Le Château de la Motte

History

The history of our Château is a long and colourful one: from Vikings to Nazis, the French Resistance to Parisian prostitutes, these walls have seen it all!

It is likely that the land has been occupied since prehistorical times (as the good views and seven water sources seem to suggest), but the written record begins in the 1200s, when a local Norman lord (address: Le Château de la Motte) writes to King Philippe of France, requesting to serve him after his defeat of England’s King John. This gives us the probability that a Norman “motte and bailey” castle, or fortified farm, stood here at that time. “Motte” is an old french word for “mound of earth”, and refers to the central raised area where the lord’s residence stood, surrounded by its courtyard (or “bailey”). The motte gives our Château its name, and can still be seen today, sitting serenely under beech trees in the centre of the land.

In the mid-1500s the Château was acquired by Gabriel Montgomery II (His father, the first, was renowned for accidentally killing Henry II in a jousting contest, when a splinter from his broken lance pierced the King’s eye) but it wasn’t until the wealthy Ango family acquired the land (in the 1600s) that much of what we see today was constructed. They were in favour with Louis XIV (Jean-Baptist Ango, with the help of his father Nicolas, had purchased enough land to call himself Marquis) and the family built themselves a fashionable “Château de la chasse”, or “hunting castle”, here. They sold the Château just before the French Revolution, when at one point it was offered to Voltaire (the french equivalent of Shakespeare) as payment for debts – Voltaire, however, declined, saying that the land had been systematically pillaged by local peasants!

The existing home was built by the prominent Deschamps family in 1821, it appears they did a lot of remodelling, and the last Marquis, the bachelor grandson of the original Deschamps, died at the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Château was brought by a man known locally as Père Noel (Father Christmas). Père Noel owned various brothels in Paris and the local area, and felt the Château was the ideal place for his girls to take a break and work on their tans. He rented out the farmland and most of the buildings to local people, and it was through this that the Château became a centre for the French Resistance – holding a massive arms cache throughout the war. During the war the Château also kept a crashed Allied pilot safe from the Nazis (right under their noses!), and witnessed a German Messerschmitt fighter crash into its lake!

If you would like to delve further into this fascinating history, there is a well-researched and nicely written Wikipedia article here, put together by a previous guardian of the Château.

We moved into La Motte in November 2014, and, while perhaps we can’t compete for colour with Vikings, Nazis and a naughty Father Christmas, we are over-joyed to be here at the beginning of a new chapter!

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