Septfonds, an old bastide (fortified town) built in 1249, is about to turn over a new page in its history. The inhabitants are now inviting visitors to stroll through the town to discover its large and beautiful hewed stone buildings and understand what they reveal of the upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries.
This commune in south-western France was lucky to have among its inhabitants, Pétronille Cantecor, a creative woman who discovered how straw braids could be used to make the hats for which Septfonds became famous and which made its fortune. One of the families working in the hat making industry was that of Dieudonné Costes, a great aviation pioneer, born in 1892.
The industrious tranquillity of Septfonds was disrupted in 1939 when the government decided to set up an internment camp there to house the thousands of war refugees.
A living heritage and Remembrance Promenade convey the story of these population upheavals that the people of Septfonds wish to share with younger generations, while raising the issue of asylum and hospitality.
Raymond Peyrières, a hat salesman, lived in this house, whose architecture is typical of the history of Septfonds. He was a Communist resistance fighter, who was arrested then deported to Dachau in 1944. In the street named in honour of the deportees, the Septfonds municipality bought this dressed stone house, La Mounière, to be a heritage remembrance Museum.
Visitors will learn about the itineraries of the displaced populations, Spanish, Jewish, Polish, all foreigners deemed to be undesirable, with an evocation of the Judes internment camp.
Two promenades have been devised to help visitors understand the history of Septfonds: the first focuses on the architecture shaped by the hat making industry, while the other takes in remembrance sites related to the conflicts of the 20th century.
The beautiful houses made of Septfonds stone from nearby quarries or from bricks, bear witness to the wealth of the hat makers who made their fortunes in the 19 th and 20th centuries. They now proudly represent the emblematic heritage of the original hat making town centre, This walk can be completed by a visit to Caussade, another hat making town with a common history.
The refugees arrived at the Borredon railway station and walked 8km to the Judes internment camp. The promenade also takes in the Spanish cemetery, a memorial to deported Jews, a Polish oratory, the war memorial and the commune’s cemetery. These remembrance promenades are enriched by historical places and works of art reflecting the supportive reaction of the inhabitants and their institutions – church, municipality – towards the refugees.
15, rue des déportés
Tel: +33 (0)6 70 36 86 90
10th May to 30th September : Wednesday and Saturday 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm, and by reservation
July / August: Wednesday to Sunday 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm
December to May: by reservation
Standard price: 3 €
Reduced rates: students, pensioners, job seekers, children under 12, unaccompanied groups (from 10 people or more): 2 €/per person
Children under 6: free
Rate of accompanied visits on request