French Silk History and a Walled Garden near Uzés
When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls, there’s a story to be told.
Behind French Garden Walls
Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent 17th-century home and the gardens. Continue reading here for the original contributor blog post by Barefoot Blogger and her photos of this beautiful walled garden. Cypress trees, olives and other plants typical of the South appear in this manicured garden, but it is the abundance of roses that will grab your attention.
Silk Farming in France
Barefoot Blogger also shared some history of the house that dates from 1684. At one stage, a portion of the farmhouse was set-up for silkworm farming, as were many other properties in the South.
China is considered the “birthplace” of silk production an art form that started in roughly 2,700 BC. The Chinese managed to maintain a monopoly on the industry for 2000+/- years by carefully guarding the secrets of the production techniques. The Silk Road and the textile trade developed. Eventually, the technical know-how for silk framing reached the Mediterranean basin in the 6th-century but did not reach France until sometime in the 13th-century.
Magnanerie is the French word for sericulture (silk farming). Chestnut and mulberry trees were planted in Provence beginning in 1266, and the first written record of silkworms breeding was in 1296 in the Cévennes. French silk production reached its peak in 1853 and had all but collapsed by the 1930s when synthetic materials reached the marketplace. Lyon was long considered the capital of silk weaving and processing.
The fertile Luberon Valley was an important source of botanicals which were used for their natural colours in textile dyes. It was also a location for both cochineal and silkworm breeding. Historical information indicates that Lauris had a vermillonère by the 16th century where natural colourings where the carmine acid from dried cochineal insects produced deep-red dyes. By 1638, the community was also involved in silkworm production, an important revenue source until the middle of the 19th century. The Jardin Conservatoire Couleur Garance (in Lauris) is considered as one of the “Jardins Remarkables” in France and is well worth a visit between early May and October 31st.
Silk Museums and Gardens to Visit:
Musée de la Soie
Place du 8 mai 1945 (near the Tourist office)
30170 Saint Hippolyte du Fort
Tel: +33 (0)4 30 67 26 94