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Les Lavoirs dans le Pays de Nuits-Saint-Georges


Heritage from

Wash houses were key elements of the 18th and 19th century local life. Women used to go to the wash house to rinse laundry and all kinds of linen. This is why these women were then called “laveuses”, meaning “the one who washes”.
Each village had its local wash house, where women would meet and get down on their knees to wash laundry in a wooden box. The boxes had different names according to geographic areas. In some places it was called “carosse” (cradle), in others you would find “garde-genoux” (knee-keeper) or “lavotte”.
At the wash house, one could hear people chatting as well as “battoirs” slapping laundry and Marseille soap being rubbed on linen.   

Architecture 
Wash houses all look different, for two main reasons. First, the architecture depended on the town’s wealth. Second, the wash house had to be both sturdy and practical.
As a consequence, wash houses would be built differently and in different locations in each town.

  • Some wash houses would be supplied by a local water spring and used as the local town hall. The building had a public event room on the first floor. One instance of such architecture can be found in Villars-Fontaine.   
  • Other wash houses would be built next to a small river, with or without a water pool. They were mainly small buildings with a little shelter on top, a simple, one-sided framework and a tiled roof. The main wall was made of small holes where women would store the wooden boxes they used to do the laundry. One instance of such architecture can be found in Arcenant.   
  • Some wash houses were built directly on top of a river and called “lavoir flottant” (or “floating wash house”). They were called this way because it was possible to move the floor up or down depending on the river’s level of water. 
  • Some other wash houses were built on top of a local water spring. This type of building would need a sturdy framework made of arches and pillars. An “implivium” built on the roof would help gathering rain water. 

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