in the midst of the French department of Lot-et-Garonne
This property is not far from a so-called “character village” in an area known as Pays-de-Serre, adjoining the French departments of Dordogne, Landes and Gers as well as the Quercy region, all with strong identities and a wealth of heritage.
This area was marked by the One Hundred Years War and the nearby village of Saint-Sardos was involved in one of the preliminary events.
The town of Agen is but a short distance away. Its TGV train station provides 190-minute links to Paris. The A62 motorway is also in the vicinity as is an airport with two daily return flights to Orly.
The surrounding unspoilt countryside fortunately still has its rural character.
Not far from a “fortified” village, it dominates the valley and is surrounded by some 4.5 hectares of woods and meadows. On the north side of the property, beyond the meadow, the mayor of the village has created a park, the trees of which are now growing rapidly. In a few years’ time, they will conceal this property perfectly.
This stronghold house is reached via a steep-sided lane, looking down into a deep, wooded valley, where natural wilderness has reclaimed its rights.
The outbuildings flank a section of the courtyard, once enclosed by a perimeter wall, the chateau being open at right angles on the east side.
The stronghold house
This east-facing stronghold house closes the third side of the courtyard.
Surprising because of the austere balance of its facade, with its tall mullioned windows illuminating the gallery, it was added on to the old feudal building in the 17th century. These openings are topped with a triangular pediment, a mark of the Renaissance era, and give this facade a slight Palladian air: François 1st, returning from Italy, had brought an Italian court back with him. Some of its members settled in the area around Agen and built residences reflecting Italian classicism.
Curiously, the pediments and a section of the mullioned windows stand higher than the actual roof. It was no doubt redesigned and lowered in the 19th century, leaving the top of the mullioned windows suspended above the roof.
The meticulously laid stonework features stone cornices, Lombardic bands on either side of two entrance doors and small arms, without crests, on the curved lintel.
The dovecote, in line with the facade, has a condemned mullioned window, the form of which is identical to those of the gallery.
Going around the building to the south side, it is possible to see partially condemned mullioned windows in the wall of this facade. Some are not bevelled, a sign of their age in relation to the 17th century adornments.
Stone gargoyles were added to the top of the walls, with no apparent link to the roof. A stone cornice enhances the top of the wall under the roof.
The lack of care given to the back of the house, on the west side, is surprising as it has none of the superb stonework featured by this residence. And the roof is set between two high stone walls, belonging to the more ornate building that looks down on it. Possibly a ruined section, thriftily rebuilt at a later date?
Continuing around the building to the north side, the same mullioned windows, some walled up, are to be found. This is where the original feudal building can best be seen; its stone walls visible in the continuing of the walls on either side.
One of the curved lintel doorways provides access to a narrow corridor with damaged terracotta floor tiles. On the left-hand side of the doorway, on entering, is a cement sink which must have replaced the original stone one.
This entire floor appears to have been partitioned in the 19th century, thus reducing the vast kitchen on the right-hand side of the doorway. It still has its large stone fireplace, the superb stonework of which can be seen under the rendering. The floor is covered with terracotta tiles.
A north-facing room has wood flooring in a poor state of repair.
At the back and at the end of the corridor is a room with a fireplace and a window set in part of the mullion. It opens into a small room illuminated by a small window. The floors here are also in a poor state of repair.
The first floor is reached via a stairway housed in the dovecote. The steps, formed from a single stone, await consolidation: some are cracked. The landing, with its flagstones, provides access to the large main room of the stronghold house. It is entered via a moulded doorway, featuring a protruding keystone. This is the oldest section of the residence. It still has its large stone fireplace with robust jambs. The top lintel, with its moulded cornice, bears the date of 1559, engraved like a signature using a chisel. The chimney breast is no longer in existence but the superb brick arch can still be seen in the hearth.
This triple aspect room is illuminated by the tall windows in the gallery on the east side and by two mullioned windows, facing one another, on the north and south sides.
Two doors, on either side of the fireplace, open into another large room, backing on to the main room. Damage can be seen in the corner, level with the roof, although the entire building appears to be in good condition.
The outbuildings, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, are more recent than the stronghold house.
A first, north-facing building closed the courtyard entrance. Its load-bearing wall still includes the pillar of the old entrance porch way. Its long facade dates from the 18th century which is clear from its layout: two doors with curved lintels, arched windows, opening symmetrically, oculi surrounded by roll moulding: the superb balance of the openings bears the mark of this classical period.
Inside, it has a packed mud floor and the roof over one section of the building has fallen in. The entire roof is in poor condition and needs replacing.
A small building extending it could date from a later period. Its roof, partially collapsed, is also marked by the ravages of time.
A west-facing barn stands at right angles. It dates from the 19th century, a time when the Pays-de-Serre began raising cattle.
The facade looking out over the courtyard has a large, rounded haystack doorway and, on the same facade, a smaller door, also rounded, used for the animals.
This building, its roofing framework and its Roman tile covered roof are in a good state of repair. It was used, up until quite recently, for farming purposes and was regularly maintained.
Set behind, at right angles, is a small, long building: overgrown and intended for poultry. This could be transformed into a small, west-facing dwelling.
On the north side, on the edge of a field, is a well housed in a small rounded construction.
Bearing witness to a certain era, this stronghold house will provide heritage lovers with all the good excuses they need to take advantage of tax benefits linked to its French historic monument listing.
This property, quite rare in the Pays-de-Serre, appeals courtesy of its elegance, beautifully blended with a certain austerity.
No disastrous restoration works have been carried out and the structure is still in its original condition. The house has been completely preserved. It awaits full restoration works. Furthermore, the outstanding dynamism of the village has led to the creation of a first-class auditorium which puts on concerts all year round. A privilege...
|Land registry surface area||4 ha 43 a|
|Number of bedrooms||0|
|Main building surface area||200 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||600 m2|
Armelle Chiberry du Vignau +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.