José Franco Museum Village
The history of the small village dates back to the birth of the potter José Franco, in 1920. His father was a shoemaker and his mother, a vendor of chinaware, who would sell clayware from door to door, as well as at many fairs and local markets. As Sobreiro was an important centre for pottery, José Franco was familiar with the trade from an early age, and while still a child, he left primary school, learnt the trade with two local master potters, before working independently at 17 years of age. At the time, he restored the pottery studio that belonged to his grandfather, which had fallen into disuse.
At the start of the 1960s, José Franco gave wings to a dream, that of recreating an ethnographic village, in which his childhood memories would crystallise, in witness to the lifestyle of the locals, as a homage to his native land. His village would have two components: it would be a replica of the ancient workshops and stores, the lived spaces, adorned and fitted with real objects, where the customs and work activities that were an intrinsic part of his childhood and the country life of the Mafra region would be reproduced. Simultaneously, the village would include a play area, aimed at children, full of miniature houses and inhabitants which would portray the activities carried out at that time: farm work, carpentry, windmills, chapels, grocery stores, wineries, peasantry and even a reproduction of the fishing village of Ericeira and the trades connected to the sea. In later years, the Village Museum was improved by the construction of a third area, walled like a castle, with a children’s park, incorporating some agricultural implements, which the children could move freely.
Today, this little world, moulded by José Franco’s hands (he passed away in 2009), is visited by thousands of people every year. And, in addition to the exhibition of the figures in the museum that was dedicated to him, visitors can find life-size replicas of castle walls, windmills, a children’s park, a small winery in which one can try the region’s wines and even a bakery, where one can buy the famous bread with chouriço, and other products. The José Franco Village is the fruit of a lifetime dedication to the refined traditional activity of pottery, further demonstrating the rich artisanal culture of Mafra Municipality.