in the Ornain Valley 2½ hours from Paris
3½ hours from Brussels via the A26 motorway and 2 hours from Luxembourg.
2½ hours from Paris via the A4 motorway and 30 minutes from Meuse TGV train station, with its 58-minute links to the French capital.
Bar-le-Duc, 17 km away, known as “a town of art and history”, constitutes one of France’s most outstanding Renaissance towns. It has been famous for centuries for its “Bar caviar”, an exquisite jam which is made with redcurrants that have been deseeded using a goose feather, an art that is unique in the world.
It is also where the country’s last industrial spinning mill is to be found. Bergère-de-France is a family business producing top quality French knitting wools.
This fortress changed hands often. Jean-Lietaut-de-Revigny was its lord of the manner around 1270. Duke Robert-de-Bar owned it at the end of the 14th century.
Victim of several attacks in the 15th century, it was notably taken around 1424 by Etienne-de-Vignolles from Gascony. Captain of Vitry and nicknamed “La Hire” (meaning anger), he was not, at this time, the loyal follower of Joan of Arc who he was to join later and who was to make him famous.
He seized the fortress, using it as a base from which to wreak havoc with fire throughout the Barrois region.
Liberated in 1427 by Georges-de-Nettancourt, the fortress was restored in 1559 for a visit by the king of France and partially destroyed in 1636 by Louis XIII at war against the duke, Charles IV. The latter was later to hand it over to Lord Saurin, lieutenant of the household cavalry.
Attacked once again in the 17th century during the Thirty Years War, in 1749 it was owned by Bernard-II-de-Marne, advisor to the court of Bar, followed by the heirs of the princess of Epinois.
Gradually modified by its successive owners, it has notably lost its moats and its drawbridge.
For the last 15 years, its outbuildings have housed a very well-known bed & breakfast and holiday accommodation rental activity, producing a turnover of some 100,000 euros per year which could be further increased.
The fortress was originally a quadrilateral totally enclosed by buildings, surrounded by moats filled with running water, delimiting a courtyard, reached via a drawbridge and protected by two towers.
The drawbridge has now been replaced by a stationary bridge and the property is more open. The main building is, however, still standing at the end of the courtyard, preceded by a low building which extends the two towers, both still in existence. The moats are laid to grass and the parklands, enhanced by “Le jardin plume” (the feathery garden) reflecting an impressionist style, are combined with fruit trees trained along espaliers and a delightful little vegetable garden.
The main residence
This residence, preceded by a majestic, 200 year old weeping beech tree which provides dense shade during the hot summer months, dominates the property from its terrace, reached via a superb semi-circular stairway.
Built from the light-coloured, Savonnières stone that is immediately illuminated by the slightest ray of sunlight, the main building is extended by a lower wing on the left-hand side.
Its two levels, constructed over a vaulted cellar, are simply enhanced by a stone string course, topped with high attic space concealed under slate roofs with a slight sprocket detail.
The small-paned windows have armoured, double glazed glass and indoor wooden shutters.
The facade exudes an almost austere elegance; its only extremely discreet decoration being a sundial engraved on the wall and wrought pilasters framing the main entrance door.
The impressive oak wood door, with a glazed chessboard pattern, opens into a hall, rising the full height of the building. Its floor is covered with superb, uneven flagstones. A dining room, immediately on the right-hand side and overlooking the courtyard, is steeped in daylight which notably enhances its herringbone pattern parquet flooring and its 18th century marble, trumeau fireplace.
A television room at the end of the entrance hall, with particularly charming, ladder-pattern oak wood parquet flooring, communicates on the right-hand side with a large shower room, fitted with two toilets, a wash-hand basin and terracotta floor tiles. Soundproofed in that way, it opens on the other side via a wide wooden partition, with small glass panes, into a large lounge. Just like the previous rooms, this large lounge has wainscoting and indoor wooden shutters whilst its heavy exposed wooden ceiling beams are supported on corbels. Its other features include soft light, filtered by the protective presence of the weeping beech tree in the courtyard, a stained glass window, resembling a painting and looking out from the rear facade, terracotta floor tiles as well as a monumental fireplace. This room is beautifully cosy despite spanning 50 m².
An automatically-opening door is set in the bookshelves which line one of the walls. It provides access to a vestibule, leading in turn to a cellar, to the outside via a second door, to a back stairway going upstairs and to the kitchen.
In the 1990’s this property housed a starred restaurant and still has its vast, 65 m² professional kitchen. This comprises two refrigerators, two gas ovens, two plate warmers, a fire-resistant plaque and an extraction hood above the entire unit.
The stairway going upstairs from the entrance hall is made of stainless steel and wood. A little landing opens into a central room, lined with floor-to-ceiling cupboards, fitted out as wardrobes. A 50 m² monumental bathroom is on the right-hand side. Particularly bright, it has a central bath, a vast shower and a gas-fired fireplace to complete the decor. The lines are refined whilst the fixtures and fittings are made of Corian, a well-known material that is very easy to maintain.
A large, 50 m², double aspect bedroom is on the other side. It also has a great deal of cupboard space. These three rooms have professional quality, light-coloured resin flooring. The very high ceilings feature exposed beams.
The rooms are spacious with an exceptional combination of the modern with the old.
The bedroom communicates with a second little landing which then goes down via a few marble steps to a large study or guest bedroom. Here, there are also two storage areas, a toilet and a linen room.
A hatch provides access to the attic space which could be converted.
The cellars span the entire floor surface area of the residence. They comprise a storeroom and a tiled preparation room with a cold room under the kitchen. A splendid, completely vaulted area under the main building has terracotta floor tiles and underfloor central heating.
The right wing
Also constructed from Savonnières stone, under a roof covered with flat tiles, this wing comprises a square tower, featuring little arrow-loops. It is extended by a lower building, with small-paned picture windows widely looking out over the main courtyard.
Spanning 90 m², it includes three guest bedrooms, with a shower room, a Corian wash-hand basin and a toilet, a linen room and a large room, with a built-in kitchen for breakfasts.
The warm and welcoming decoration is enhanced by the original architectural features and bare stone.
The left wing
Symmetrical to the right-hand wing, this section also includes a tower, comprising a first bedroom, with a shower room and toilet, and a small private lounge, paved with terracotta tiles on the ground floor.
The building extending it houses a laundry room, followed by a second bedroom, with the same fixtures and fittings as the previous one. Smaller, this one stands out courtesy of its walls, lined with wool fabric to create a highly successfully cocooning effect.
And lastly, at the end, a small, 2-storey, holiday accommodation rental unit with a built-in kitchen.
Vassals and peasants fleeing danger sought safety within its perimeter walls. Over the centuries, this old fortress in the Barrois region has turned to a more peaceful way of life. The regular, symmetrical appearance of its thick walls and its steep French roofs has encouraged the benevolence of a manor house. Featuring the excellent majesty of bare stone, the bedrooms recount stories that end well to passing guests. Just like the two-hundred year old weeping beech tree in the courtyard, there is a little air of happily ever after here with a turnover of €100,000 per year.
|Land registry surface area||5932 m2|
|Main building surface area||400 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||180 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||8|
North & West Marne and East Aube department
Florence Fornara +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.