Thursday, 1 September 2011

Dubonnet, Pons

Rue George Clémenceau may be a quiet dead end street now but until a few decades ago it was the main thoroughfare through the historic little town of Pons in France. The street follows the course of the Saintes-Bordeaux road originally built by the Romans. Since the Middle Ages it has been part of the Via Turonensis, one of the four French Ways of St James (the one that goes from Paris to the Pyrenees, and passes, as the name indicates, by Tours). In 1160 Geoffroy III, lord of Pons, built a hospice where pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela could rest and recover. The different parts of the hospice extend on either side of the road while the central building, resting on three bays, spans the road. Eight centuries later cars had replaced pilgrims in a street that had become part of the Nationale 137, the trunk road running from Saint-Malo in Brittany to Bordeaux via Rennes, Nantes, La Rochelle and Saintes. This explains why advertising agencies bought or rented spaces on several properties along its course and painted large signs on the gables. Needless to say, at peak times traffic didn't flow steadily through Pons. The streets were narrow and cars could barely pass each others under the arches of the hospice. That gave car drivers ample time to take in the names of alcohols, lubricants, and of other products and services promoted on the town's buildings. As for lorries they had to follow a diversion. This lasted until the opening of the Pons bypass in the 1970s. Traffic through town declined and the advertising spaces on the walls of houses ceased to attract new adverts. As a result several painted signs can still be seen in town, including the one below for the well-known aperitif Dubonnet. A French classic!

Actually it is a double Dubonnet. The original sign covered the entire gable. It was partly covered when a much smaller sign was painted on the part of the gable closer to the road. Was this because something obstructed the view of the original sign? Or did Dubonnet want to have its name on a newer red background (as in Montrichard) instead of the traditional blue background but was unwilling to pay for a whole wall?

Vin tonique au quinquina
Tonic Wine With Cinchona]

The smaller and more recent Dubonnet sign was painted just above a billboard which has now disappeared.

In 1998 the hospice was listed and was one of the 71 monuments added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the description Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. A restoration campaign followed and to prevent any careless driver from damaging the structure, including the Romanesque portal, and make the visit more pleasant, the street was blocked. What used to be a major thoroughfare is now a dead end street and only visitors to the hospice may notice this ghost sign!

Location: Rue George Clémenceau, Pons, Charente-Maritime / Pictures taken on: 19/08/2011


Wim said...

What a great Dubbonet! Thank you for posting it.

I collect pictures of Dubonnet mural paintings, please have a look at

Would you mind if I added this one to the collection? I will mention you in the credits.

Kind regards,


Sebastien Ardouin said...

Hi Wim,
Great collection of Dubonnet signs. You are welcome to add this one (as well as the ones from Chanier, Cozes, Saintes, and Montrichard) as long as credits and an active address to the relevant post are included.
Kind regards,