The streets of Le Grand Pressigny
with Cleo Tebby
Le Grand Pressigny is a small town of one thousand souls. The castle dominates the town and the old quarter clutches to the hill side between the castle and the church of Saints Gervais and Protais in the valley.
Come for a tour round Le Grand Pressigny with Cleo. (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them - then click on the big picture to come back.)
The Rue du Château climbs from the Carroi des Robins (Magistrates Corner - a "Robin" is someone who wears robes, like Robin Hood) past the primary school. Halfway up it narrows between old houses on the right and a cliff on the left. At this point the castle and the Tour Vironne spring into view.
If you turn round when you get up to the barbican, you will see the cottage built on the edge of the plateau, with the ladder still against the wall to provide access to the loft.
Originally, the chimneys were rather lower, but they had to be raised to meet modern building regulations. (A local architect tells me that this is not the only reason: the old low chimneys smoked a lot, depositing a film of tar on the inside of the roof which has helped to preserve the old timber - these days people prefer not to be smoked.)
Walk round under the castle walls to the Rue du Four Banal ("Common Oven Street). Looking down, you will see the "Four Banal" on the right where everyone had the right to cook their own bread in return for a toll. The building has now been restored and it is locked so you can no longer see (or use) the oven.
As you go down the Rue du Four Banal, you pass in front of (or, rather, through) half of a house. The other half was demolished to widen the track. This house, like many others built on the slope, had two floors, each with its own independent dwelling. You can now see the two elegant stone fireplaces which heated the two "maisonettes".
When you reach the junction with the Haulte Rue (Steep Street) which goes straight up back to the castle, you will find the Petit Chambord. From here you can see the top of the Tour Vironne peeking over the castle walls.
At the bottom the Rue du Four Banal, you can turn round to admire one of the castle towers framed by the quaint town houses on either side of the street.
There are numerous passages and courtyards hidden behind the houses that line the streets. These make ideal improvised theatres for the summer cultural event.
In the Place des Halles (Market Square) in front of the Mairie (the mayor's offices) there is another little passage leading to a striking brick and stone house overhung by the very elegant chimney at the end of the chateau's renaissance gallery.
Continuing down to the Place Savois Villars, you will find a larger square with the church which has a remarkable collection of tiled and slated roofs which have bee remodelled many times over the centuries. Inside you will find a barrel vaulted nave and a number of medieval frescos.
Turn round and head back up to the castle. Before climbing the Rue du Donjon (Keep Street) you can check the time on the old sun dial in the Place des Halles which has not lost a minute in several centuries.
At the Carroi des Joyeux (literally "Happy Corner"!) the street opens out. You are at the limit of the old town. On the right, you can see the remains of walls the show that, in days gone by, there were other buildings here. The courtyards have become gardens and the outhouses have been converted into cottages.
In the Rue des Remparts (Rampart Street) the houses facing the chateau have been modernised. The loft doors have become windows for the bedrooms in the roof, and they have interior staircases. Although they are not very authentic, they look very pretty with flowers in the window boxes.
On the other side of the street, nearly all the houses built against the chateau walls were razed a few years ago. This is rather a shame as, although the castle walls are now more impressive, old aerial photographs show us a much more medieval huddle than the present "clean" castle.
Pencil drawings - Cleo Tebby
Page layout - T-T-Web