Bateau Lavoir

On the river Mayenne at Laval in the Mayenne department was once to be found a strange sort of craft, the “bateau-lavoir”, or “laundry boat”.

These bizarre constructions allowed laundresses to more easily rent some of the scarce riverside space. The boats had a flat lower deck with a couple of dozen washing areas, with washing lines hanging above. There would also be one or more boilers for hot water, and a wringer. The owner of the boat lived on the upper deck.

Bateaux-lavoirs were common throughout the west of France in the late 1800s, but Laval is the only town to have preserved two of them - the “St Julien” and the “St Yves”.

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