You know the stories you might tell about the places around where you were brought up? They become mythical, exaggerated, sensational even, seen through old memories of a child’s understanding. Only the biggest, fattest ones stick, and they might not even really have any narrative to them. I have one such memory. It’s drawn from a happy warm day when I got to go trampling over the moors with my dad. These were unusual occurrences. My dad worked at the weekends so time spent together was rare and precious. I loved going for walks with him and the dog, even if I also remember spending an inordinate amount of time moaning about being tired! So anyway, this memory. It was sunny (oh rare glorious day!) and we were walking on the moors up to the south, above Whitehall Park – you can see it highlighted here:
I assume we were headed for the Tower. The heather was dry, maybe it was a particularly dry year, and we were clambering upwards, the going wasn’t particularly easy. My dad was telling me about Lord’s Hall and the glorious 12th, something to do with grouse shooting. (and oh wow, when I look up Lord’s Hall, I get an estate agent brochure selling the grouse moor).
A non-narrative sort of memory with strong happy sensations and warmth and a few key places or ideas associated.
It’s not surprising then, that sometimes something I mention to my husband about the area around Nanteuil stirs up some memory. He was brought up here, although he left to go to boarding school to train as a stone mason around the age of 15 (a massive adventure for him which still provides many anecdotes).
The ‘chapelains de Juilly’ was one such thing. When I mentioned them, it immediately made him start telling me about the very posh Jesuit school in the village of Juilly, where government officials sent their children and which caused much old-boy-style back slapping among former inmates, I mean, pupils.
I’ve been to Juilly once, at night and just to visit a friend of my husband’s. For me, it’s just a village associated with Dammartin and St Mard in the name of the railway station where I go to get picked up when I’m coming back from Paris if my husband is at the office (which is in St Mard). This is the very very last station within the Ile-de-France transport area (making it substantially cheaper to get there – a weekly ticket for the whole Ile-de-France is around €23, a single from Nanteuil to Paris Gare du Nord is €9.90 and then you have to pay to get round in Paris itself!) Dammartin-Juilly-St Mard is my stop. Dammartin and St Mard are both a bit nasty in my estimation (though perhaps there are historic treasures I should be uncovering there too!) so I just sort of assumed Juilly must be the same – a village with no heart because everyone drives everywhere and goes to Centres Commerciales, a village with a lot of those very dull French ‘pavillons’ with no soul and too small gardens and very big front walls and gates anyway so you can’t see in…..
The Collège de Juilly, the aforementioned Jesuit school (which was in fact run by the Oratoire de France, not the Jesuits – memory mistake or just what my husband’s parents believed to be true?) was founded in 1638 and stayed open until 2012. (It looks like they’re attempting to reopen it, and it certainly seems tragic that the building just shut, with even the books in the library left to be looted.) But before there was a school, there was an abbey, founded in 1184 and very well able to look after Nanteuil’s little chapel!
In this map you can see the position of the Collège (and former site of the abbey) down in the bottom left and Nanteuil up in the top right. It’s about 20km away, so a good day’s walk, but still within a day and easier by horseback I imagine. Must have been a nice little earner for the chanoines.