I finally made my long overdue trip to the archives in Gueret. I’m so glad I did. I’ve barely made a start on finding out the history of our estate, Les Fragnes – who built it, who lived here, what they did – but I’ve already uncovered one fascinating and significant fact. Our large lake, Alder Lake, is a pre-Napoleonic lake. That is huge in lake terms, since these historic lakes have all sorts of privileges and exemptions from normal regulations controlling plans d’eau. And we had no idea! Nor, obviously, did the vendors or the estate agents or they would have made a big deal of it. And possibly more profit too!
I requested the Napoleonic cadastral (local area map) of Nouzerines, dated 1829, at the archives. I saw our neighbours’ properties at Montpetut and Les Guérins, but there was no Les Fragnes. There was, however, a lake. Our lake! It was land parcel no. 263. When I looked this up in a weighty register written up in 1829, I found this described as ‘Pêcherie du Frâne’. It’s not too difficult to see where ‘Fragnes’ has come from. Somewhere between now and 1829, the ‘a’ of Frâne lost its circumflex, a ‘g’ got slipped in and the whole thing became plural. I’m trying to find out what ‘frâne’ means. It’s an old word and possibly means a landslide or a subsidence, something along those lines. However, I have more homework to do here.
André Beaufils owned this étang. Beaufils is a name I’ve come across before. In the stash of attic treasures, we found a roll of election posters. Marcel Beaufils was standing in the 1910 elections. Also, I’m pretty sure Genevieve Beaufils is written in the front of one of the schoolbooks we found, dating from the 1870s. I’m about to get very dusty digging into the past.
André Beaufils owned most of what is now Les Fragnes, although M. Parrot had a tiny bit and so did Louis Payat. Possibly François Desfausses, a surgeon in Boussac, also owned a small corner. I shall take our up-to-date cadastral with me next time I go to compare with the Napoleonic one. I’ve yet to track down how many people the land went through before it came to us, but one step at a time!