Several communities of artisans and traders have left the mark of their life of labour in the memory of this little town of character. The interpretive trail « En suivant Yann, le Roi des Chiffonniers » (Follow Yann, the king of the rag-pickers) unveils the secrets of the past. On the banks of the Jaudy, the memory of the sailing ships that brought wealth to the city is revived. In summer, the rectory garden, with its planted squares and flax workshops, brings the region’s past linked to flax back to life.
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Discover La Roche-Derrien
The town was built in the 11th century on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Jaudy estuary by Derrien, son of the Count of Penthièvre. Today, there is nothing left of the fortified castle that once controlled traffic on the maritime river, but from the Chapelle du Calvaire, built on the site of the former keep, you will have an amazing view of the town and the valley. Saint Catherine’s church was built in the 13th century, and later modified. It was fortified during the wars of succession, with watch rooms and murder holes, and it has lovely stained-glass windows that have been recently restored.
Traces of the activities of the past
The vestiges from the Middle Ages tell the history of the town: the former leper house, the alleyways with names such as « the English alleyway », « the Money alleyway », « Stocks Square », etc. Rue de la Fontaine still has traces of earlier shops with their window openings. The town was divided in two. The lower part of town was that of the rag-pickers. It was a colourful « colony », the area of the roofers, who perpetuated a specific language, « le tunodo ». The upper part of town, around Place du Martray, has half-timbered bourgeois houses that were built between the 15th and 17th centuries. The port, one of the oldest on the northern coast, owed its importance to the trade of salt and wine, and later to the transport of slate, extracted from local quarries.
Did you know
La Roche-Derrien was nicknamed « Kapital Stoup », meaning the capital of flax scutching (getting the flax ready for spinning). This name can still be heard in the region.
Prosperity linked to flax and slate
The town thrived until the middle of the 20th century thanks to its shops, artisans, slate quarries and its flax-related activity. Today, antique fairs, a yearly festival and a medieval festival bring this rich past back to life in a joyful way.