Chateaux d’eau... from simple to castles in the air

It is the name that’s so endearing. Chateau d’eau sounds so much more dignified than the common English term “water tower”. But it’s not just that. It’s the huge variety and versatility of these structures that characterise the French landscape.

There are an estimated 16,000 of them, either still in use or serving purposes other than the storage and supply of water. Some have been converted into homes or holiday accommodation, exhibition spaces and tourist information offices.

Wherever you are, there always seems to be one not far away, on a ridge, mound or hilltop.

They are distinctive landmarks and some have even been adopted as icons of a particular town or city.

They come in a bewildering number of shapes: cylinder, Martini glass, champagne cork, globe on a stalk, parabolic curves, hourglass, chanterelle mushroom and many others.

Most are, by their nature, conspicuous but some are hidden from view on a wooded hillside and are noticed only when you hear the sound of flowing water.

Many of them are starkly, unpretentiously modern but more than a dozen have been classified as ancient monuments. All form part of ...

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