French Beginnings

Between the quaint old towns of Libourne on the west and Castillon to the east, in the Department of La Gironde, is a tract of country, rising in hills and dales from the broad valley of the Dordogne. The plain, raised but slightly above the river level resembles in summer a southern sea of green translucent shadows; for the vines spread for miles around, all of an uniform height and their colour that of the Mediterranean Sea. At sunset, the long slanting sun-rays pierce through the leaves and transform the valley into a blaze of emeralds.

The low hills, or "côtes" on the south side are far distant from the river. On the north the downs are nearer and bound the Dordogne in a long ridge from west to east, with other ridges rising behind them until they again sink into the watershed of the river Isle, which, meeting the Dordogne at Libourne forms the hilly country of the "Libournaise". All these ridges are thickly planted with vines. Amongst the vines stand many "châteaux"; most of them would in England scarcely bear the name of "country-seats" for they are little low farms with no pretension to wealth or comfort externally. Yet they have stood there for centuries and each has its well-known name and its history.

The villages in this fertile region have the look of Indian hamlets. The houses are low and straggly and tiled with brown bricks, irregularly, giving them the appearance of being thatched.


Sketch by M L G Trapaud de Colombe

The roads are glaringly white and chalky; the summer sun beats down on the treeless plain with cloudless, pitiless brilliancy, till the tired wayfarer longs to creep under the stumpy vine-shadows, or calculates the distance from one slender poplar streak across the road unto the next.

Scarcely a mile of country separates these villages from each other, but in spite of the short distance each is distinct in itself and there are no houses dotted along the highways to disturb this feeling of isolation. In a line from Libourne to Castillon there are the towns and villages of Saint-Emilion, Saint Laurent des Combes, Saint-Christophe des Bardes, Saint-Étienne de Lisse, Sainte-Colombe, Mangot, and Saint-Magne, each close to the other and yet with its own interests.

According to Leo Drouyn, a 19th century historian, the story begins in 1471 when a Trapaud is the owner of some land (a fief) in the small village of Gardegan in the Dordogne.

In the next century the family has travelled westward. We hear no more of them at Gardegan but we discover a Pierre Trapaud who has settled down at nearby Saint-Emilion as a notary, a profession he exercised for thirty years (1539-1569). He was an alderman of the town in 1556.

In 1591 and again in 1611 a Trapaud was mayor of Castillon la Bataille.

There are a few other mentions of the name in the annals but the first Trapaud we know to be an ancestor of the present Trapaud family was born towards the end of the 16th century. His name was Simon Trapaud.

Ida de Layarde in her book "Family of Trapaud" (Pau, 1899) has put down on paper much research carried out by herself, Drouyn and others.

Below is shown a map of the town of Castillon la Bataille as depicted in "Family of Trapaud".


O.T. Ditch, Water if necessary.
K. "Barrage" (Toll-bar.)
A.X. Rue Pont-Martel.
A.D. Porte de l'Hotel de ville.
S. Chateau entre la Porte de la Riviere
et la Mairie.
X.D. Rue Mauconseil.
F. Porte de l'Aiguille (detruite.)
F.X. Rue de Lavergne.
P. Porte de la Riviere, du Chateau
ou de la Poterne.
Z. Poterne.
P.D. Rue de la Poterne.
D.Z. Rue Bien lui vienne.
H. Rue du Chateau.
B. Maison appelee le Palais.
G. Tour du Moulin.
M. Moulin.
C. Puits.
I. Eglise ancienne.
V. Mairie.
E. Prison pres de la Porte du Chateau. D.

Guienne Militaire.
Leo Drouyn.

The Porte du Chateau opens on to the river bank. The Dordogne flows by lazily and quietly, unlike the strong and majestic waterway in Libourne. The tide does not reach the town and there are but few boats. The banks are low and with no trees on the town side and only a few on the opposite bank. The 'faubourgs' stretch away to the west, wandering into the country and almost reaching St-Magne, at a mile and a half distant. Castillon stands on ground which rises somewhat abruptly from the river, but not to any observable height. On the north it slopes down again slightly to the little river Lidoire.

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