The “pre-school” – scuola materna or asilo infantile in Italian – is clearly the most enduring physical inheritance from the Cochranes (and I will try to write something about it later), but another, smaller, humbler relic has been pointed out to me by my dear friend Giuseppe Cargioli.
Around 1900, amongst all the other work being done around the village, the Cochranes had built a communal laundry to take advantage of the water they had had piped down from the spring of Bonezzola on Monte Canarbino.
Modelled perhaps on more French lines from their years on the French Riviera before they came to Pugliola, the characteristic feature that sets it apart from all others I have seen is the use of Carrara Marble washboarding along the three working sides. Here follows my short introductory video to its delights (forgive the abrupt ending)
This laundry, a gift targetted at the women of the village, would have made an enormous difference to their lives. Fresh water, company, a pleasant location – great luxuries compared with what it replaced; carting water, never enough; working in basins and tubs. It was originally (and up ’til only 4years ago) roofed to provide shade in summer and protection in winter.
Of course it has not been in regular use since about 1985 when the last of the older women stopped and most of the younger women had machines. But it is a thing of beauty in its own right and a powerful reminder of how things once were; and of the sensitivity of the Cochranes.
Like most things they did, it shows a desire to go beyond the essential basics and to infuse their work with beauty. The village fountain was a pagoda; the windows and ceilings in the asilo soared upwards into light.
The marble washboards are striated, ribbed, angled for ease of use. The marble is also a reminder of the business connections of William Cochrane with Carlo Andrea Fabbricotti, called “The King of Marble”, another fascinating, larger-than-life character in this story.
So, about 2005-6, a tree came down onto the laundry’s corrugated-iron roof. The Comune council, faced with the choice of repair or removal, chose removal; and since then the water and sunlight have started to do their work in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. Primarily it is now the unchecked growth of weeds, pulling apart the stonework slowly, that is the concern.
A project has now commenced to replace the roof – a survey has been commissioned and avenues of fundraising are being explored. (Please contact me if you are willing and/or able to assist in this matter.)