The gazetteer

We have now prepared a list of more than three hundred Éolienne Bollée sites, but many of those installed in 1900–31 may still be missing. One of the reasons for providing this website is to inspire research into these sites and provide a central repository of information. Preliminary work suggests that at least sixty wind-turbines still stand, including examples in Bassens (restored in 1997) and Dolus-le-Sec. The latter was officially opened on 26th May 2002 after extensive restoration work. The No. 3 originally installed to supply the Château de la Vilaine in Esvres-sur-Indre was recommissioned on 2nd July 2005.

Distribution of …oliennes Bollée

The oldest survivor will be found in the gardens of the Bollée bell-foundry in Saint-Jean-de-Braye (Orléans), outside the fascinating Musée Campanaire. Recently-discovered correspondence suggests that it dates from 1871–2. Though the list of clients published by Auguste Bollée fils in August 1888 identifies it simply as ‘Bollée, Amédée, propriétaire à Orléans, 1874, [no.] 2’, it is clearly the Le Mans prototype—sent to Amédée Bollée only after it had outlived its usefulness as a development tool.

The St-Jean-de-Braye machine has many features which differ from the other Éoliennes Bollée surviving in France. A detailed examination of the wind-turbine erected in the Château du Hutreau in Saint-Gemmes-sur-Loire in 1874 (which has diagonal Papillon drive and rod-type staircase treads) will probably confirm that the several machines were made before the pattern changed. Unfortunately, this particular machine has been dismantled, even though the pump house survives in what has become a public park. The dismantled Éolienne is now in the care of l'Arche de la Nature, the ‘Museum of Water’ in Le Mans.

None of the subsequent alterations seem to be anything other than the result of experience and, perhaps, complaints voiced by purchasers. If the date of the St-Jean-de-Braye Éolienne Bollée is accepted as 1874, the 1888 list indicates that there were at least three earlier installations: one in 1872 and two in 1873. Before the identification of ‘prototype features’ can be justified for St-Jean-de-Braye, therefore, it is vital to trace details of the 1872–3 machines.

Other publicly-accessible sites include the Lavoirs in Bechères-les-Pierres (between the D114 and the D28) and Nogent-le-Phaye (alongside the D339). Wind-turbines also stand in the grounds of the town hall in rue Notre-Dame, Brezolles; close to the south side of the N23 in the former asylum in Courville-sur-Eure; in the centre of Épuisay on the D151; and alongside the old town hall in Arthonnay. One can be found on a roundabout near La Ronde, just where the N147 turns south-west to Saumur, and another overlooks the D8 in Saint Louand (Chinon).

Among the most interesting sites is the Grande Ferme de Marolles, north-east of Genillé in Indre-et-Loire, where two Éoliennes Bollée still stand. The iron-framed farm buildings are said to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel to pay a gambling debt. The No. 3 machine is particularly interesting, with high-level drive to the pumps and some stays that are attached to the walls. The nearby Château de Breuil No. 3 was used in conjunction with a hydraulic ram and a storage tank standing on a base that was also designed by Eiffel.

The Ministère de la Culture et Communication has already scheduled a few Éoliennes Bollée as historic monuments, but conserving the relics of industry is being hindered by the loss of the skills with which they were made. The Éolienne Bollée in Dolus-le-Sec was restored as a Millennium project (it can be seen at work during the summer months), and the No. 3 éolienne in Esvres-sur-Indre returned to operation in 2005. But others are still under threat, and the value of restoration in perpetuating skills that are threatened with extinction has yet to be universally recognised.

Details of these fascinating wind-turbines can also be found in Les Eoliennes Bollée by André Gaucheron and J. Kenneth Major, published in 1995 by the Fédération Française des Associations de sauvegarde des Moulins (FFAM), and from the website of the Commission Française pour la Protection du Patrimoine Historique et Rural (CFPPHR).

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