Fifteen kilometres to the north-west of Bordeaux lies Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc. The quiet town is more of a place to live than a place to visit, but the central square includes a number of buildings with tales to tell.
Up until the French Revolution, Saint-Aubin was mainly pastoral land coupled with a few vineyards. When a prominent land-owner fled the country after the Revolution, his extensive property reverted to the town and was sold on to individual owners, mainly farmers and foresters. By the time of the Second World War, the population numbered 500, many of whom were employed by the explosives factory in nearby Saint-Médard-en-Jalles (which still exists today).
In 1968, Saint-Aubin became a founding member of the greater Bordeaux authority, the Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux, and has since expanded rapidly, most notably as a commuter town for workers in the aerospace industry. More than 6,000 people now regard Saint-Aubin as their home. And this is what they can find in their town centre…
The town’s most prominent landmark is its church, parts of which (a curved oratory to the rear pictured above, bottom right) date back to the 12th century. Like building blocks, bits were added over the course of time, including the presbytery in the 18th century, and the belfry and bell in 1789, shortly before the Revolution. The church was fully restored in 1867. In more recent years, the interior was renovated (1989), the roofing was replaced (2004) and vines were planted alongside the main entrance where the cemetery was once located – it had been transferred to another part of the town in 1861.
To one side of the church is a building which used to be the priest’s house before becoming the residence of the rural policeman (garde-champêtre). In the 1930s, the public bathing and showering facilities could be found here. They kept the locals clean until closing in 1964, by which time running water had become commonplace throughout the town.
Just opposite is a 19th-century building where municipal meeting rooms can now be found. Back in the day it was a bar-restaurant which welcomed people who were passing through (hence the rings used to tie up horses which can still be spotted). Patrons would pay over the counter for their food and drink, the “debit sur le comptoir” sign remaining to this day. It also inspired local pupils whose carvings feature on the wall of their school!
On another wall, the building’s status as “rendez-vous des chasseurs” (meeting point for hunters) is still visible. The municipality acquired the building in 1929, using it as a temporary classroom for the nearby school and then as a refectory where children would congregate to eat their packed lunches. Parts of the building were used as accommodation for municipal staff. One long-term employee was Marie-Antoinette Auristelle and it is her name which has been given to the building and part of the square.
|Bottom photo from information panel now on building.|
The aforementioned packed-lunch pupils were from the school housed in this building, which was completed around 1900 and was welcomed by locals with open arms – they would no longer have to send their children to Saint-Médard! The school comprised two classrooms and lodgings. It was extended in 1954, but closed when the larger École Molière was built nearby in 1966. The old school building initially went on to house the town’s administrative services. It is now the municipal police station… as well as a judo and dance hall!
|Top photo from information panel now on building.|
This house on the central junction was at the heart of the community for many years; it was the town’s main grocery, tobacconist and petrol station. The building is now known as la maison Gilberte Bacquey in reference to the last owner of the shop, who totally modernised the petrol pump part of the establishment in 1968 soon after a lorry had missed the bend in the road and almost completely destroyed it! It closed for good in 2008.
In the 1930s, the “croix du bourg” (village cross) which previously stood on the junction outside the house was relocated 100 metres to a wider stretch of the main road into the town centre. At its base, one of the markers positioned on walls and monuments by the Institut Géographique National can be spotted, specifying the altitude of the point to the nearest metre. So... just in case you were wondering, Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc lies 37 metres above sea level!