The Museum of Traditions and Arts of Normandy was founded in 1961 by the General Council of the Department of Seine-Maritime. Its installation was originally put into Daniel Lavallée’s hands (1925-1989), a German teacher who was famous for supporting the protection of the timber-framed houses in Rouen. The gathering of a vast amount of furniture, clothes, ceramic, glaziery and everyday objects that seem to date back to between the 15th-century and the 19th-century Normandy, allowed gathering an exceptional collection recounting the history of the local popular arts and traditions. Over the years, the museum developed its collections thanks to some generous gifts, notably in the textile sector with the big donation of some fine illustrated handkerchiefs belonging to the Buquet family. Today, fifteen thousand artefacts are permanently or temporarily exhibited in the museum and the outbuildings.
Inside the museum, an exceptional collection of furniture from Normandy refers to the evolution of styles from the 15th to the 19th Centuries. The ethnography of the countries (the Caux country, the Eure countries, the Bray country and the coastline) is shown by the historical reconstitution of some farm interiors, with their 18th and 19th-century furniture and everyday objects. Each year, on the last floor of the museum, the association L’Espace Musical organizes a new exhibition dedicated to the history of music in Normandy, matching the thematic of the temporary exhibition.
The guard room
The guard room was the castle’s common room. Inside, and around the fireplace, the lord used to receive, to feed guests and to give justice. Somehow, the villagers lived a part of their lives in this room. The castle’s oldest pieces of furniture have been gathered inside, as, for example, the chair and the banc-tournis (a bench with a removable back) dating back to the 15th Century.
The ground-floor corridor
The vaulted corridor leading to all the rooms on the ground floor is ornamented with religious coats of arms on the keystones.
The kitchen is still in the same part of the building, and most probably furnished like it was in the late 19th Century. The staff (the servants of the castle) had their meals in this room, on the big table. Also, the kneading-trough proves that the bread was prepared here.
The dining room
This room was possibly used to lodge very important guests in the 16th Century and even later. King Henry IV may also have slept in here or in the lord’s bedroom, in 1592, while he was chasing the Duke of Parma in the region.
This room and a few more were the last to keep their 18th-century wainscot intact.
Unfortunately, the 18th-century installation of the room is incomplete. The Prussians, who occupied the castle in 1870, are said to have burnt the panelling up to get warm. Two 17th-century wedding chests made in the same workshop, a 17th-century woollen and silk tapestry representing the theme of “the Good Pastor” (“du Bon Pasteur”) and a big four-door cupboard from Yville-sur-Seine Castle, near Duclair, will draw the visitors’ attention.
The 17th-century woodwork was restored in this room in the 1980s, which helps us imagine the general ambiance of the castle in those times. This room was probably used as a wardrobe for the guest room.
The lord’s bedroom
The first floor was considered a “noble floor” in big mansions because the owner’s family lived there. At the centre of the lord’s bedroom, the column bed is flanked by stools to get more easily into bed.
This room shelters some pieces of furniture from the Second Renaissance (1530-1560), when a stylistic return to the Antiquity, its mythology and architecture was favoured.
By the woodwork installed inside of it in the 17th Century, it seems that the room laid out in the turret was used by the lord as an office or, maybe, more as a library than as a wardrobe.
On its wainscot, the wall paintings are the only two noticeable in the castle: an 18th-century trompe-l’œil decor representing a castle and some country scenes.
Room Louis XIII
After the Renaissance, with its profusion of antique adornments, the Louis XIII style brought a brand new world, leading to the 17th-century rigorist style. The Louis XIII style was prevalent between the last years of King Henri IV’s reign and King Louis XIV’s, ca. 1594-1680 – even longer since a chronological lag is noted between Paris and the other regions.
In this period, chests were progressively abandoned, in favour of the four-door and two-drawer cupboards, created by superimposing two chests and a third piece of furniture with drawers. Also in this period, the first two-door cupboards were created.
A cell from the Rouen Visitation convent
In 1970, an important donation from the Visitation Sainte-Marie monastery of Rouen to the museum allowed recreating the ambiance of a nun’s cell, only furnished with a bed, a sideboard and a kneeling-chair.
Other pieces of furniture, such as ‘community’ chests are exhibited in this room.
The 18th-century room
In the 18th Century, the Louis XV style was predominant in Normandy, and was still manufactured long after King Louis XV died. In this period, the prettiest two-door cupboards were made; also the “bonnetière” (mailed oak wood), utilized to stow the Caux-country caps, and the chests of drawers, quite exceptional in Cauchois homes.
The first-floor corridor and the chapel
The corridor leads to the chapel Jacques Le Pelletier II had built in 1510.
Even if the stained glasses and woodwork were redone in the 19th Century, it apparently kept its original pavement with its yellow and green glazed ceramic tiles.
Some religious ornaments are exhibited in this chapel: the wood statue of Saint Catherine and a stone pieta.
The Armoires room
The classical two-door “armoire” (cupboard) is one of the finest pieces of furniture in Normandy. The tradition relates that, in the 18th Century, the father of a baby girl would have an oak tree put down just after her birth, then sawed up to make it dry; after the engagement of his daughter, he would have the armoire made by a local carpenter or an ambulant bespoke craftsman, so it would be the most precious part of her outfit and constitute a part of her marriage portion at the same time.
On this floor, the rooms are dedicated to the furniture from:
- the Caux country;
- the Eure countries.
The second-floor corridor
This corridor kept its original aspect, with its Gothic door frame. The lord’s servants probably lived on this floor. In this corridor, one can notice the collection of ceramic and glassware, also several carpenters’ and farriers’ masterpieces and a showcase dedicated to mail-coach travelling.
On this floor, the rooms are dedicated to the furniture from:
- the Bray country;
- the Caux coastline;
- Little Caux.
The third-floor corridor
A part of the fine illustrated handkerchiefs collection, made in Rouen, are gathered in this corridor.
A particular series, named “the military instruction handkerchiefs”, is very well known because they were the most produced and traded. Because they were printed with the cylinder printing process instead of the copper plate printing one, they spread widely in the French army.
The room dedicated to the Normandy traditional textile
Normandy was a major region for the textile industry and its activity was extended to nearly all fabrics, except silk.
The room dedicated to the Normandy traditional costume
The relationship people had with the costume in those days is completely different from the one we have nowadays. Linen and clothes are mentioned in the inventories just as much as the lands, the furniture and the jewels. They are transmitted from one generation to another.
The room dedicated to the (bride’s) outfit
At the bottom of the room, the wedding-cupboard stands open showing its content: the outfit.
The lady of the house kept the key of the cupboard since it was her responsibility. She also managed the rotation of the pieces of the outfit for them to stand up to tear.
Music in Normandy
This room, installed with the help from the association l’Espace Musical, was dedicated to the musical heritage of Normandy.
Outside the castle
The visitor will be able to see:
The castle’s façades
The farmer’s house
The carter’s house