The city of Limoges is located in the center-west of France and less than three hours by car from Bordeaux. With a population of approximately 133,000, it is a lively medieval city which adjoins the Limousin forest. It was first founded by the Gauls, becoming the capital of the Tribe of Gallic Lemovices and was eventually renamed “Limoges.”
In 10 BC. AD, the romans have arrived and made a central square and two intersecting streets. Today this ancient city is an exciting off-the-beaten-path adventure for the curious tourist and home to many attractions including winding medieval streets and the Limoges Cathedral, which dates back to the 1500s. Limoges is, above all, the birthplace of the first limousine and is known for its highly prized decorative fine china. Read on to find out how this relatively small and unknown French town became a seat of luxury.
Limousines in Limoges
The limousine of yesteryear has nothing to do with what we think today. In fact, it was originally just a gold-colored horse-drawn carriage and was defined as “a large luxury vehicle driven by a chauffeur with a partition between the driver’s compartment and the passenger compartment”. Although the name of the connection is unknown, it is assumed that the original drivers wore the regional Limousin type of hooded coat. It is also possible that the sturdy wood from the Limousin forest (which is also used to make cognac barrels, called tierçons) was used to make the carriages, thus giving it its name.
During the 1700s, only the wealthiest could afford to ride in a horse-drawn limo. The first motor limousine was developed in 1902 in the city of Limoges – it was designed so that the driver sat outside in a covered compartment, like in a horse-drawn carriage. Think of Maggie Smith in Gosford Park. Soon, eobviously, the original limousine car has gone out of style.
Unfortunately it was the end of the limousine in France. The Americans screwed up the idea and made it long and tall (naturally.) The first stretch limousine was invented in 1928 in Arkansas, that’s a long way from Limoges, France. The appearance has changed almost entirely from the original classic (we’ll spare you the imagery) and so has the clientele. Today it’s considered a fancy way to get to prom, or maybe a night out on the town, and… it has nothing to do with the forest and the French limo capes and the characters Maggie Smith style on the back. seat.
Limoges Decorative Porcelain
You have certainly already seen Limoges porcelain somewhere, whether at your grandmother’s house or even in a museum. It is known for its decorative flowers and elegant appearances. Porcelain was first introduced to Europe by Marco Polo during his famous trip to China. For the aristocracy, having fine China porcelain represented a certain rank of status and prestige. At that time, the “Manufacture de Sèvres”, near Paris, became the largest distributor of porcelain on the continent. Until Limoges comes on the scene…
Hard-paste porcelain began to be made in Limoges at the end of the 18th century when suitable clay was found in the region. It was exactly in 1768, when the wife of a chemist from Saint-Yrieixin, a town just outside Limoges, discovered a white substance in the ground. What she had found was “white gold”, which was to become the basis of the city’s famous porcelain.
Thus, Limoges replaced Paris as the center of porcelain production. But the creative past of Limoges does not stop there. The city was already famous for the production of vitreous enamels in the 12th century. Businessman Jacques Turgot first established production in the town which immediately began to flourish with its striking similarity to the valuable Chinese porcelain of the early 1800s. By 1900 there were 35 factories and 120 kilns employing up to 8,000 workers in Limoges.
Soon, ethereal and beautifully designed and painted tableware pieces were being made in Limoges to grace tables around the world. In particular, dresser sets were very popular, sometimes including nearly 24 pieces of large plates, small plates, cups, etc. More decorative pieces were presented as treasured valuables in the home. Limoges’ iconic and most valuable pieces were produced between the late 1700s and the 1930s – they are today’s collectables. Limoges porcelain is still produced, but in much smaller quantities and with simpler designs according to changing times.