September 28, 2023

Henri Lhotellery, Le jardin du mécanicien / The mechanic's garden

all pictures (by Hubert Bouvet) published here in agreement
with the Inventaire Hautes-de-France

The cannon above is set up in the front yard of a house in Wallers, a small community in northern France. There is not just a canon, if you look closely at the image, you will also see a rocket on the left, a creation inspired by Hergé's comic strip Objective Moon.

So the canon has nothing warlike, because in the same front garden there is also a peaceful mill, while in front of the farm next to the house, there is a locomotive, unaware of any harm.

All these handmade, technically skilled creations are part of an art environment, which is not without reason called Jardin du Mécanicien, the mechanic's garden.

Life and works

These creations were made by Henri Lhotellery, who was born on January 14, 1931 and grew up in the farm with the locomotive, next to he house where he now lives.

After primary school, Lhotellery had a technical education and then he worked forty years as a dealer and repairer of agricultural machinery.

From an early age he was interested in making scale models.

The gate on the side of Lhotellery's house, simple but charmingly decorated with donkeys or small horses, provides access to the colorful backyard, which is decorated in various ways. The door handle is in the shape of a running dog.

Decorating the backyard, which is partly depicted in the image above, was a project Lhotellery started in the early 1980s, when he was in his early fifties.

Here too there are creations that indicate Lhotellery's great technical skills. In the background there is a scaffolding with a windmill at the top, but many people's eyes will first fall on the colorful steam engine that is positioned in the center.

The image above shows this device from a closer view

Lhotellery himself manufactured most of the parts of this machine, such as the wheels, but also the pistons and cylinders. He only purchased parts that were difficult to make himself, such as pressure gauges.

The machine stands on a mobile wooden base, making it possible to move the creation and situate it in the nearby wooden shed.

In the image above, Lhotellery is climbing the windmill. It is stated that this windmill drives a water pump located elsewhere, which may be assumed to be done via a generator in the top of the windmill, which generates the necessary electricity for the water pump.

The site also includes an installation with two shooting discs, of which no image is available. One of those discs works automatically. If one hits a certain item, it falls over and disappears, to return to the previous position via a mechanism.

Lhotellert's art environment also includes a number of frescoes and other items that are attached to the wall that closes off the art environment of the company located to the right of the garden.

The images above show, on the left, a young deer and a small dog looking in surprise at a round object,, and on the right a coal-powered locomotive approaching at full speed.

On the elongated wall, below on the left, an airplane is depicted. This was made in memory of a flight during World War II, made by a plane in February 1945. It flew from England to Germany, where it crashed near Dresden. 

The mark of honour includes a replica of the plane, drawn by Lhotellery, some parts of the recovered plane and a plaque with the names of the dead soldiers.

Henri Lhotellery, who is now (2023) in his early 90s, can look back on a life in which he created an art environment characterized by both his technical and artistic skills.

* Article by Nathalie van Bost, with photos by Hubert Bouvet, on the website of the Inventaire Général Hauts-de-France
* review of the site in the book D'Étonnants jardins en Nord-Pas De Calais (Amazing gardens in Nord-Pas de Calais), Lyon (Ed. Lieux-Dits), 2015.

Henri Lhotellery 
The mechanic's garden
37 rue Paul-Lafargue (D13)
Wallers, dept Nord. region Hautes-de-France, France
some creations can be seen from the street

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