Lavausseau, France: centuries of tanning “saved” by Cité des Tanneurs

Centuries of tanning history transform themselves into an exhibition for children, students and families. This is the precious cultural baggage left as inheritance to the French town of Lavausseau by Tannerie de la Boivre, historic tannery that, throughout decades of activity, was able to collect the history of the small town that developed on the Boivre river: all thanks to tanning and leather. This is Vaucellam’s evolution, the ancient Latin name given to the location, which was funded in the twelfth century.  Just after the creation, the area started filling up with the first artisanal laboratories in which leather was tanned to supply clothing and armor suits for crusaders of the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem. The sector is profitable, which is why in 1811 there were 11 tanneries near the river, a cluster that was grouped under one company in by Charles Guionnet in the 19th century. The business was then sold in 1929 to Théodore Carbonnier, who specialized in mineral tanning and production of leather soles for footwear. The children of Mr. Carbonnier sell off the tannery to Ludovic Guignard, who chooses to focus production on decoration leather till 2015, when the plant is forced to shut down activities. A priceless piece of history that is more than simply territorial: its machines and tools just couldn’t get lots. So, the town’s administration decided to entrust the management of the site to Cité des Tanneurs, which now organizes guided tours inside the building, along with physical demonstrations by tanning craftsmen and courses to learn how to create small leather objects. This precious heritage is now safe.

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