poetry and prose about place

the mysterious ‘x’

with 8 comments

On my virtual biking trip along the Sèvre Niortaise in central France, I have encountered a mystery.  On many of the houses I see, there is an ‘X’ on the side of the house.  Occasionally there are two.  Sometimes the ‘X’ appears to be made of iron.  Sometimes it is pressed into the structure of the wall.


an 'X' on the wall of a house

an ‘X’ on the wall of a house (image from Street View)


another 'X'

another ‘X’ (image from Street View)


At first, I thought they might mark the location of some feature, such as an underground water line…


a pair of 'X's

a pair of ‘X’s (image from Street View)


Do you know the meaning of the mysterious ‘X’?


another mysterious 'x'

another mysterious ‘x’ (image from Street View)


I think I have figured it out, based on the photo below which shows a bolt in the center of the ‘X’.  I think, at some time in the past, the metal ‘X’ was part of the method of shoring up an older house with bowed walls, in danger of collapse.  I think the ‘X’ is the outside part of a cable that runs through the walls of the house.  The ‘X’ is a kind of cleat, distributing the pressure over the outside walls, preventing the cable from pulling through the wall.

Do you think I am right?


yet another mysterious 'x'

yet another mysterious ‘x’ (image from Street View)


Copyright  Jane Tims  2013

Written by jane tims

April 5, 2013 at 7:01 am

8 Responses

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  1. Hi Jane
    I’m pretty sure they are a version of cavity wall ties to reinforce double walls. I could be wrong but I remember seeing this 33 years ago when I was a weee lad on duty in France for a month and having it explained to me. Of course I was only half listening because I was recovering from the night before. -Denis



    April 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    • Hi Denis. So I am partly right (they are used for reinforcement). But it sounds like they are connected to a fairly short iron rod rather than the outside wall-to- outside wall length I was imagining. Thanks for the explanation!!!!! Jane


      jane tims

      April 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm

  2. I second the hunches of all. Without research, I’d guess that it was evidence of having restored/repaired/strengthened the building. They sure look cool!



    April 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm

  3. I do not know why there are X’s on those houses,,,,but my guess is that you are probably right. I will google it. You could have been a school teacher Jane just like your Mom and Dad but then again,,,I could easily call you “teacher”.! Very interesting,,Thanks.



    April 5, 2013 at 7:44 am

  4. Something along those lines was my first guess as well.



    April 5, 2013 at 7:15 am

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