on the outskirts of a village in the south of the French department of Charente
Just 20 minutes from Angoulême TGV train station and 125 km from Bordeaux and Limoges airports, very near to Cognac and the Périgord region, the market town with 80 inhabitants takes pride of place on a hilltop, set out around a listed church, in countryside composed of farmland and woods. It has a bakery, a plant nursery and a bar; other amenities are a few minutes’ walk away at the foot of the elegant fortified town of Villebois-Lavalette.
In the 13th century, the village was a renowned stopover on one of the Ways of Saint James and a crossroads between the old Roman way coming from the Peninsula and the road linking Paris to Bordeaux. As a result of this strategic location, it become the seat of a Knights’ Templar commandery, the buildings of which took up almost the entire crest of the hill.
A driveway lined with chestnut trees, preceded by wrought iron gates, forms the main entrance to the property. There is also a wicket gate opposite the entrance door. It opens on to a narrow passageway, running alongside the church and leading to a small public garden and the village square by going around the old chaplaincy. The latter is part of this property. Fully restored, it is currently laid out as a house, spanning two levels, with a small priest’s garden.
The well-kept, flower-filled garden extends to the east of the residence in parklands where fifty or so young trees and shrubs were recently planted by the side of species over a hundred years old. There is also a luxurious henhouse. Depending on the time and the season, it is possible to eat outside on one of the three terraces.
The estate is delimited, on the north side, by a wall which includes a round dovecote tower, topped with a new Roman tile roof and adorned with two sculpted scallop shells. It houses a spiral stone stairway which was used as a passageway to the exterior of the village. In the corner of the rampart is an ideal spot for installing a swimming pool.
The stately residence
This building, resembling a slightly deformed, asymmetrical rectangle is composed of three sections.
On the east side, spanning two levels, the building features splayed openings of various sizes. On the north and east sides, the upper floor constitutes a gallery composed of six, semi-circular arches, flanked in the corner by a turret with corbelling, topped with a candlesnuffer roof and supported on a large column.
A third level in the central section is enhanced by an increase in the height of the wall on the north side and by the presence, on the south side, of a richly adorned projection which has its own hip roof.
Although the third section is adjoined, it is independent. Spanning two levels with a gently sloping roof, it currently houses a barn and the boiler room.
The main entrance is on the south side, set in the projection. A semi-circular arched door, with a moulded frame, opens on to a monumental stairway. Its arches delimit a so-called “billiards” hall as it is here that the locals from the village came to play. The walls are fully composed of lime-pointed, exposed quarry stone blocks. A cloakroom and a small wine cellar have been laid out under the stairway. Here, there is also a closed door leading to an underground passageway and a 13th century crypt.
On the east side, the large lounge and the small one extending it are separated by two monumental fireplaces, standing back to back. Terracotta floor tiles form motifs between Burgundy stone floor tiles. They blend beautifully with the French ceiling.
A kitchen, with small stone floor tiles and a ceiling featuring exposed joists, opens on to the garden. It is followed by a vast room, laid out lengthwise, which still has several historic features from the old kitchens such as a sink, a stone cooking range with three burners and a monumental fireplace. The floor is the same as those in the lounges.
All these rooms are set out around a blind laundry room and a toilet.
On the north side is a bedroom known as the “ring” room as it was here that those who did not pay their taxes were chained up. It adjoins a vast bathroom, with a bath, an Italian-style shower and a toilet.
Prior to reaching the bright state room, with its wide arches, the stairway stops on a landing leading to two passageways. The first goes to an anteroom above the laundry room and the second, behind a door decorated with an antique frame, goes to a bedroom with a sculpted fireplace and sea-rush matting. Both rooms open into the residence’s most outstanding room: the amazingly luminous gallery with its six semi-circular arches, flanked with a little area in the corner turret. It provides a dominant view to the north and the east over the garden, the tops of the trees and the surrounding landscape.
The south-facing view from the reading room and the bedroom, with its four-poster bed, abounds in stone as these rooms face the village church. Another bedroom, with a fireplace, a shower room, with a toilet, and a bathroom, with a bath, a shower and a toilet, complete this level.
Below an impressive original roofing framework, the vast television room is also used as an exercise room as well as a meeting room. Separated from the stairway by wrought iron railing, it has an air of a covered terrace. Southern light, filtered by stained glass windows, contributes to the immediate feeling of well-being existing here.
On the north side, under the slopes of the roof, are two bedrooms. Both have parquet flooring; one has its own shower room and the other is enhanced with a stone fireplace.
Clean and easily reached via a wide stairway, the attic space could be converted. It includes a little corridor which leads to the room at the top of the corner turret.
The guest house
Set between the residence and the church, this was once a chaplaincy. Now fully renovated, it has an independent entrance via the little priest’s garden, adjoining it. It is heated via a wood-burning stove set in the fireplace and four electric radiators.
The modern kitchen is fitted with a bar table and travertine stone floor tiles. On the north side, the very high ceiling makes it possible to illuminate the bedroom laid out above it courtesy of an atrium. The living room is enhanced with a stone fireplace and its floor still covered with its original old terracotta tiles.
This level, under a single-sloped roof, comprises two bedrooms and a shower room, with a toilet, with parquet flooring throughout.
Spanning a floor surface area of more than 200 m² over two levels, made luminous by its south-facing openings, this barn can be used as a garage, a woodshed and a workshop. Upstairs, with a mezzanine, is the opening for filling the reserve for the wood pellets which are fed automatically into the boiler. This system guarantees efficient, economical heating.
This garden shed is set out on the north side, adjoining the residence. Its surface area of 24 m² makes it useful for storing garden tools and furniture.
Faced with such a variety of shapes and such an abundance of decorative motifs, visitors do not know where to look first. The protruding entrance is a tiered succession of finely designed openings. The aedicular architraves of the landing doors can be glimpsed through the arches of the monumental stairway. The closed, upstairs gallery features six immense rounded openings. The full restoration works have resulted in different but always pleasant atmospheres in areas which simply exude potential. Outside, the authenticity of the building is dazzling through a combination of dissymmetry and elegance. All around, the garden is soberly laid out, just like the countryside which appears to be straight out of a painting. The old chaplaincy, nestling between the residence and the church, should encourage people with good taste to befriend the new owners.
|Land registry surface area||13235 m2|
|Main building surface area||776 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||129 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||10|
Jonathan Barbot +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.