The world over, the names of streets continue to reflect the trades that were present there. Examples in central Bordeaux include Rue des Herbes, Rue des Argentiers (silversmiths), Rue des Boucheries (butchers) and, the road we find ourselves on today, Rue des Bahutiers.
The two bahutier shops and residences pictured above, which feature restored architecture that is typical of the city's merchant bourgeoisie, pre-date the name change by some margin: number 49 (on the left) dates from the 15th century, while number 47 was built in the 17th century. Both feature distinctive arched doorways which would originally have given onto the bahutier’s shop and workshop.
Gazing upwards at the rest of number 49's façade - made of quarry stone covered with roughcast limestone - adds another dimension to the story. Behind the large first-floor window were the living quarters of the bahutier and relatives/extended family. Mullion and transom bars split the window into four quarters, enabling plenty of daylight to enter the room without the whole building collapsing: as well as aesthetic qualities, this cross-shaped design was as structurally vital as a supporting wall. The smaller window on the second floor was the communal sleeping quarters while the diminutive window at the top shows where the apprentice or maid would sleep.
The top of the building is also typical of its era. This style of steep sloping roof, covered here with flat tiles and ornamental features including a perched lion, was known as “à la guise de France” (in the style of France). The more gentle 30% slope of its younger stone-façaded neighbour was known as “à la guise de Bordeaux”. Meanwhile, back at number 49, even in these modern times it might be best to avoid standing directly below the right tip of the roof when the weather is bad. The spout of the gutter is no doubt an extremely effective means of rapidly channelling rainwater from the roof to ground level!
The 1985 endeavour is quietly celebrated by an inscription that has been subtly added just below the roof of number 49... a low-key way of celebrating this 20th-century helping hand to the city's Medieval heritage.
- Find it: 47 & 49 Rue des Bahutiers, Bordeaux
- These buildings have been lovingly drawn and analysed by artist René Fontaine.