The lavoirs, washhouses of Vannes!

And as we are in my wonderful capital city of Vannes, where I work for 8.5 years; let me continue telling you of its gems from a medieval look ramparts comes the wash houses or lavoirs.  Let me update this wonderful post for you and me; hope you enjoy as I. Again, thanks for reading me since Nov 2010!! As mentioned in bits and pieces in my other posts on Vannes, I like to tell you a bit more on it in one post dedicated to them. Therefore, read the wash houses or lavoirs of Vannes!


The lavoirs or wash-room are located in the ramparts garden,(see post) immediately north of the rue Porte-Poterne and on the Garenne spur. It joins a bend of the Marle river, which provides the supply of water. Located below the ramparts and in front of the bastion of the Garenne b.1626-1628, the wash-houses are reflected in the Marle river. Under the slate-covered gallery, the washers took place on the stone slabs following the curvature of the river. This wash would date from the 15C to the 17C before the wave of construction of the 19C. Upstairs were the tanners.


In 1816, there were built at this location known as the bastion of the Garenne , a laundry room and a shed on pillars covered in straw with washcloths.   The buildings were later found in the hands of the Taslé family and their descendants who sold them to the city of Vannes in 1928.  The cadastral plan of 1844 of the city of Vannes presents at the back of the building a small square body containing perhaps a staircase. The ground floor of these two buildings is reserved for laundries fuelled by chimneys while the floors are used for dwellings. The restoration of the washhouses was carried out at the end of the last century. The resumption of the timber-framed structure, the replacement of its exterior joinery and the construction of a new building. The interiors were also restored. To allow a better distribution of the floor, an external corridor was created at the rear of the building. The entire building measures about 40 meters long, protected by a slate roof. The first building, rectangle of about 13 meters by 7 meters, is constructed of wood-beamed wooden panels.  Having them built on the edge of the Marle river and consisting of 2 buildings arranged in square and a gallery covered with a slate roof, resting on wooden poles that fit on half its length and curved way to follow the river , on the ground floor of the building directly overlooking the river. The body perpendicular to the river is constructed of granite rubble. The  façade of the building overlooking the Marle river is built in a wooden frame on a stone base. Chimneys in place on gutter water walls and gables walls.


Originally dated from the 17-18C, these wash-houses were actually built between 1797 and 1807. To cope with the affluence of the launderers, they are enlarged twenty years later, between 1827 and 1831 and were in private property, the building are acquired by the city of Vannes in 1928. The laundry in the dirty waters of the Marle river are forbidden by the city in 1951. The washing machines are then lowered onto other washhouses located upstream, close to the prefecture in open washhouses between 1923 and 1965, or at the lake of the Duc, until 1962. The grounds between the ramparts, the rue Porte-Poterne and the Garenne brook, including the wash-houses, are part of the garden of the ramparts and were, together with the Garenne’s wash-houses, damaged by a flood of the Marle river, they benefited from a complete restoration during the winter of 2005-2006.

Some webpages to help you plan your visit to the lavoirs are:

The city of Vannes on a pdf flyer about the washhouses or lavoirs

The Bretagne region tourist office on Vannes

Another enjoyable stroll in quant medieval Vannes, right off the ramparts and heading on the Porte Poterne along rue Porte Poterne into the old town and its laberynth of beautiful architecture, history, and shops/restos to please. Enjoy the wash houses or  lavoirs of Vannes.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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