on the Provencal side of the French department of Gard
In a village 8 km to the north of Uzès, 20 minutes from motorways, 45 minutes from Avignon (TGV train station) and from Nîmes (TGV train station and airport). A school, a media library and a bar-grocery, run by an association, bring life to the village, set between two mineralogical worlds: standing on a band of limestone and delimited to the south by a hill of red stone, whose seams of ochre were mined by the Romans.
Landscapes are marked by vines and cultivated plains as well as the verdant desert of the scrubland, extending into the midst of the Gard’s Golden Triangle, between the Rhône, Cèze and Gardon valleys.
The western section of this walled property contains an elegant, L-shaped town house set out around a top courtyard. Further down, on the east side, the property opens on to a terraced garden, delimited on the north side by a long, 2-storey outbuilding. This walled property is enclosed on the south-west side by a vast shed, overlooking the garden.
The facades of the house are lime-rendered. Displaying a discreet sundial on its second level, the main south-facing facade features perfectly aligned openings that are tall and straight on the ground and first floors and square under the eaves.
The various buildings are covered with Roman tiles. They appear to form a homogeneous group, despite being marked by the caesura of the right angle of the house, such that the property has two separate aspects. One reflects a subdued, classical appearance, whilst the other exudes a theatrical air with its cascading terraces and the spectacular alignment of the seven semi-circular archways of its covered gallery on the first level of the outbuildings.
Although the classical style of the south facade bears witness to modifications most probably made during the 18th century (like the windows hinting at a gentle drop arch), numerous features, notably two Renaissance fireplaces on the first level as well as the surround framing the entrance door, topped with an oculus, are evidence of changes typical of the 17th century. A golden age for the area around Uzès, this era saw simple houses and farm buildings transformed into elegant residences. The lack of a dovecote or other feature proving the worth of its owners tends to indicate that it belonged to one of the many traders who settled in the village, under the guidance of Mathieu-de-Bargeton Junior, recently bestowed a title by François 1st, and who purchased the entire Seigneury and its estate in 1536.
The living rooms in the central building predominantly face south. The entrance door is set in the corner of the projection housing the half-pace stairway, constructed between the two parallel walls of the stairwell. A vestibule on the north side provides access to a dining room and a kitchen, the French windows of which open on to the courtyard. The decor in the dining room is especially refined, with its walls lined with re-used 18th century panelling, its fireplace and its exposed ceiling beams. Said room opens on the north side into a west-facing room in use as a bedroom. The kitchen, on a slightly lower level, bears witness to an earlier construction, notably obvious where the stone cross-ribbed vault meets the French window. Although the stone-paved floors are recent, visitors would think the opposite, proof of the meticulous care taken during the house’s recent restoration. This level is completed by a shower room, with a separate toilet, and a vaulted room, partially hewn in the rock, in use as a wine cellar, all reached from the vestibule.
This level is mostly taken up by the house’s reception rooms, beginning with a vast, long room, in use as a lounge, illuminated by two tall, south-facing windows, with a distant view taking in the hillsides, and by a tall, wide, east-facing French window opening on to the garden. This room provides access to a second room, on the west side, in use as a bedroom and to a shower room, with a separate toilet, on the north side. This large lounge also leads to the last room on the first level which is laid out as a library, where a door in the north-east corner opens into the covered gallery of the farm building. All the rooms on this level have fireplaces, two of which are outstanding examples of the 17th century, courtesy of their wonderful sculpture even though they have lost their original colouring. The restoration of the rooms was devoted to making as few changes to the original as possible and to intervene in such a way that recent features (notably some of the floors) blended perfectly with those that were preserved intact. The lounge ceiling, the layout of the joists of which does not follow the usual rule of keeping the interjoist spacing the same width as the joists, nevertheless, still features traces of painted decor.
This level under the rafters has a layout more or less the same as that on the first floor with two rooms, featuring sloping ceilings, illuminated by small square windows under the eaves on the south side. A bathroom, with a shower and a separate toilet half a floor down, is laid out in the same manner as that on the floor below. The roof covering the area corresponding the first-floor library has been removed to create a vast sun terrace, out of sight of onlookers and protected from the mistral winds. The stairwell also represents an additional room, corresponding to the lack of a perpendicular flight on the top floor.
The old farm building
A long, dressed stone building constructed on the slope delimiting the property to the north, this old farm building features numerous openings and carriage doors on the road side. The south façade, however, displays a more spectacular architecture, with a covered gallery on the first level, formed by a series of seven semi-circular archways. Various openings in the interior wall of the gallery bear witness to miscellaneous uses: stable doors and dovecote holes.
The floor on a level with the garden can only be reached from inside the perimeter walls. It comprises vaulted rooms (once used for cowshed and wine storehouse purposes). The first level is divided into three vast rooms, with their high, exposed roofing framework and their stone-lined floors.
The garden, its terracing and its ornamental pool
The garden has been laid out in the midst of the old courtyard, delimited to the north by the farm outbuildings and to the south by the perimeter wall and a vast shed. Recent works have uncovered and reconstructed a stone-lined path, forming an alleyway between the shed and the farm building. Further to the east, the garden is terraced on three levels, planted with Mediterranean species (olive, cypress and fig trees) with a central, contemporary, ornamental stone pool, topped with a terrace. An alleyway leads off diagonally through the vegetation to a boxwood parterre, before reaching the natural slope of the land, laid to lawn. The external areas provide a variety of landscaped views, continually changing in accordance with the time of day.
This shed, forming the south-west corner of this walled property, can be reached from the street via two doors (one for pedestrians and one for carts). It is currently in use as a garage and features two arcades. Opening on to the garden, they are separated by a dressed stone pillar of surprising dimensions. This oddity appears to be explained by the way in which the roofing framework is assembled as it is not supported by one or more trusses but by a single main rafter, connecting the pillar to the wall.
This land, on which the Volques-Arécomiques settled almost three thousand years ago, colonised by the Romans, invaded on several occasions by the Saracens, burnt countless times during the Wars of Religion, radiates a telluric energy which is dramatically portrayed here by the spirit of the Age of Reason. Two aspects on a same side enhance one another on the courtyard and garden side, in a setting that is both sober and opulent, steeped in sunshine but sheltered from excessive heat. In his “Lettres d'Uzès” (letters from Uzès), poet and dramatist Jean-Racine wrote to M-Vitart on 17 January 1662 saying “the sky is clear all day long, and our nights are better than your days”. Was it simply by chance that his stay in Uzès preceded a fortunate metamorphosis that, on his return to Paris, saw him devote himself completely to the theatre?
|Land registry surface area||1722 m2|
|Main building surface area||415.7 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||680 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||3|
Ménélik Plojoux +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.