Villedieu les Poeles is a ville d’etape, just off the main road running towards Caen in Normandy on the A84. It’s locally famous for its copper wares and its coppersmiths.
But,should you find yourself in this quaint little place, leave the copper plates, stirrups and cooking utensils to one side for a couple of hours and go and do a tour of the foundry whilst you’re there, it’s brilliant. All tours are guided, you can’t just turn up and wander round, but all the information you need is on a board outside the place and of course, on the web.
I’d never stepped inside a foundry, in fact, I’m not even sure I’d even driven past one before, so wasn’t really sure what to expect. Walking through the gates you get an idea of what you’re about to see:
and the walk from the gates to the factory, through a small garden also gives you ideas:
before the tour starts with the noise of the factory bell. Deafening. I’m sure the neighbours must love that twice a day, but it set the visit up perfectly.
When I visited, they were in the process of making an absolutely enormous bell for one of the big churches in Paris. I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t read my notes, I think it was the Notre Dame Cathedral, but the process was fascinating. We were walked through the various steps of the process, and seeing someone actually working on a bell about the size of a bus was incredible.
There’s no idea of scale here, but the pit they were in must have been 10 metres deep. They were huge.
This one gives you a bit more of an idea.
A really enjoyable and informative way to pass a couple of hours on a rainy day in Baisse Normandy, some of their casts really are beautiful, and a fair bit of history too.