Four à Pain

One of the many things that attracted me to this marvellous property was the bread oven – le four à pain. It is built into the left hand side of the large hearth and is clearly too large to provide only for the needs of a single household.  Above the hearth is an empty rack – much like a gun-rack – which would have been used to hold  a paddle, for depositing and retrieving the bread.

[ Four à Pain ]
Densely-packed concentric circles of vertical earthenware tiles form the roof.
The dome is perhaps 50 cm in height and two metres across. I can see some ruptures to the vertical walls but I’m hoping to repair them with ceramic cement and bring this amazing technology back to use. In order to do so I will have to create a vertical flue just inside the mouth of the four in order to create the right conditions for the fire to draw and the smoke escape into the main chimney. One day we hope to make pizzas here.

[The Hearth and Bread-Oven]
The rusty bread-oven door can be seen at the right-hand side of the hearth and the rack above.
Last Summer when we returned from a trip to the Creuse I was fortunate enough to notice a bread-paddle for sale not far from our West London home. The empty rack had been bugging me. Now I can’t wait to slot the paddle into its proper place. It told the couple I bought it from that it was certainly going to be pressed back into service and they were most gratified!

What a lucky find! An antique bread-paddle for the four à pain.