Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Musee Maurice Dufresne - France

The great thing about travelling with a group of people with varied interests is that sometimes you go to places you wouldn't normally think of going to on your own and you end up finding them fascinating.  For me, this was the case when one day four of us decided to visit the Musee  Maurice Dufresne, a short distance from Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire district of France.



 Maurice was born in 1930 and trained as a blacksmith. Eventually he built up his own very successful business in scrap metal dealing.  He noticed that a lot of old machinery was being tossed out for scrap once new technology was developed and it was from there that his passion to save old machinery, for posterity, grew.  He became an avid collector of all things mechanical, and much more besides, to the extent that his collection grew so vast he eventually bought an old, disused, paper mill to house it.  Today the collection consists of over 3000 items including Bleriot's plane used for his Channel crossing in July 1909. There are also between 500 and 600 period vehicles of all types,  pedal cars, washing machines, early bicycles, weapons, advertising posters, even an entire silk mill which he bought lock, stock and barrel and transported back to the museum. The centrepiece of the museum is the Fontaine water turbine, which was restored by Maurice and is fully working.


For those with a love of the macabre there is even a genuine French guillotine, said to have loped off more than 100 heads (pictured right)  and a rather creepy collection of wax heads of condemned people.





 Maurice died in 2008 but his legacy continues under the management of his daughter, Monique.  The museum is a popular place, visited by thousands every year  but the day we visited there was only a handful of people there and we were able to take a leisurely stroll around the exhibits.  The museum is so vast, though, I don't think a crowd would be a problem.


We wandered through the galleries for a whole afternoon...there was so much to take in, almost too much, and my mind turned continually to my late husband and son, both motor enthusiasts and lovers of machinery who would have been thrilled by it.  I would suggest a visit here would be a great antidote if you are all "Loire chateaued out". It is a gem of a place in a tranquil setting by the river and includes a bar and restaurant for refreshments and a gift shop for souvenirs.


Right: A complete silk mill which Maurice bought and set up in the museum,  It is exactly as it would have been, right down to the supervisor's desk and work books and the clock for staff to clock in and out on.


Below:  This is a travelling pedlar's cart, dating from the time of the French Revolution.