A Knight’s Tale (87: Villeneuvette)

During a French holiday in September and October 1981. We shared a house in Cabrieres, Languedoc with Jessica’s friend, Sue Sproston. The house belonged to a colleague of Sue’s who was in the process of renovating it, but hadn’t been too bothered about fixing potential leaks in the roof. Trust us to experience the worst thunderstorm locals could remember.

Jessica and Sam 9.81

Here, Jessica and Sam see me off on a trip for the obligatory croissants from the boulangerie.

Garden 9.81

I found the local gardens fascinating. Some were carefully tended;

Truck in garden 10.81

others seemed to be spaces to park trucks

Trike and crocuses 10.81

or trikes.

Jessica, Sam and Sue Sproston 10.81

Here Sue joins Jessica and Sam in investigating the local lake.

Grapes and fountain 10.81

It was clearly the time of the vendanges, or the grape harvest.

St Guilhem 10.81

We drove around the area and visited a number of villages, like the beautifully kept St Guilhem,

Sam at Villeneuvette fountain 10.81

and the almost abandoned Villeneuvette, where Sam sloshed in the fountain, not as elaborate as the one in the grapes picture.

Wikipedia has this to say about Colbert’s social and economic experiment:

‘Villeneuvette is a commune in the Hérault department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.

It lies close to the town of Clermont l’Hérault.

Villeneuvette is a small village made up of a group of buildings initially erected in the 17th century to create a royal clothmaking factory and provide accommodation for its workers. Apart from a hotel and restaurant, the buildings are now restricted to residential use, many for holiday purposes.

Creation of Villeneuvette was promoted in 1677 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert the noted finance minister of King Louis XIV. It was one of his many initiatives to develop France’s industrial base. Power for the factory was hydraulic with water supplied via different water courses from existing basins. The factory was privately owned and produced cloth for the king including uniforms for his armies. The factory was in existence until 1955.

Since 1995 the village has been classified as a “Zone de Protection du Patrimoine et du Paysage” recognising the originality and importance of its heritage.

The original inscription above the gateway was “MANUFACTURE ROYALE” but was later rather crudely changed by the Republic to “HONNEUR AU TRAVAIL” – Honour in work.’

When we stumbled across the commune most dwellings were unoccupied, except for a few people who, to us, appeared to be squatters. We were able to amble around and marvel at the higgledy-piggledy nature of the accommodation, often with one family’s upper rooms above those of the residents below.


In 1982, J.K.J. Thomson published ‘Clermont-de-Lodève 1633-1789’. Since it contains an erudite history of Villeneuvette, I had to buy it. It was, in fact, far too academic for my taste, but I did struggle through it. Interestingly, the book jacket shows the changed inscription mentioned above.

I was, perhaps fifteen years later, rather pleased I had, when one of my consutation clients told me that a couple of her friends had bought one of the residences which were now being sold on the open market. I was able to describe what we had seen, and to hand over the book. I didn’t expect to see it again, but, it was eventually returned to me by the  wife, who happened to be  a committee member of another agency client. Even then, before we were all overtaken by the Web, it was a small world.


  1. Such a fascinating place to visit, Derrick. Thank you for sharing your photos. I was intrigued by St Guilhem–those doors in the stone. It looks so medieval. (We just watched the last duel, set in 14th c France.) Congratulations on getting your book back! ?

  2. All wonderful photos, each one beautiful and artistic…and, oh, the special memories…but I have to say…Sam is the highlight for sure! 🙂 What a cutie! 🙂
    Some of my fave photos of my own kids were taken from behind…of them in little rompers, pajamas, overalls, corduroy pants, etc. I find that look and view so sweet! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  3. From the photos, it looks like you had an idyllic holiday there. And such a fascinating history of the place, too! I particularly like the photo of the trike with the yellow flowers.

  4. Just as spoken reminiscences kindle past memories, you show here how photographs do the same. You have a well-trained eye for beauty and composition which I enjoy very much.

  5. What a beautiful and charming place. Love the photos of Sam and the one of the three at the lake. St Guilhem–gorgeous. It’s always a shock to me to look back on old photos and count out how long ago it was. Forty years for this series!!! Thanks for sharing.

  6. It’s a very French post complete with images of the rural surroundings. I do remember your posts about your efforts to sell off you French residence infested by squatters.

  7. I’m so glad your book was returned.
    The other day while entertaining Victoria and family for supper, the subject turned to books. I mentioned my favourite book was ‘Green Darkness’, but it had been missing for around twenty years and I wished I could remember who had borrowed it. Quick as a flash, Victoria answered ‘Oh, that was me, I’ve still got it too!’ Eight years of living under the same roof and I’d no idea that it was sitting on her bookcase!

  8. I knew nothing of this wonderful place, Derrick, so thank you for sharing the history along with your own stunning photos. I adore the one of Sam playing in the fountain. The gardens are magical too. I hope you dried out completely from the crazy storm.

  9. A fascinating history of Villeneuvette. I’d never heard of this place but would have enjoyed a visit when I lived in France. Perhaps one day it could like Saltaire, near Bradford (ie a thriving community).

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