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Jean-Michel Peers | all galleries >> GIVERNY, le village >> Giverny in days gone by > The Hamlet of Manitaux
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The Hamlet of Manitaux

The Hamlet of Manitaux

Text by André Buffet and Jean-Michel Peers
Translation by Katherine Bourguignon
Photography and layout by Jean-Michel Peers
Postcards from Terra Foundation for American Art


The place name Orgival or “Val d’Or” meaning Valley of Gold was certainly so named in reference
to the fertility of the rich alluvium soil accumulated over the centuries by the subsiding of
the Seine which created valleys. The grasslands are rich; flocks and herds thrive. It is not
surprising then that throughout the centuries one would create and build what one needed
in order to cultivate the land and raise animals. This is how Manitaux was built,
a small hamlet nestled between the branch of the Seine and the wooded hillsdie,
caught between Vernon to the west and Giverny to the east.

With the first postcards, the Giverny hamlet is identified differently according to the
whim of the photograph. On certain cards one can read Manitôt or Magnitots, even Magnéto!
As for the place name Orgival, one can find Heurgival on the correspondence mentioned
below, Orgeval, and even Jheurgival on a colored postcard showing the railroad
crossing of Manitaux (ed. Fautret). This is a little chaotic!
Let’s be precise. For us, it is Manitaux, as indicated on the map of Cassini
from 1784 and the different detailed maps of the IGN. (National Geographic Institute)

The first of the eight hamlets of Giverny when arriving from Vernon, Manitaux always remained
isolated from the rest of the village. The path (currently Georges Carpentier Street) that
crosses through Manitaux in a north to south direction marks the limit between Vernon and
Giverny and continues today towards the forest and the hillside of Orgival by the GR2.
The wooden bridge on the Seine marks its southern limit.

We know that Claude Monet was antimilitaristic. Michel de Decker tells the battle he fought
…at the Minister of War, whose director Henri Maurice Berteaux promised to set up a firing
range on the site of Orgival for the men of the Train regiment. In January 1905, the minister
of war signals by a “written order to Monsieur the General Joffre, director of Génie,
to choose another firing range than that of heurgival, for the garrison of Vernon.”


At the beginning of the twentieth century, the activity of Manitaux centered around the Boyer farm,
which managed the land all around it. You can see the farm on this card, with its two buildings at
the foot of the hillside, two outbuildings to the right and the wall that separated the property
from the railroad that ran alongside it.

Situated to the right at the end of the pathway leading to the forest, the building is spacious.
The location is calm and the air is pure - ideal conditions for the training of high level
athletes. After the First World War, the farmer who without doubt loved sports, created
a room for teaching and training boxing in the outbuildings. It was Edouard Picard,
mason from Giverny who did the work. A small house was even built at the very end
of the path; it was to become lodging for boxers who came for training at the farm.
In the card above, you can notice this dark brick building in the background,
while in the card below (postmarked in 1906), it was not yet built.

Below, the building as it looks today. At the time, the sloping land to the left was developed
into terraces, with a lawn for training adjacent to the building. (Mr. Vincent)

The athletes who came to train in the ring of the Boyer farm were numerous. Georges Carpentier was
one of the most prestigious of them. Aged twenty, he fought in the mid-weight category.
Six years later he was World Champion of the mid-heavy weights. Georges Carpentier was
without doubt a man in a hurry; Monsieur Boyer had created a landing strip for the
champion on the land of Grand Ile, an island in the Seine. (Guy Colombel)

Among his partners, we should make note of Eugène Criqui, a feather-weight, stocky and muscular,
overflowing with strength and energy. To perfect his footwork, he often ran shirtless and in
shorts along the Chemin de Grande Communication from Vernon to Bray, in the direction of
Giverny gesturing with his arms and body as if facing an opponent.

He had just passed the field of the “Pierre aux Malades” when he came across a “fraîche femme”,
a woman who had just rinced her laundry at the washhouse of the Grande Arche.
At first frozen with astonishment, then flabbergasted with fear,
she threw her laundry to the ground and ran home. (André Picard)

The BRANCH OF MANITAUX begins near the Island of Nettles when it separates from the Seine.
It is also known as a Branch of the Seine. It sets the limit between Giverny and Port-Villez
by isolating Grande Ile, which has only one meeting point with Manitaux: the wooden bridge.

At the beginning of the last century it was not rare to see several canoes as well as flatboats
or long shallow boats making their way among the aquatic plants. The shadow of the pollard willows
was cool on a sunny Sunday. The rallying center for the boats was the “Port of Giverny” at the
confluence of the Ru (below to the left) and the Branch of the Seine (to the right), at
the ‘Pierre aux Malades’.

During the dry season, carpenters refit and caulk their boats.


Mayors were responsible to ensure the smooth flow of water in the Branch of Manitaux.
In November 1911 (a year after the terrible floods of 1910) people spoke of
fallen trees that had obstructed the branch of the Seine.

Because dirt torn from the banks, discarded materials, and dead trees blocked the
bed of the river, it was common to dredge it. The dredging of rivers had the effect
of digging the bottom so as to allow easy flowing of the water and to minimize the
risk of floods. It made news at the time!

And it is a situation that is still topical…

In late 2009, the fairway of the branch of the Seine
was obstructed at its beginning by sludge, …

...willows along its banks and banks that were caving in. (photos Jean Flahaut)

It was even possible that during high water, at the confluent of the ru, the water
would go back up the river flowing backwards. The possibility that the river would
become blocked by sludge, common during the last century is still a concern.

At the start of 2010, however, many volunteers received financial support from the
municipality to rent a mechanical digger. They cleared the Seine side and are
starting to rehabilitate about 2km of the branch up to the Branch of Manitaux.


The CROSS on the HILL

When the GR2 arrives at the summit of the hill, there is a Cross of the Guides. Not far from the
foot of the cross, a large rock stretches out to form a panoramic viewpoint; nothing special
to note, except for the sight of an interesting viewpoint of the valley. For a long time it
was thought that this imposing rock was different from rock found elsewhere on the hillside,
and that it had inevitably been brought there centuries earlier to mark a place of druid
ceremonies. One does not have to be a great geologist to notice that the rock is made
up of limestone and flint, like the rock throughout the hillside. If the legend
is true, we must search for the rock elsewhere on the same site.

other sizes: small original
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