Old cotton millsof Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville
North of Rouen, behind the magnificent brick facades and the imposing chimney, hides a confectionery workshop with traditional Norman recipes.
A historical and traditional recipe
This recipe comes back from Rouen with itsapple sugar stick has really tasted the soul of the city! This delicacy made of white sugar, glucose, apple flavoring, lemon and caramel dates back to the 16th century.
It was sold, at the time, in the form of pastille at apothecaries to cure sore throats or melancholy. The abundance of apples in Normandy and the sugar that transited through the port of Rouen allowed this “medicine” of the time to become popular and gradually become an incontrovertible confection. The city’s aldermen even offered baskets of sweets with the famous apple sugar
to the kings and sovereigns who stayed in Rouen.
Gourmet visits and a passionate integration association
Smell the sweet smell of hot sugar? The workshop’s wide windows allow you to observe the laboratory where some 20 handicapped craftsmen are busy with enthusiasm and rigor. They work in the établissement et service d’aide par le travail (ESAT) du Pré de la Bataille and explain to you, on the spot, the various stages of this artisanal production during documented visits.
It takes no less than 12 people and 3h to prepare a round of 500 apple sugars of 60g. Each year, it is 3 tons of Rouen sugars that come out of this workshop for the pleasure of young and old. This sweet visit is well worth the detour, especially since the establishment was awarded the Trophies of Tourist Attractiveness in the category Valuation of Heritage.
A territory marked by industry
The confectioners’ workshop takes place in a former factory of the establishments of the Gresland family, a flagship of the textile industry in the XIXth century. Established in Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville in 1866, it was called, at the time, “the factory in the fields” because it stood in the middle of the countryside. The factory manufactured cotton thread candle wicks.
It then diversified its production in the face of the decline in the use of candles for lighting, without abandoning its initial vocation. Entering the courtyard surrounded by these huge brick buildings recalls the work of these workers embarked on the industrial adventure of Rouen. The emotion is palpable.
A huge fireplace, a symbol
With its 50 meters in height, it is impressive! This brick chimney was built in 1868-1870, at a time when coal was replacing water from the Cailly River as the source of energy to run the machines of the factories.
Today, the chimney no longer smokes, but it is still there, visible from afar and easily accessible. This industrial dungeon is a rare testament to this era as chimneys began to disappear from the 1960s, with the decline of the textile industry. The Gresland chimney is classified as a historical monument.
Take a tour in the North district of Rouen
A walk around the confectioners’ workshop allows you to immerse yourself in the area’s industrial past. Follow the course of the Cailly. This river irrigated all the industrial activity of the valley, which in the 19th century was called “little Manchester” because it was so pioneering and productive.
The river will lead you to the Vallois rope factory, a former water-powered spinning mill that has become a museum that revives the atmosphere of the time with its machines still in operation. A little further on, the large wick-making workshop houses Le Shed: an independent contemporary art center dedicated to experimentation. On your way, you will also come across the Manoir Gresland, one of the oldest timber-framed buildings in Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville. This manor, long a symbol of the power of the nobility, became in the XIXth century that of the power of the textile bourgeoisie.
From 1836, the manor indeed passed into the hands of various owners of textile factories in the Cailly valley. It will remain for more than a century the property of the Gresland family, until the closure of the family spinning mill. In 1990, the city acquired it to install the city library.