Monday, 23 March 2009

Highways and Byways 1

I have been busy the last couple of weeks painting for other people, so it will be a little while before I have anything from my own projects on which I can write. I am reluctant to leave another long gap in my blog so I thought that I would make a series of posts over the next few weeks that reflect the varied and different threads that make our hobby so fascinating.

A couple of years ago Mr Henry Hyde the noted wargames editor and raconteur, returned from a holiday in Lille enthused not only by the cooking but by a strange museum exhibit he had stumbled across. Deep in the bowels of the Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille, were a series of the most incredible models of the towns fortified by the great Vauban. The only disappointment was that his photos had not coped with the poor lighting and museum restrictions.

Then this winter my sister decided to go to Lille for some kind of Shopping Fest, strict instructions led her to the Museum basement where she was able to achieve the rare feat of leaving a French attendant lost for words by brushing off his patronising attempts to redirect her back to the girlie impressionists by sternly decrying 'I have come to study the work of the great Vauban'

The best bit was she was able to get a superbly illustrated catalogue. Most of the models were constructed for Louis XIV and renovated in the late 18C. As the pictures show they are mainly in remarkable condition.

I must say that the overall effect reminds me of the buildings, created by the late Charles Grant, that appear in The Wargame. Not over detailed but creating an effect through consistent simplicity. They are a wonderful source of inspiration for some 18C siege games and one day perhaps I shall get the electric jig saw and finally put together something worth playing over. In the meantime I have the most delightful book to browse and dream the afternoon away.

If anyone else wants a copy, the museum website is not very helpful. The best I can do is this.

I hope your French is better than mine.


Fitz-Badger said...

Wow! Constructed "back in the day", huh? That is so cool! Does the book have lots of pictures like the ones you showed? Looks like something I could get lost in for hours. :-)

Bluebear Jeff said...

Wow, indeed! Very inspiring. I want these models . . . really really 'cool'.

-- Jeff

johnpreece said...

The pictures are the thing, it has 34 colour illustrations of the models like the ones I have used and five double page spread full views.

Lost? You wil never find your way out again. I guess if you provide the publishers details then a good bookshop or Amaazon could get it for you. I have no idea if ordering it from the webshop I gave will work, but I do not see why not in this day and age. It is really worth the effort and 20 euros I have never seen anything like it.

DC said...


There is a similar scale model of Quebec's fortifications on one of the museums there - built in the early 1800s (IIRC) it's quite impressive and inspiring too. I was sure i picked up booklet when i was there 10 years ago but of course can't find it now.

Personally i've always been fascinated by sieges and siege wargames. I built a 5' by 4' section of Vauban style fortification a few years ago (based on the old Ian Weekley foam pieces) but have yet to christen it...too many distractions..


Anonymous said... shows 1 used copy available (ships from France) for $44.80. It is probably the same copy which shows available for 19.00 Euros on the link that you provided.

WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

Hello John,

Extremely interesting photos of those French fortress/house models. Absolutely love stuff like this this. Thanks for posting them.

Best Regards,


Anonymous said...


Flattery will get you everywhere... ;-)

I just ordered the book from the French shop you recommended. Your description of my trevails was accurate: the lighting was abysmal and one also had to cope with awkward reflections from the air-conditioned glass cabinets, so photos by someone who obviously had permission to actually hang a camera over the exhibits will be highly prized. Thank goodness they didn't drop it!

This has reminded me to dig out all the photos I took there. One of them, of course, appears in issue 12, on page 25, showing the different parts of a fortification.