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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Behind French Garden Walls: A Bit of Silk Mill History

When driving down the backroads of France near Uzès, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something unique. 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 seventeenth-century home and the gardens — a restored French silk mill.

It was everything I’d imagined. And more.

Behind French garden walls

The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.

Behind French garden walls

Constructed in 1684, the house was part of a farm later devoted to producing silkworms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.

Behind French Garden Walls

A Restored French Silk Mill

My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silkworm farming, but after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.

Behind French Garden Walls

History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages, and more were offered to encourage silk production.

Behind French garden walls

By 1815, the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded worldwide. Over 2300 communes in France cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.

In 1809, the Prefect of the Gard counted 1,140,680 mulberry trees, and 4,713,000 in 1831.

Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.

Behind French garden walls

Behind French Garden Walls

My friend said a vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens mainly filled with roses.

Behind French garden walls

Today, the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall and then asked for photos of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.

Behind French garden walls

The home’s interior is arranged and decorated as artistically as the massive property.

Behind French garden walls

I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. 

Behind French garden walls

Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”

Behind French garden walls

Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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