Paris - Ile De France

River Bievre - Paris 13th District - Left Bank

This page was updated on: Thursday, January 9, 2020 at: 3:18 pm

River Bievre, once a source of ice!

The river Bievre was once known as Befar, a Gallic name that meant beaver.

The 36km long river rises near Guyancourt, not far from Versailles in the department of Yvelines.

It then flows into the Seine near Austerlitz railway station.

For centuries it flew among the meadows and woodland of the marshy left bank.

It would regularly flood in the spring season, however, would withdraw into its bed after a few months.

The huge pools it left behind froze during the then harsh winters and were used as ice-rinks.

This ice was also collected in big blocks, stored in deep wells and covered with soil.

Cut in cubes, it was re-used during summer in order to keep food and beverage cool.

The word glacière (ice storage) left its name to the Metro station Glacière on Boulevard Auguste Blanqui.

River Bievre, the Gobelins River

The physiognomy of the Left Bank started to change by the end of the 14th century, when the Flemish dyer Jean Gobelin set up his workshops along the Bièvre.

Soon tanning and leather related industries (butcher's shops, leather dressing factories...) settled along the river.

Unfortunately, they poured their wastes into the Gobelins River, as it became known, turning it into a putrid sewer.

The Bièvre crossed the Rue Mouffetard under the Pont-aux-Tripes (Guts’ bridge).

The Mouff as the locals called it, is today a popular and animated street of Paris, which is famous for its market.

Sadly its name evolved from moffettes, a slang word used to describe the putrid exhalations of the river.

The establishment of industrial and related craft factories triggered local urbanization.

Open-air cafés and restaurants opened on the river banks.

They became renowned for the quality of the beer they served; they indeed catered for the workers of the Gobelins workshops who were essentially Flemish!

Many water-mills, such as the Moulin-des-Prés or Moulin-Jehan-de-la-Crolle, were in used until the middle of the 19th century.

So were the many tanneries and related craft industries, distilleries, laundries, gun-powder, paint, starch, paper and carton factories...

All these polluted the River Bievre to the point that it posed a serious health issue, which demanded immediate action.

River Bievre today

Improvement work lasted for 50 years.

By 1910 the little river’s rate of flow was regulated.

It was also entirely channeled underground and integrated into Paris network of sewers.

It today flows under the Square René-le-Gall, a 2500m² park located on the southern side of the Manufacture des Gobelins.

Fortunately the workshops and polluting industries have long gone!

The good news is that the City of Paris is considering reopening some sections of the river and let it flow in the open air...

The town of Fresnes in the Val-de-Marne department, took the initiative in the early 2000's; it indeed re-opened a section of the River Bievre in the 3-hectare Parc des Prés.

Could Paris be next? Let's hope!

Directions: 13th District - 42 Avenue des Gobelins
Metro: Gobelins on Line 7
Coordinates: Lat 48.835254 - Long 2.352458

Photo Wikimedia Commons:  Gobelins in 1830
Hotel Sale - Picasso Museum - Café à Royan - 1940 Cubism

February 19 2020

Hôtel Salé, home to the Picasso Museum

Hôtel Salé, one of the finest mansions in the Marais built with money collected from the salt tax, hence its name, is today home to the Picasso Museum
Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor with the Tuileries in the background

January 24 2020

Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor named after a Senegalese stateman

Passerelle Solférino was renamed Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Senegalese politician’s birth
A three-masted schooner moored downstream from Pont des Invalides

January 20 2020

Pont des Invalides, the lowest of the Parisian bridges

Pont des Invalides, the lowest of the Parisian bridges, spans the Seine upstream from the Hôtel des Invalides after which it was named
Place des Victoires and equestrian statue of Louis XIV

December 20 2019

Place des Victoires in Paris

Paris – Ile De France Place des Victoires in Paris Place des Victoires, a royal square Place des Victoires is a prestigious square dedicated to the victories of Louis XIV, the Sun King. It is one of the 5 royal squares in Paris (with Place des Vosges in the historic Marais, Place Dauphine on Ile…

Sign up to our newsletter

Travel France Online will use the information you provide on this form to keep in touch with you and to provide updates via our newsletter. By selecting the boxes on the form you confirm your acceptance to receive our newsletter.

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at admin@travelfranceonline.com

We will treat your information with respect. For more information please visit our privacy policy page