a continuity of port activity could be envisaged..
In fact, a ships' basin [harbor
basin] was "produced" subsequently at its Northern edge (quite close
to the Corderie); it is already visible on the 1677 plan (a portion of
which is shown below).
While the plan of 1677 lets us suspect workers' houses between the powder magazine and the château (thus, at some distance from the river), it is the plan of 1688 that allows us to recognize a sensitive new aspect in the zone under scrutiny: a row of buildings close to the arsenal's dutch and close to the riverside.
Yes, at least two large, elongated buildings have been lined up along the Eastern part of the ditch. A combination of other structures, different with respect to the shape of their plat, and forming small 'courts', have been produced adjacent to the former two structures, but not by the ditch; rather, along the Charente.
The makeshift continuation of the grid East of the château allows for an access path leading almost up to the buildings by the river.
If the workers' houses that according to Bourit's source were constructed by the Charente and that according to Lonlas' source were "close to the arsenal" are not in fact these buildings, they must have been very close to them and would have been omitted, in that case, from all available plans known to us.
As noted already, the possibility that warehouses were produced near the 'ancienne quai de commerce' cannot be totally ruled out.
This plan is all but accurately drawn. The blocks extending from
the gun powder magazine to the château appear to be drawn to large,
in relation to the canal (or ditch) and in relation to the terrain surrounded
by these blocs, the canal, the Charente, and the Corderie site.
At any rate, with the deplacement
of arsenal workers living here in this area and the later (likely) resettlement
of the 'officiers du roi' who bought their 'maisons,' the way became free
for industrial and possibly also additional harbor development. We have
already noted the expansion of the arsenal forges (the "ferronerie" of
the 19th century), as presented by the 1845 plan.
* * *
The arsenal (when almost completed in 1677) and Rochefort
The only access to the arsenal in 1688 is via the bridge to the
East of it..
The arsenal and the portions of Rochefort closest to it
The workers of the arsenal could hardly accept long journeys to work
if inhabitable, even 'valueless' terrain lay in front of the gate
(or access bridge [pont public] of this Navy yard. In all lilelihood we
have to assume an organic relation between the site of the ateliers and
the three buildings just a bit North, close to the river.
It also coincides with Maxime Lonlas' information that the arsenal workers
(or a certain number of them) possessed "maisons" (houses) "à proximité
de l'Arsenal" [close to the arsenal]. Especially if we keep in mind that
the blocks of the grid patterned town closest to the arsenal (near the
gun powder magazine) where not even partly filled with buildings, by 1672.
The Arsenal and the nearest blocks of the town. This plan is all
but accurately drawn.
(1) It is necessary to remind the reader
that the plans and plan excerpts shown in the diverse PARTS of the CHAPTER
ON ROCHEFORT are based on plans published by Maxime LONLAS
and also (in a few cases) by Antoine BOURIT.
Literature on the Arsenal
Martine ACERRA, Rochefort et la construction navale française:
Maurice DUPONT / MARC FARDET (preface by Etienne TAILLEMITE), L'Arsenal
de Colbert. Rochefort.
de BON et al, Les Ports militaires de la France: notices historiques
René MÉMAIN, Le matériel de la marine sous Louis
Jean PETER, Le port et l'arsenal de Rochefort sous Louis XIV.
Jacques PINARD, Les Bâtiments industriels de l'ancien Arsenal