The village of Durfort in the Tarn department nestles at the foot of La Montagne Noire, 3 kilometers from SorrÃ¨ze and about the same from Revel in a narrow gorge cut into the mountain by the river Sorr.
If you are in the region, the village is a nice place to visit on a sunny afternoon, where the narrow streets offer a nice cool walk out of the hot sun.
The original settlement was sited on the “PlÃ´”, the rocky outcrop that towers above the existing village, in the 11th century, where a “Castelnau” was built under the powerful Rochefort family, who presided over the ChÃ¢teau de Roquefort, just a few kilometers away in the mountains. You may have seen the word, “Castelnau” before, as in Castelnaudary, Castelnau de Montmirail, it basically means a new castle in occitane.
It was an original fief of Pierre Guillaume in 1141 and if you climb up to the site, there are still traces visible of the original fortification and houses, which were destroyed in 1568.
In 1377, during the 100 years war, SorrÃ¨ze was beseiged by English troops who also pillaged the village of Durfort.
The village changed hands through the centuries and was given as part of the dowry of Claire de Figairolles when she married Guillaume de Viguier in the 17th century, finally being sold to Bernard Lacombe of Revel at the end of the 18th century.
It is not completely clear why the village moved from the top to the valley. It could have been due to the Black Death which ravaged The Lauragais in 1348 or because of the small area of land that was able to be cultivated in the village, which meant they had to find other sources of revenue. In any case the village moved to the valley on the banks of the river Sorr, where textile mills were built to weave, card and dye wool to produce woolen blankets which were then sold in the markets of Lunel, PÃ©zenas and Montpellier. The mills were principally made up of a large water-powered hammer to beat the copper plate into flat sheets before being formed into the desired shapes.
After the collapse of the textile industry in The Lauragais in the 15th Century, the mills were transformed into copper mills to exploit the copper that was mined in The Montagne Noire and that which was imported from Auvergne in The Massif Centrale. The copper industry in Durfort produced all sorts of copper ware, from cooking utensils to alambics for the distillation of Cognac and Armagnac to cauldrons used in the textile industry for tanners and dyers in the surrounding area.
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In the 19th century, there were 600 inhabitants in the village, with 11 workshops, mainly cottage industries, producing 2.5 tons of copper per year – hard to imagine in the sleepy village today.
Just before The French Revolution, over 100 people made a living from the copper mills in Durfort, with about the same number working in the much reduced textile industry.
There is a museum of copper in the old school house, where the Mairie is today, with guided tours and a film recounting the history of copper in the village, which can be completed with a visit to the last working mill in the area, which is well worth the detour. In the museum there are some unique exhibits, including a statue in copper of Saint Theresa, standing 1.2 meters high, a bust of the head of the virgin Mary and various examples of copper craft including stills to distill Cognac and Armignac.
Take a walk around the village and it is not difficult to imagine what it was like a couple of ceturies ago, with the overhanging houses and the stream that flows in the middle of the old winding streets.
Have a look at the Church of Saint Etienne, the oldest part dating from the 16th Century, built on the site of a previous church that was edified in 1235.
Today the village has a population of 270 inhabitants, with plenty of parking places available in the main square, there is also:
* A cafÃ© and restaurant
* A picnic area with benches and tables alongside the river with public toilet facilities.
* The copper museum
* Shops selling artisan made copper articles
This is a nice stop-over for people visiting St FÃ©rreol, Revel and SorrÃ¨ze and is a great starting point for walks in the forest in La Montagne Noire, just carry on up the narrow road leaving the village, with the museum on your left to get some stunning views over the Lauragais.
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