La Couture-Boussey: the historic home of wind instruments

Discovering the architectural remains of the musical instrument making industry in the heart of the Normandy countryside

View of La Couture-Boussey from the church (beginning 19th century)Le Musée des instruments à vent


Situated in northern France, to the west of Paris (in Normandy), this village, a few miles from the banks of the River Eure, is known as the historic home of wind instruments. The musical instruments manufacturing industry began to develop there in the 17th century and large families of instrument makers and musicians like the Hotteterres, the Lots, the Martins, the Buffets, the Godfroys, the Thibouvilles, and the Leblancs all contributed to the location's reputation.

Marigaux workshop (2015)Le Musée des instruments à vent


The tradition continues to this day. In La Couture-Boussey and the surrounding area, including the villages of Ézy-sur-Eure, Ivry-la-Bataille, and Garennes-sur-Eure, dozens of workers make their living in the industry, working at three companies: Marigaux, which makes oboes, Hérouard & Bénard, which produces accessories, and RC Tampons Musique, a manufacturer of pads for wind instruments.

Oboe finishing, Marigaux workshop, 2015, From the collection of: Le Musée des instruments à vent
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Oboe keys making, Marigaux workshop, 2015, From the collection of: Le Musée des instruments à vent
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Caps making, 2014, From the collection of: Le Musée des instruments à vent
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Caps making, 2014, From the collection of: Le Musée des instruments à vent
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Pads making, 2014, From the collection of: Le Musée des instruments à vent
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Le Musée des instruments à vent (2019)Le Musée des instruments à vent


The Woodwinds Museum has come to symbolize La Couture-Boussey.

Founded in 1888, it preserves and presents the memories of the makers and companies, the women and men who worked in the region, keeping those memories alive.

The museum has a remarkable collection of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and other instruments, from the 17th century to the present day, as well as tools and machines that all help in understanding the socio-economic and artistic history of La Couture and the surrounding region, which has specialized in musical instrument making since the 17th century.

Architectural drawing of the former school and municipal office of La Couture-Boussey (1882)Le Musée des instruments à vent


The museum has occupied more than one location in the center of La Couture-Boussey. The primary school, built in 1885 from bricks and stone, was formerly the town hall. In 1888, the first museum was set up in one of the rooms of that town hall.

To the origins of the Musée des instruments à vent (1888)Le Musée des instruments à vent

It consisted of a large wood-framed display case, made to measure, with a sign at the top saying "Museum of old and modern musical instruments," which contained what was at that time the entire collection of instruments. In 1982, the whole collection was moved to the current museum, which is also located in the heart of the village.

La Couture-Boussey city hall (2019)Le Musée des instruments à vent


The current town hall is located not far from the primary school and the Woodwinds Museum.
Previously, it was the home of Charles Sostène Chédeville (1876-1964), whose company made accessories for wind instruments, such as pads (which create a seal between the keys and the holes of an instrument).

The Charles Chédeville workshops were situated in a street behind the town hall: Rue Georges Leblanc. This family home was built in 1929 on the site of properties that had belonged to Isidore Lot (1832-1885), who was from an old, prestigious family of makers whose history dates back to the 18th century.

Art deco was the prominent style at the time and influenced the house's architecture, particularly the moldings and ornamentation, which demonstrate the comfort and prosperity of the village's middle class residents at the time.

In the 1970s, the house was repurposed to be the new town hall.

Frontage of the former Leblanc factory (2019)Le Musée des instruments à vent


Rue Georges Leblanc is a street that bore witness to the history of local instrument making. One façade attracts particular attention, with its sign reading “Leblanc maison fondée en 1750” (“Leblanc house founded in 1750”). Originally, this was a small workshop for making wind instruments, which was founded in 1750 by Clair Noblet, Senior (1728-1805). In 1904, as Noblet's last descendant had no heir, the company was bought by its best worker, Georges Leblanc (1872-1959).

Visit of the Leblanc factory of La Couture-Boussey by the amrican factory staff (1960s) by AnonymousLe Musée des instruments à vent

Together with his clarinetist son Léon (1900-2000), Leblanc made clarinets, the company's specialty. In 1946, Léon established G. Leblanc Corporation to win over the American market, and before long the Leblanc name became associated with clarinets all over the world. The workshops in La Couture-Boussey were totally destroyed by fire in 1950, then again in 1968, and suffered partial damage in 2003. The Leblanc production facilities closed their doors in France in 2008 to focus their production entirely in the USA.

In this street, the Leblancs' former family home is also visible thanks to its doorway featuring depictions of treble clefs and lyres, these musical symbols being recurrent motifs in the village. Workers' houses are also present but no longer recognizable as such, having been repurposed.

Clément Masson's house and Julliot-Masson workshop (2019)Le Musée des instruments à vent


At the intersection between rue George Leblanc and rue Neuve, an unusual set of buildings indicates the location of another manufacturing site: a family home with a workshop attached to it, owned by Djalma Julliot and Clément Masson (circa 1880-1956).

Interior view of Djalma Julliot worskop (1904)Le Musée des instruments à vent

Djalma Julliot (1858-1921) was from a family that produced musical instrument keys in La Couture-Boussey. He was a highly reputed flute maker in the 19th century, winning numerous awards at international exhibitions and employing as many as 30 workers. In addition to his work as a manufacturer, he played the flute in the village band and he played an important role in local life, being a member of the village council as well as assistant conductor and then conductor of the band.

In 1911, former workshop employee Clément Masson took over the company. The business finally ceased operations in 1972.

Monumental proch of a former Thibouville's property (2019)Le Musée des instruments à vent


Not far from the former workshop of Djalma Julliot and Clément Masson, rue Jérôme Thibouville bears all the hallmarks of the local musical instrument making industry. It is named for a large family of makers originally from the village, running businesses in both Paris and La Couture-Boussey, for the production of wind instruments including brass as well as woodwind. The family is also connected, through Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy, to Mirecourt (Vosges) for the production of string instruments.

This street is the location of the family home, which has been restored and is accessed through a monumental porch.

Extract from a Des Fils d'Eugène Thibouville catalogue (1893)Le Musée des instruments à vent

View of the Couesnon & Cie factory at La Couture-Boussey (1929) by CouesnonLe Musée des instruments à vent


The Couesnon business was the sector's biggest employer for many years, producing various types of instruments. The company set up workshops in regions famous for the production of particular types of instruments: String instruments were made in Mirecourt (Vosges) and wind instruments were made in Eure—specifically, woodwinds in La Couture-Boussey and brasses in Garennes-sur-Eure.

Extract from a Couesnon & Cie catalogue (1929)Le Musée des instruments à vent

Music school Léon Leblanc, La Couture-Boussey (20th century)Le Musée des instruments à vent


Opposite the Woodwinds Museum is the present-day music school, which was founded in 1998 thanks to the clarinet maker Léon Leblanc (1900-2000), who bequeathed the building for that purpose.

Its location is believed to be the former site of the Hotteterres' farmhouse. In the 17th century, the Hotteterres were a prestigious family of makers and musicians from the village itself. They contributed some major innovations to wind instruments production, such as devising a transverse flute that could be taken apart in three separate parts, and the addition of keys to that same flute.

The most famous member of the family, Jacques-Martin Hotteterre (1673-1763), was a maker, musician, composer, teacher, and flautist to King Louis XIV and Louis XV.

Church Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel of La Couture-Boussey (2019)Le Musée des instruments à vent


Alongside the Woodwinds Museum is a church, which was built in 1867. It is actually the village's second church, replacing the first one which was situated in another location and had been destroyed.

Interior view of the church of La Couture-Boussey (2014)Le Musée des instruments à vent

The church has various artworks and objects that illustrate the musical instrument makers' role as benefactors, for example: A reliquary-shrine (currently kept at the museum) donated by Louis and Nicolas Hotteterre, oboists to King Louis XIV, which had belonged to their family of makers and musicians so emblematic of the village...

Detail of the painting of a procession, church of La Couture-Boussey (2014)Le Musée des instruments à vent

... A painting depicting a procession by the fellowship la Charité de La Couture-Boussey, which mentions several of the instrument-making families (Thibouville, Buffet, Delaunay, Latouche)...

Thibouville clock, church of La Couture-Boussey (2014)Le Musée des instruments à vent

... And even a 19th century clock mechanism made by the Thibouville family who gave it to the church.

Detail of one the stained glass windows of the church of La Couture-Boussey (2014)Le Musée des instruments à vent


The current stained glass windows, which replace those blown out during a bombing raid in 1944, were made in the 1950s by François Lorin, a master glass-maker from Chartres. They reference the local tradition of musical instrument making, featuring workshops on one window and two instruments, the flute and oboe, on the other.

Our tour of the village—the home of wind instruments since the 17th century—ends on a beautiful note at this church.

Credits: Story

Le Musée des instruments à vent

Yohann Deslandes

Ph. Départment de l'Eure - CDP / Delphine Jourdan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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