In Situ, journal of heritage, offers heritage professionals and researchers the opportunity to disseminate and valorise the results of their work. It strives to promote exchanges between the different stakeholders and the many disciplines that constitute the heritage science, and to provide the public with the knowledge thus produced.

To read the full issue in French, please refer to Open Edition Journals.


Claudine Cartier, Nicolas Courtin and Miriam Simon

An issue of In Situ devoted to the heritage of hygiene may seem somewhat paradoxical: our present-day ideas about hygiene would appear to have been ours for a long time now. But the sudden appearance in 2020 of the COVID-19 pandemic was a brutal reminder of how close the links between health, cleanliness and hygiene are. So, this collection of recent studies in the field of the heritage of hygiene is particularly timely then, looking at this heritage in all its many cultural dimensions, historical, archaeological, technical, political and administrative, tangible and intangible, and not forgetting sociological and ethnological approaches. The ambition of the issue is a double one. It sets out to bring together questions of personal hygiene and intimate corporal relations and issues of hygiene in public spaces. It reviews the way objects and constructions in this realm have come to be recognised as heritage. Consequently, the chronological range is a broad one, from antiquity up to the present day in France (the call for papers was apparently not heard elsewhere), both in urban and rural settings and covering the built heritage, architecture and infrastructural elements, the movable heritage, theories (legislation and communication) and practices.

The typology of installations concerned is a vast one too, comprising sewage networks, canals and piping for fresh water, reservoirs, fountains, standpipes, wash houses, bathhouses, swimming pools, water towers, bathrooms and baths with all their accessories and public lavatories. The source material is equally diverse, both public and private and comprising archaeological evidence, the artefacts and facilities themselves, and paper archives such as plans and architectural drawings.

Around an underlying theme of the provision of fresh water, hygiene’s principal driving force, the main focusses that emerge from the contributions published here are the urban and rural installations for hygiene (six contributions) and the architecture and objects associated with corporal hygiene (nine articles). Most of these contributions address the question of heritagisation.

Urban and rural hygiene equipment

Hygiene in Gallo-Roman Agricultural Establishments, through Ancient Texts and Archaeological Research; Examples for the Lingones Region, First to Fourth Centuries AD

Frédéric Devevey

Structures associated with the management of clean water and wastewater played a key role in the general organisation of the establishments of rural Antiquity, a role that was linked to questions of hygiene but which has been misunderstood or ignored by research for a long time. The existence of more or less elaborate bathing installations has long since been recognised and published for the ‘pleasure’ villas or the pars urbana of the vast agricultural estates of the countryside in Roman Gaul, but what of the smaller agricultural sites, the farms that, after all, represented the essential part of aggro-pastoral activity? According to the agronomical authors of classical antiquity, the ‘hygienic’ virtues of an environment were determined by physical characteristics. Water, the soil and the air underpin the salubrity of a site and its general hygiene which is a condition sine qua non for a viable exploitation. Does preventive archaeology find evidence of the application of these rules in the different rural establishments, the small agricultural villas, that have been excavated to date? How did the farmers on these small exploitations manage their hygiene in general and at individual levels? Does archaeological evidence reveal traces of the implementation of the recommendations of classical authors? This article presents a selection of Gallo-Roman establishments which have been excavated over the past ten years in the eastern part of the Dijon agglomeration, part of the territory of the Lingones. It completes a more general synthesis to be published shortly by Frédéric Devevey, Valérie Taillandier and Chloé Duseau on the uses of water in the agricultural exploitations of antiquity in the Dijon region. This study was carried out in the context of the Rurland programme on rural landscapes in north-eastern Roman Gaul, co-ordinated by Michel Reddé between 2012 and 2017.

From Spring Water to Waste Removal, Hygiene and the Use of Water at Limoges from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century

Laure Leroux, Éric Balbo, Jean-Claude Grany and Patrice Conte

Encompassing harnessed spring water and drainage towards the river Vienne, and including the city’s fountains, Limoges is characterised by its vast underground water network which accompanied the growth of the city from antiquity and developed its ramifications during medieval and modern times. As well as its scale, this network is also remarkable for the rich documentation it has left, which is an invitation to examine its historic contours: data on regulations from consular archives, iconographical sources and maps from the modern period, but also archaeological evidence collated by the ArchéA association on Limoges’s underground networks. The confrontation of this different source material sheds light on problematics of hygiene in the medieval and the modern city and gives information about the material existence of public infrastructures such as aqueducts, fountains and drains. But it also gives information about private and domestic hygiene, based on evidence found in some of the city’s old buildings.

The Restoration of the Fontaine des Innocents in Paris

Elsa Ricaud, Marion Del Sant and Mathieu Rousset-Perrier

Within the general framework of its programme for the upkeep and promotion of its public fountains, the City of Paris recently undertook a restoration campaign on the Fontaine des Innocents, a masterpiece dating from the French Renaissance. This campaign had two objectives: firstly – and after about 130 years of debate –, to remove the original sculpted bas-reliefs, now seriously damaged by weathering, to restore these sculptures and to replace them with reproductions; and, secondly, to make water flow again from the fountain, in keeping with its original function.

Using the evidence of iconography, the article begins by taking a look at the usages associated with its water, following the fountain’s various moves and alterations. To begin with, it was located at a street corner and served primarily for the distribution of drinking water and for public and individual hygiene, uses which attracted a whole series of related trades. Subsequently, with the improvement in the city’s water supply, the fountain was moved to the centre of a public square where its stands today as a heritage monument. The article then goes on to look at the fountain’s sculptures, its celebrated bas-reliefs which all relate to the theme of water. New knowledge about these sculptures is examined, provoking questions about the fountain’s overall authenticity. To conclude, the article will address the technical and doctrinal issues raised by the restoration operation. The methods required for the reproduction of the bas-reliefs are examined, taking into account the new technologies involved and the question of how the monument will be lit at night. The issues touching on the fountain’s present-day public hygiene status and the impact of this situation on the monument itself are also examined. The requirements for the monument’s future conservation are envisaged, and the consequences of these requirements in terms of the quantities of water the fountain will be able deliver.

Public Conveniences in Paris, and the Lavatory at the Place de la Madeleine

Miriam Simon

Pissoirs, public conveniences, lavatories, sanisettes, street urinals… all these items of urban furniture, made available to the population for the satisfaction of natural needs, belong, like the sewers, to the history of public hygiene. Their diffusion became possible with the availability of an abundant water supply. Some of them are still standing in the public spaces of Paris, kept as picturesque vestiges, whilst others are now seen as symbols of our modernity. Based primarily on sources available at the Paris Archives, this contribution seeks to sketch out this history, which calls for further research. After a presentation of the sanitary context prior to the creation of public conveniences, a chronological approach takes a look at succeeding public lavatories and in particular the spectacular public lavatory at the Place de la Madeleine, recently restored.

From the Gallets Reservoir to the Saint-Georges Swimming Pool, Hygienist Policies at Rennes since the end of the Nineteenth Century

Isabelle Baguelin

The Gallets site, to the north of Rennes in the Ille-et-Vilaine department, conserves three underground reservoirs with masonry linings, dating from the 1880s, and a fourth reservoir in reinforced concrete dating from the beginning of the twentieth century. This infrastructural ensemble, with its associated aqueducts, was part of the city’s supply of drinking water, installed under the direction of the mayor of the time and the city’s architect, Jean-Baptiste Martenot. It was the first step in a policy of municipal hygiene that was pursued under the direction of the mayor Jean Janvier (1859-1923), in particular with the construction of the Saint-Georges swimming pool, between 1923 and 1926. This swimming pool was designed by the city’s architect Emmanuel Le Ray and is characteristic of the monumental hygienic architecture of the first half of the twentieth century. It boasts remarkable decoration by the Paris ceramics firm of Gentil & Bourdet and the Rennes mosaic artist, Odorico.

An Illustrated Panorama of the History of the Paris Sewers, at the Paris Archives

Ronan Bouttier and Nicolas Courtin

In 2018 the Paris archive service recovered a unique collection of graphic documents relating to the sewers of the capital at the end of the nineteenth century. The collection contains a series of plans retracing the history of the sewage system since the seventeenth century. Above all, however, the collection’s treasures are its cross-sections of the capital’s throughfares showing life above ground, in about 1900, as well as the underground networks of sewers, canals, railways, gas mains, etc. The maps and watercolours were used as promotion material for the capital’s sanitation services, presented at the 1900 universal exhibition, an initiative that was both pedagogical and self-satisfied. Our article aims at outlining a contextual approach to the history of how these documents were created and an explanation for the considerable attention that the municipal services paid them, at least until the beginning of the twenty-first century when they were almost completely forgotten. The large-format documents have now been digitised and can now be consulted anew.

Architecture and objects of body hygiene

A Hygiene Architect in the Service of the General Hospital of Paris at the end of the Eighteenth century; Charles-François Viel and his Hydraulic Enterprises at the Salpêtrière and Bicêtre Hospitals

Marc Lauro

Charles-François Viel (1745-1819) was the last official incumbent of the charge of architect of the General Hospital of Paris, prior to the disappearance of this institution in 1790.2 He pursued his career during the early years of the nineteenth century as architect for the capital’s civic hospices. With other colleagues, he participated in the medicalisation of the vast built heritage of the former General Hospital and of religious establishments confiscated during the Revolution as national properties. During the period of the Thermidorean Convention, he was placed at the disposition of the Seine department. In this position, he was commissioned to build or maintain numerous hospital buildings, many of which disappeared in the early years of the twentieth century, like the Cochin Hospice or the Pitié infirmary. Our article pays special attention to the work undertaken by Viel in order to supply fresh water and remove wastewater at two of the General Hospital’s main Paris sites, the Salpêtrière and the Bicêtre which, on the eve of the Revolution, accommodated 8,000 and 10,000 occupants respectively.

Comfort and Hygiene for the European Upper Classes (1854-1937), according to the Architectural Plans of Hippolyte and Walter Destailleur

Magali Lacousse

The French national archive service, at its Pierrefitte-sur-Seine site, holds about thirty collections left by architects, including Baltard, Labrouste, Laprade, Pouillon, Laurenti, Chemetov and Destailleur. The papers of Hippolyte Destailleur (1822-1893) and his son Walter Destailleur (1867-1940) are kept under the reference CP/536AP and are comprised essentially of architectural drawings covering the years 1854 to 1937. The examination and comparison of these drawings offer the possibility of understanding something of the criteria of hygiene and comfort deemed appropriate for the upper class in Europe. In particular, it is possible to look at bedrooms, bathrooms and lavatories and to analyse these in terms of their architecture (number of rooms, surface, position) and in social terms (separation between owners and servants). This analysis is followed by a closer examination of some representative examples, the private town houses of the Masurels, at Roubaix, the Trévarez château, the Crillon hotel and the Farnborough Hill house, in England.

Affordable Cleanliness; Projects, Problems and Successes in the Programme for Public Bathhouses in Saint-Etienne, 1856-1914

Linda Guerry and Claire Lévy-Vroelant

This article is the product of an unpublished research project which is studying the history of a public service for inexpensive or free baths and showers in the city Saint-Etienne. From the middle of the nineteenth century, when the earliest projects took form, up until the years 1910 which saw the construction of four establishments in the city’s working-class neighbourhoods, there were several projects which raised interesting questions and provoked controversies. Based on Saint-Etienne’s municipal archives, the analysis of the different schemes illustrates the development of public policies for hygiene, policies for ‘low-cost popular baths’ which were often marked by tensions and sometimes by setbacks. The social and political dimensions of the succeeding projects are examined, underlining the large numbers of actors and institutions involved in the promotion and financing of both public and private ventures and in the opposition they sometimes drew forth. The article concludes with a look at the future of these establishments, one that is far from reassuring.

Washing Boats at Laval the Exceptional Survival of a Laundry Fleet

Sylvie Garnavault

To begin with, there were places called ‘arrivoirs’, places of arrival created along the banks of the river Mayenne at Laval and used principally for washing activities. During the Second Empire, the local authorities undertook the construction of quays in order to protect the city, subject to periodic flooding. This explains the appearance of the first washing boats, designed to give washerwomen, whether professional or not, access to the river. These became a picturesque local feature but were first and foremost places of work and sociability for the ‘poules d’eau’, the ‘moorhens’ who spent their busy working days there. At the end of the nineteenth century, Laval’s ‘laundry fleet’ comprised 23 vessels.
In 1969, one of the last two of these vessels still moored at Laval ceased its activities, finally made redundant by the democratisation of the washing machine. This vessel was the Saint-Julien, a flat-bottomed double-decker boat originally built in the Maine-et-Loire department in 1904. The upper deck served as a laundry, but also as a dwelling for the owner and his family. The hull of the vessel was the washing facility itself, its central space occupied by two boilers that heated the water for the tubs placed above. The boat could accommodate up to 40 washerwomen. The Saint-Julien and a neighbouring vessel on the quayside have been acquired by the city of Laval and protected as historic monuments. Both vessels sank in 2009 but were rescued simultaneously and the first has now been restored and returned to its original position where visitors are welcomed aboard. The second washing boat is still awaiting a restoration programme. The Saint-Julien and Saint-Yves are unique in France, the last washing boats to bear witness to a traditional riverside activity which has now disappeared completely.

Learning about Hygiene, the Products of the Sarreguemines Glazed Earthenware Factory designed for Children

Stéphanie Korn

Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, factories began to produce goods for a new category of clients, children. Glazed earthenware began to replace metal and tin in children’s toys and, in particular, in children’s ‘household sets’: crockery and toiletry objects imitating those of grown-ups. The toiletry sets are not merely toys, however, and were designed to teach children the rudiments of hygiene within the family setting.

The Sarreguemines factory of glazed earthenware put out new pieces of furniture and new toilet accessories that accompanied the emergence of new childcare disciplines. During the second half of the nineteenth century, inspired by hygienists, teachers in France had a mission of teaching children the principles of cleanliness. School textbooks bear witness to this new preoccupation and cleanliness inspections became part of school life. It was during this period that the Sarreguemines catalogues begin to include items intended for this educational market. With these new products, the Sarreguemines factory made its own contribution to the education of children in the field of hygiene, whether in public life or in the home.

The Art Nouveau Bathroom at the Laurens Château at Agde (Hérault); Art, Industry and Symbolism

Bruno Montamat

The Laurens Château at Agde in the Hérault department is an outstanding example of the decorative eclecticism that was in fashion around 1900, and its bathroom, designed by the Parisian artist Eugène-Martial Simas, can be seen as an ideal example of the paradoxes of Art Nouveau. It is a unique decorative ensemble, conceived in a rational manner based on the union of art and industry. Simas, who was primarily a theatrical designer, was attracted by the industrial arts. For this hygienic bathroom designed to honour the blessings of water, he made ample use of the products manufactured by the Sarreguemines glazed earthenware factory and by the Paris metalworking firm of Fontaine. But the presence of tiling and metalwork created by the leading lights of the ‘Art dans Tout’ movement (Félix Aubert, Alexandre Charpentier) seemed to cast the owner of the chateau, Emmanuel Laurens, in the role of some forgotten aesthete from the Midi. This is to ignore the important part played by local decorators and designers, perfectly aware of the latest fashions likely to appeal to the bourgeoisie keen on expressions of a certain modernity. And in its theatricality, this ceramic interior in fact expresses a subtle kind of symbolism in keeping with the spiritual theories of Laurens, the somewhat obscure ideas of a man who was an Occitan speaker and a great admirer of mythical Cathar asceticism, in which water had important purifying virtues. The 1898 bathroom can be seen then as the first act in the foundation of a place dedicated to Nietzschean excess, emerging from fin-de-siècle Christian esoterism.

Bathhouses in Schools. The Discovery of Two Sites Bearing Witness to Public Policies in Paris

Pauline Rossi

In 2020, the services of the City of Paris discovered a bathhouse facility in the basement of a school in the fourteenth arrondissement. This bathhouse was clearly intended not for adults but for the pupils at the school. In the historiography of school architecture, well studied by the architectural historian Anne-Marie Châtelet, the question of how hygiene was taught at school is one that has been little researched. An enquiry was undertaken, exploiting the resources of various departments within the municipal administration and aiming at drawing up an inventory of surviving bathhouse installations in Paris schools. Only two such facilities were identified, the first at the school of the fourteenth arrondissement (12, rue d’Alésia) and the other in the second arrondissement (5 rue Beauregard).

At the same time as this enquiry, archival research allowed for the context of these forgotten installations to be better understood, giving a clearer picture of how many similar installations might have existed in the capital. The research was not exhaustive, but it allowed for the creation of an indicative inventory, identifying twenty such installations created between 1880 and 1930. Here then is the discovery of an important subject both for the built heritage of Paris schools and for the history of how hygiene was taught at school.

Health Values at the Beaujon Hospital at Clichy (Hauts-de-Seine), between 1935 and 2023

Lila Bonneau

This article examines the principles of hygiene that were integrated into the design of the Beaujon hospital, opened in 1935 at Clichy in what is today the Hauts-de-Seine department, bordering Paris. The hospital was built for the city’s public health authority (Assistance Publique) by a team of architects including Jean Walter, Urbain Cassan and Louis Plousey. The principles involved were aimed at combatting the main sanitary afflictions of the day, tuberculosis, cancer, syphilis and alcoholism. They were also concerned by the damage resulting from the First World War, at a time when society understood that an unhealthy environment or inappropriate hygiene, along with poor sanitary habits, could contribute to the development of illnesses. The healthcare establishment, was designed to offer the sick the best possible conditions for recovery.

The article looks at the architectural arrangements used during the interwar period and designed to improve conditions of hygiene for users – staff included – in this building which was the first multi-storey hospital in France. These arrangements have been much altered since the hospital was built, but today form what we call the site’s ‘health values’.
The article addresses the present-day issues of the building’s urban and landscape heritage status, with regards to the original design and considering the future of the hospital, due to be closed in 2030.

Prevention and Healing at Suresnes (Hauts-de-Seine) between the Two Wars; from the Installation of Facilities to an Avant-Garde Medico-Social Policy and its Adaptation to Contemporary Lifestyles

Émeline Trion and Marie-Pierre Deguillaume

The industrialisation of the suburban communes immediately surrounding Paris, at the end of the nineteenth century, led to demographic upheavals which are particularly visible at Suresnes, in the present-day Hauts-de-Seine department. Working-class inhabitants crowded into dilapidated and insalubrious buildings in the former centre, whilst the upper parts of the town remained empty. In the years after the First World War, several factors contributed to the development of social and urban policies of considerable ambition. These factors include legislation, recently enacted, that encouraged town-planning initiatives, projects for the organisation and extension of ‘Greater Paris’, and the election of Henry Sellier as mayor of Suresnes. They led to the development of new neighbourhoods and the establishment of a series of facilities dedicated to hygiene and healthcare. The ambition, to offer hygiene to all, created a broad variety of new facilities, at the same time as housing within the garden city was equipped with modern comforts. The facilities were like the rear base of a vast social system from which doctors, child-care workers and visiting nurses could sally forth throughout the territory. Today, as nearly all the dwellings have been modernised, these avant-garde facilities have been rethought and transformed, and their vocation either enlarged or completely altered. The article proposes a new look at the medico-social facilities of the interwar period and examines some key examples to show how they have changed.

Maurice Ravel’s House and Garden at Montfort-l’Amaury (Yvelines)

Agnès Chauvin and Marie-Hélène Didier

The house and the garden of Maurice Ravel at Montfort-l’Amaury (Yvelines) bear witness to the personality of the composer who lived there. More generally, they represent a place of memory associated with French music and French arts at the beginning of the twentieth century. For specialists, they constitute a real exhibition about the artist. The house and its garden are filled with souvenirs, dreams and music that make them all the more interesting, a remarkable universe which subjugates all the visitors. The design of the garden, with its water features, its herbaceous borders and its Japanese-style atmosphere, refers to numerous works by the composer. It is a good example of a garden which was an inspiration for a composer’s works, but also of a garden inspired by music. This article offers new information about the garden’s design, rarely considered up to now, and can attribute this design to Lucien Paré, a landscape architect and horticulturalist trained at the Versailles landscape school. His teaching has recently been the object if renewed study. The house has been awarded the label ‘Maison des Illustres’ and, with the garden, was given statutory protection in 2022.

Rebuilding Chateaux in the Twentieth Century. Identification, Documentation and Interpretation of Chateaux in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region destroyed during the Second World War

Fanny Crozet

This article is an analysis of the processes involved in rebuilding the castles and stately homes of the present-day Nouvelle-Aquitaine region after the Second World War. It hopes to renew the history of this second reconstruction in France in two separate directions. First of all, it looks at a region that has been little examined from the point of view of reconstruction history, with the notable exception of the towns of Royan and Oradour-sur-Glane. Secondly, it identifies what might be called a blind spot in existing studies of the reconstruction, concerning an architectural type which is isolated and broadly scattered, and not mentioned in the reconstruction planning documents (PRA) generally studied.

We examine the way this building type was integrated into the phenomenon of reconstruction by adapting to the material context of the second reconstruction and also to its economic context. It tries to understand how the age-old architecture of the buildings was renewed in order to accommodate notions as prosaic as economy and rationalisation, hitherto foreign to it. Based on a study corpus of about fifty sites, it takes a detailed look at the rebuilding processes undertaken both on the ‘minor’ heritage of damaged buildings, which did not benefit from any measure of historic monument protection, and at the more significant heritage of castles or stately homes which were protected (classés) as historic monuments. From out of the shadows of the architectural programmes for destroyed cities, a new kind of heritage thus emerges, conditioned by the economic constraints and new requirements of contemporary times.

Cover Photo Credits: Reproduction Archives de Paris.