An expanding city


The transformation of Bordeaux

1. As a result of this economic development, Bordeaux underwent some major urban planning work: wide avenues were established and the city ring road was opened up. The architecture reflected an attachment to classical ideals, with Eclecticism and then Art Nouveau appearing later.

2. The landed gentry, who owned large private mansions in town, were joined by the great economic bourgeoisie, professional people and senior officials who lived in exclusive apartments. Many clubs sprang up, like the Club Bordelais, the New Club or the Union Club, where they enjoyed spending their time.

3. The demands of these social classes provided a tremendous boost for craftsmanship in Bordeaux. In addition to stone masonry, woodworking and ironworking, Bordeaux pottery experienced its finest hour, along with the art of stained glass, as a result of a revival in religious beliefs and an interest in applied arts. Large quantities of stained glass were produced for decoration in civic buildings and were exported worldwide.

 4. There was great social diversity in Bordeaux, with the different groups being highly compartmentalised. The streets of the city thronged with an assortment of street vendors, hawkers, tradesmen and also a very large working-class population as a result of the port and railway facilities and the wide range of industries which also attracted immigrant populations from the whole of South-West France and from Spain. The very high numbers of domestic staff are testament to the wealth of the local bourgeoisie.

5. From balls held by corporations and operas at the Grand Theatre, to café-concerts and music halls, cultural activities gave a clear indication of social class, further reinforced by those taking trips to the Bay of Arcachon and by the variety of sports, from the very popular rugby, cycling and football to the more refined pastimes of equestrianism, pleasure boating, tennis, golf and car racing.

6. After the Revolution, Catholicism experienced a spectacular recovery, with some cardinal archbishops who left their mark on their era. The city’s religious heritage was restored and new churches were built. Patronage and Christian unions played a leading role in social life. More discrete but equally present, the influence of Protestants and Jews was very strong in the city’s economic and social life. Secularisation then began to emerge and the law separating Church and State resulted in some violent disturbances.

Visitors end their tour by crossing a wall of images depicting the World Wars (when Bordeaux tragically became capital three times) and events of the 20th century, which will be the subject of a new phase of development during 2016. 

Grocery reconstituted the early 1930s - photo Lysiane Gauthier

Grocery reconstituted the early 1930s - photo Lysiane Gauthier