once an imperial secondary school, in a town on the Vendée’s “Coast of Light”
Eight kilometres of fine sandy beaches, both urban and wild, have made this seaside resort on the Vendée coast famous. A national forest planted with pine trees separates the seafront from the old market town where the secondary school was built. Inland, the marshlands are crossed by numerous hiking and cycle paths, providing a variety of paludal landscapes. A golf course, listed as one of the thirty most beautiful French golf courses, overlooks the ocean. This Isles of Yeu and Noirmoutier can be glimpsed rising out of the sea in the distance.
A variety of shops, amenities, restaurants and markets are within walking distance of the property.
Nantes TGV train station, 70 km away, has daily links to Paris, taking about 2 hours, whilst its airport offers national and international flights.
It stands in close to 6,000 m² of parklands. Walls and shrub hedges surround the house, whilst old trees are dotted throughout the grassy areas.
The central building separates two gardens, one facing north and the other south. An earth terrace, surrounded by a low wall, extends the building on the south-facing facade and looks out over the garden. Two wells are used for watering purposes. A swimming pool could also be installed.
The property’s history
This elegant, traditional, long farmhouse, built in 1774 and therefore with two centuries of history, was initially used as a lodge for hunting ducks. The owner at that time sought to build a building of quality and had the stone to be used for its construction brought by skiff over the marshes to the great astonishment of the local population who used earth, sand, water and straw to construct their homes, known locally as “bourrines”.
Its destiny took a prestigious turn when it was chosen in 1804 by Napoleon to become the Vendée’s first imperial secondary school. It housed some fifty pupils from poor families, victims of the civil war, who lived in the marshlands and surrounding areas. Napoleon was seeking to ensure some level of education in “this unhappy land”.
Once purchased, works were immediately undertaken to extend the house but even so the premises soon became too small.
Ten years after its creation, the secondary school was transferred to another town and the buildings were respectively used as a presbytery, a court’s office and an annexe of the town hall, before being purchased in 1858 by an ancestor of the current owners. Since this time, six generations have lived in this showplace of local heritage, now a convivial family home.
With two entrances off of the street and an entrance via the main building, this house is consequently composed of three separate areas that could easily be reconnected as the different sections intercommunicate.
Typical of the Vendée’s rural hamlets, these two buildings are laid out longwise all on one level. The building materials reflect great homogeneity: the gable roofs clearly standing out in the landscape courtesy of their orange-coloured Roman tiles. These are enhanced with a wrought cornice where the roof drains project their graphic shadows. Dressed stone, sometimes with arched lintels, surrounds the many small-paned windows and French windows. The stone walls are covered with a white-tinted rendering that reflects the sun’s slightest ray.
The main building
Measuring 35 m in length, this building corresponds to the oldest section, constructed in the 18th century. Its dual aspect and its many large windows mean that it is steeped in light with a constant view of the garden. A heavy, solid wood, entrance door opens into a through vestibule which provides access, on one side, to a library and a dining room. A marble fireplace, a panelled ceiling and indoor wooden shutters constitute the features of this first room. The dining room reflects a completely different style, with a marble floor, exposed beams and a monumental fireplace. Behind this living room, a hall area provides access to two bedrooms, with their bathrooms. They are widely illuminated by windows looking out over the sunniest garden. At the end of the main building, a kitchen, then two utility rooms, open on to the garden on the courtyard side.
This first section of the main building could constitute a self-contained dwelling.
On the other side of the vestibule, a vast lounge still has its original decorative features: terracotta floor tiles, wainscoting, moulded doors and a fireplace, topped with a trumeau, bringing to mind the atmosphere of an 18th century ladies’ sitting room. A corridor, following on from the lounge, is illuminated via wide windows and leads to another two bedrooms. Both these rooms have marble fireplaces as well as strip pattern parquet flooring and open on to the garden. One of the bedrooms has its own shower room.
This section ends with a door opening into the wing set at right angles to the main building.
The wing perpendicular to the main building
This plain, sober wing corresponds to the extension constructed for the setting up of the secondary school. The entrance, on the road side, opens into a little vestibule which provides access on either side to two separate areas. On one side is a vast lounge, the beams and joists of which have been left exposed. An impressive stone fireplace, on one wall, still features its 13th century lintel. The lounge is followed by a corridor, illuminated by tall windows and leading to three bedrooms, then a kitchen and a laundry room. On the other side of the vestibule, a third living space comprises a kitchen, a lounge and an adjoining bedroom with its bathroom. The floor surface area of this self-contained flat is approx. 70 m².
A double garage, spanning approx. 70 m² and opening on to the street, was constructed as an extension of the wing. The roofs and roofing frameworks have all been recently redone. At the back, a stone outbuilding houses a woodshed and is used for storing garden tools and equipment.
Just a stone’s throw from the sea in the centre of a lively market town, the site of this property makes it possible to take advantage of the tourist trade and local culture all year round. Over the years, this house has become a welcoming holiday home and currently appeals courtesy of its great luminosity, flooding in through its many openings facing the street, the courtyard and the garden. Family and friends can easily move around the multiple areas and living rooms with no loss of privacy.
It therefore offers a potential that outshines its architectural soberness. Renovation works, not having to touch the carcass, will restore its singular authenticity.
It is one of those sleepy character buildings that represent a magnificent link between the exterior and the interior, land and sea, nature and culture as well as the past and the future.
|Land registry surface area||5800 m2|
|Main building surface area||470 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||8|
|Outbuilding surface area||100 m2|
Nelly Richardeau +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.