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After the Second World War

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

Fortunately Albi was able to preserve its historic centre and display the patrimony to its best advantage as a beneficiary of the protected buildings award.

No dramatic devastation was wrought by the war; only the post office and a few houses suffered damage as a column of German soldiers beat a swift retreat in august 1944.

Once again, Albi experienced new expansion like much of the rest of France in this time of change. The coal mines of Carmaux-Cargnac, metalworks of Saut-du-Tarn, the glass-working factory, lime and cement-works were all called into renewed action whilst the service sector benefited from the new growth.

With this development came the biggest population growth in Albi’s history and the town doubled in size within a third of a century (1945-1975) passing from 34,000 to almost 50,000 inhabitants.

New quarters developed whilst the town centre was deserted; the economic development and rising population going some way to explain the apparition of new quarters on the town’s periphery. Albi grew across the Tarn valley and onto the surrounding hills although the town centre was gradually de-populated. In the 1960s and 1970s, as in many towns with a historic centre, popularity of these older areas declined and they were progressively abandoned.

Census between 1954 and 1975 reveal the population of Vieil Alby had fallen by around 40% although the total population across the town as a whole increased.

The state of repair of the buildings further disadvantaged the old centre; in the 60s and 70s Vieil Alby contained many dilapidated homes deprived of basic comforts, peeling façades and bleak alleyways. Statistics from 1975 illustrate the roots of this desertion listing 40% of dwellings in the suburbs as insalubrious or lacking in basic comfort but this figure climbed to 56% for the dwellings in Castelviel. It was estimated that half of the homes in this old sector needed renovation which could go some way to explaining their desertion. A third of houses in Vieil Alby remained unoccupied in the 1975 census.

After the Second World War the general trend was for a radical modernisation of town centres. Old quarters were often replaced by neatly aligned tenements, the old constructions razed to make way for modern structures.

Certain plans and projects for Albi between 1955 and 1960 depict the propositions for the town in which only the Berbie palace, the Cathedral and Saint-Salvi would have remained whilst the surrounding areas of the town centre were filled by blocks of concrete tenements. Fortunately, from the 1960s a few Albigeois attached to their 20 centuries of rich history were able to react rapidly in the face of these destructive plans and played a key role in the establishment of a listed area.

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