Villedieu-les-Poêles is a small town on the River Sienne with a population of about 4,000 people in the Bay of St Michel in Normandy. It was originally called Saultchevreuil (deer leap), but gained its new name from its long history of metal working. In 1130 it was given by Henry I of England in his capacity as Duke of Normandy to the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, and in consequence has an exceptionally large parish church, originally built by the Knights. The manufacture of copper pots and pans and brassware was established in the middle ages, and a bell foundry was opened in the 1780s by migrants from Lorraine. Local people were often called ‘les sourdins’ (the deaf) because their hearing was impaired by the constant thudding of hammers.
Villedieu-les-Poêles is a government-sponsored ‘ville et metiers d’Art’ on account of the artisanal copper working that still continues. Visitors can experience something of the town’s history in several places: L’Atalier de Cuivre (the Copper Workshop), La Maison de l’Etain (the Pewter House), La Musée de la Poeslerie (the Museum of Pots and Pans) and La Fonderie des Cloches Gornille-Havard (the Gornille-Havard Bell Foundry). A museum of Norman furniture and a lace workshop can also be found in the town.