Musée de l’hôtel Sandelin
rue Carnot 14
An 18th century mansion in the French style
After Count Pierre Sandelin bought the former Gouverneurs’ Palais of Saint-Omer, he decided to raze the old, dilapidated ‘hotel’ and rebuild a new residence in its place. But since he died only three years later, his wife Marie-Josèphe had to finish the project. The mansion follows the French lay-out of a city palace “between courtyard and garden”. The whole forms a "U" around the main courtyard which overlooks the street at the front, and at the back the building opens onto a “French-style” garden. This private mansion is one of the finest examples of 18th century civil architecture in Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
In 1777 the new mansion was finished and Marie-Josèphe Sandelin moved in. But during the French Revolution of 1794-1795, the hotel was confiscated and all furniture was sold. The Sandelin family is forced to flee across Europe. From 1795 the hôtel became the seat of the town hall. In February 1808, Marie-Josèphe Sandelin demanded successfully the restitution of her hotel. The Countess took advantage of her residence for very little time, as she died in April the same year.
A local museum
The Museum of Saint-Omer exist since 1829, when the Society of Agriculture and Archaeology, a local learned society of local amateurs, started to gather a collection of the extreme variety of the animal and mineral world.
Urban renovations and the first archaeological excavations in and around Saint-Omer made in the mid-nineteenth century, transformed this collection into a museum of local history and fine arts. All kinds of sculpted elements from demolished houses were saved. These elements naturally join the collections of the Museum, as do the magnificent floor mosaics dated 1109 of the Romanesque church of Saint-Bertin, unearthed in 1831. Donations from individuals continued throughout the century.
Finally, in 1899 the city bought the Hôtel Sandelin in order to house the expanding museum collections. Five years of work are necessary and, on 10th of April 1904, the Sandelin Hotel Museum was inaugurated with great fanfare.
The pipe factory of the mayor
It was in 1909 that another widow, Mme Vve Duméril in good French, made an exceptional donation to the new museum. In fact it might have been the clearance of the attic of her spacious house, but nevertheless, she gave a series of 1700 pipes made by her late husbands’ factory.
Monsieur Emile Duméril (born 1833) was the second director of the pipe factory, after his father Constant had founded the enterprise in 1845. This was not the most expected activity for this 35-years young man. Like his family, he was part of the establishment of the city. As a lawyer he was one of the members of local government. Nevertheless, he decided to start this business in clay at the side, as it seems just to annoy another important local family, seemingly his rivals: the Fiolet’s. Already since 1765 the Fiolet family had run a flourishing pipe factory in Saint Omer. Constant Duméril created a competing firm, apparently with great investments since after only a few years he employed 350 persons.
His eldest son Emile choose another career. He had studied law like his father and worked at the Court of Justice. From 1875 to 1884 he was mayor of the city. Alongside his many obligations, Emile gets a function in the family business. However, in the archives he is mentioned as “fabriquant des pipes”, so as the director. More probable he appointed an executive director to run the factory. In the early time, since about 1845 this was Henry Leurs, after 1880 Emile Bouveur took over. Both were associates, as we can conclude from the name of the business: Duméril-Leurs Fils et Cie., later Duméril-Bouveur. Both names we find on the pipes.
By 1885, probably at the dead of Emile Duméril, the factory was closed down. Competitor Fiolet continued for some decades, but at the beginning of the 20th century it was too difficult for clay pipe manufacturers. The briar pipe as the more fashionable and steady alternative was most popular an highly in demand. Alongside, the cigar and cigarette attracted an important part of the clientele. It meant the end of the clay pipe industry.
Clay pipes made by the firm of Duméril, 19th century, as part of the vast collection of ceramics and porcelain of the museum.
An unexpected donation
Apparently Madame the widow stayed in her large home near the factory. When, twenty-four years later in 1909, she gave order to clear the Duméril estate a large number of pipes were found in the attics. They were nicely displayed on square wooden panels, each containing some 100 pipes, mostly in the same colour: white, black or red. The stemmed pipes in decorative circles, a few stub stemmed pipes in the centre or in the corners. Somewhere in the years 1865-1885 these panels were used to represent the Duméril firm at an exhibition. In those years many World Fairs and trade exhibitions, both national and international were organized. As a respectable manufacturer one should be represented in the best possible way. We can see from the panels that the pipes were not the average production, but specially embellished specimen. The most ordinary designs of pipes are missing, it concerns the more ornate and figural designs, coloured with enamel paint or glazed all over.
Madame Duméril decided to present the complete collection to the newly opened municipal museum. As common practice in those days, everything was accepted by the museum; especially when it concerned a gift by the widow of the former mayor! However, it took the museum over half a century to find a space to display the pipes. In the early 1960’s the panels were placed in simple cabinets and exhibited in a small room just halfway the secondary staircase, not the most prestigious spot but at least on view. By a renovation in the beginning of the 21st century, the same pipes were rearranged in nine new, larger display cabinets, against colourful backgrounds. For the first time a dozen of extremely long clay pipes in the Dutch fashion were displayed, which is really astonishing: pipes with a stem in a length of one meter each, preserved form the 3rd quarter of the nineteenth century in pristine condition!
Some table cabinets show a selection of the figural pipes and small statures and figurines, the pipe factory produced as a side article. In 2022, a following rearrangement of the complete museum has been carried out. The pipes moved to another location. It is certain that the pipes will not be forgotten again by hiding them in the reserves. It is hoped that the presentation in this pipe-portal will increase the worldwide awareness of this exceptional group of French figural pipes.
- Don DUCO, Duméril, Leurs Fils et Cie Een - toonaangevende Franse pijpenfabriek, in Pijpelijntjes IX-4, oct-nov 1983, p. 1-7
- Véronique DELOFFRE, Pipes et Pipiers de Saint-Omer, Saint-Omer 1991 (Musée Sandelin)
Tuesday - Sunday: 10am - 12am and 2pm - 6pm
Closed on Monday and official holidays.
Full price: 5,50 € (adults)Reduced price: 3,50 € (students, people over 60 years)
Free: joungsters < 18 years