The ‘Duke’s house’
In 1879, Adolphe Allier (1835-1905), the librarian of Morlaix, published Recherches sur la ville de Morlaix (Research on the town of Morlaix), a manuscript attributed to Joseph Daumesnil (1701-1771), former mayor of Morlaix from 1733 to 1737, who undertook in 1765-1766 to organise the municipal archives. The work is of exceptional value since Joseph Daumesnil had access to sources that subsequently disappeared.
The manuscript was then annotated by Aymar de Blois (1760–1852), whose erudition at the head of the archaeological and historical studies in Morlaix in the first half of the XIX century should certainly be recognised.
Adolphe Allier take care to publish the annotations by Armard de Blois as footnotes, along with the foreword that he added to the document (p. 13), but does not limit his role to that of simple editor of the manuscript kept in the library of which he is in charge. He completes it for the entire period from the end of the XVIII century to his present day. The work, which is entitled Histoire de Morlaix (Morlaix, A. Lédan, 1879), includes a preface on the life of Joseph Daumesnil, written by the former town clerk of Lamartine, Charles-Émile Alexandre (p. 5-12).
Chapter XXXVI of the work (p. 506-516) focuses directly on the civil heritage of Morlaix and provides a detailed description of the House known as ‘Duchess Anne’s House’ (p. 508-511), at a time when its demolition had been planned. Since 1862, the houses opposite it had gone: 22 houses had been demolished all at once to double the surface area of the Place des Halles below and enable the construction of a new covered market, which was opened in 1867.
House known as ‘Duchess Anne’s House’ at the start of the 1880s. © Maison dite de la duchesse Anne - Morlaix - All rights reserved.
Adolphe Allier begins his description of the former town house by calling it ‘the Duke’s house’, a name he is alone in using:
“The most curious among them [these lantern houses] is that which bears the number 19 on the Rue des Nobles, the construction of which dates back to the end of the XV century. The townsfolk, who call it the Duke’s house, believe that it was connected to the castle by an underground passage” (p. 508).
The celebrated Morlaix tradition of the ‘underground passage’ leading, in this case, from the castle to the house, as well as the use of a specific name to describe it, bears witness to the long-standing nature of its particular status among the people of Morlaix at a time when the old urban network was still in place: only fifteen years previously, the majority of the market neighbourhood had “disappeared under the hammers of the demolishers” to use the disillusioned words of Adolphe Allier.
All the chapter XXXVI of l’Histoire de Morlaix (in French).
1836: Prosper Mérimée - 1851: Olivier de Wismes - 1879: Adolphe Allier
1891: Albert Robida - 1901: Jean-Marie Abgrall