in a historic town in the south-west of France
In the historic town of Nérac, capital of the Albret region, just a stone’s throw from the town of Agen with its airport (three daily return flights to Paris-Orly) and its future TGV train station (project confirmed for 2021), placing this town almost on the outskirts of the French capital, even if it is only for a week-end.
Former home to the Kings of Navarre, this town, although modernised, still has its original character and its features bearing witness to its past. Standing on both banks of the river Baïse, linked by the old bridge, the town comprises proud silhouettes of chateaux, mansion and half-timbered houses with their superb posterns, carriage gates and fountains. The lush undulating countryside forming its setting is dotted with attractive farms where the duck reigns: this is the land of foie-gras.
Former stables topped with an upstairs, set at right angles, border a private alleyway that opens via carriage gates into a street at the back.
The north-facing facade, standing behind its railings, opens on to the avenues, whilst the west-facing facade opens on to a stone walled garden, planted with trees and flowers, spanning approx. 400 m².
The carcass is built of partially rendered limestone quarry blocks with dressed stone enhancing the main facade.
The Roman tile roof features long slopes, the central section has a concealed gable and the turrets’ pavilion roofs are covered with flat tiles.
The building comprises a ground floor, a square upstairs and an attic floor.
The ground floor of the house includes a self-contained, 3-roomed flat overlooking a small private courtyard at the back. The first floor comprises another flat in an advanced state of conversion which could have a separate entrance.
This mansion house, which was built under Louis XIII by the President of Nérac’s Chamber of Accounts, was lived in several centuries later by the President of the civil court, hence its name “Hôtel-des-Présidents” (the Presidents’ mansion house).
But it was in November 1659 that the house knew its hour of glory when the young Louis XIV in person stopped overnight along the route to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, where the Sun King was going to marry the infanta, Maria-Theresa of Spain.
A little background
In the 16th century, protestants as well as Reform sympathizers were banned from the French Court. Marguerite-de-Navarre, a renowned writer, a great politician and the highly influential sister of the powerful King of France, François 1st, chose to welcome them with open arms in her province. The Court of Nérac finished by becoming extremely influential and acquired such weight that it was not wise to remain at a distance. The great historic characters that succeeded one another have left their marks and the town’s cobbled streets still echo with the steps of such well-known personalities as Jeanne-d’Albret, Queen Margot, Henri IV and his minister Sully, Rabelais and Montaigne, who were later to be followed by Georges Sand, Baron Haussmann as well as President Fallières.
The mansion house
As with all old town houses, the various constructions are superposed or overlap one another. This is a particularly good example as the building is in the centre of the old Medieval town. Consequently, the blind wall that borders the alleyway to the rear of the house is none other than that of the old town hall, partially dating from the 14th century, which was abandoned following a fire at the beginning of the 17th century.
Town plans dating from the time of Henri IV show that there were gardens on the site of the house. They include the facade of a house opening on to what was called the “Allée-des-Quatre-Seigneurs” (avenue of the four lords) at the time, but it was set much further back than the current facade.
It is still possible to admire the exterior Medieval-style windows of this old residence set in the wall framework of the central stairway.
Double entrance doors in the centre of the main facade, facing away from the “Allée-des-Quatre-Seigneurs”, open into a long corridor, with its old two-tone Gironde floor tiles, which goes through the house and stops at the foot of the large stone stairway.
There is a self-contained flat on the east side of this corridor which can be rented out. It will be described further on.
Three adjoining reception rooms on the west side: a corner lounge, the turret of which has been converted into a toilet and which could become a bedroom all on one level with its marble fireplace and its Louis XVI trumeau, a living room and a dining room. The first two rooms open on to the garden via French windows. The completely vaulted dining room with its immense stone fireplace appears to be older. It communicates with the living room, doubling the reception floor surface area, via a very wide, semi-circular arched opening.
These are followed by a large, fully fitted, extremely luminous kitchen, the full width of which opens via a picture window on to a private alleyway, making it possible to take breakfast or other meals in the shade out of sight of onlookers. A full wall of cupboards provides an unusual amount of storage space.
The kitchen communicates with the former stables, half of the floor surface area and the upper floor of which have been converted.
A superb, 8 m long, indoor swimming pool has been installed in a vast, completely vaulted room.
It has everything: an Italian shower, an electrically operated safety cover and a wide picture window opening on to the garden, a counter-current feature and, of course, heating so that this small luxury can be appreciated all year long.
There are also various machine rooms.
The first floor is accessed via a magnificent, right turning stone stairway with a half landing, illuminated via high windows. A secondary stairway opens on to a delightful corridor which leads to the “children’s flat” above the stables.
All the rooms have parquet flooring apart from the bathrooms.
A luminous lounge, reached via the landing, with an 18th century fireplace, wainscoting and a cupboard overlooks the garden.
Two state bedrooms on the north side share the facade looking out over the wide avenues, each having its own bathroom in the turrets (a bath with a hand shower, a wash-hand basin and a toilet).
One, a master suite, also has a dressing room with vast, modern cupboards, big enough to take a small spare bed if necessary.
Two smaller, but equally charming, bedrooms are on the east side. A blind room, opening on to the landing has a superb, immense wooden Louis XVI painted cupboard that is used as a communal dressing room and a hall area.
The last bedroom, adjoining the lounge, also gets the sun and has a view over the garden. Of a good size, it has a deep alcove and doors that lead to a bathroom on one side and a narrow stairway leading to an old fruit store on the other. An opening next to the marble fireplace provides access to a small dressing room which communicates with the corridor leading to the floor above the stables.
The self-contained flat
This house currently comprises a self-contained, 3-roomed flat running the length of the ground floor on the east side and opening on to a small private courtyard at the back.
The children's flat
At the end of the corridor, half-way up the main stairway, is a surprising library illuminated by wide, small-paned windows which provide copious amounts of character and light. Two walls covered with shelves, a very attractive Louis XVI wooden fireplace and astonishing panelled cupboards opening on the sides provide additional refinement to this elegant room overlooking the garden.
The children’s flat, adjoining the library, comprises an L-shaped living room, a shower room with a toilet and a bedroom exuding rustic charm and featuring a half-timbered wall.
The kitchen area planned in the living room has not yet been created but all the plumbing and electric wiring are already in place. This section is, therefore, in need of minor works in order to become functional.
Another access to this flat, via the stables, could make it completely self-contained with a view, for example, to renting it out.
One half of the stables which opens on to the private alleyway is still in its original condition with its paving slabs and its four old horse loose boxes currently in use as a workshop. A wooden stairway provides access to the floor above the stables, to the children’s flat and to the vast attic in the main house.
The “Hôtel-des-Présidents” is worthy of royalty, the French Absolute Monarch was not mistaken. Its nonchalant elegance irrefutably exudes a haphazard charm. Particularly well located in the middle of the old town along the wide tree-lined avenues, it is astonishingly luminous. The wonderful Royal Garenne Park, classified as a historic site, is just a stone’s throw away as are the banks of the Baïse and its superb boat trips. Everything is close to hand, but the residence remains aloof, at a short distance from the lively sector with its shops and boutiques.
And furthermore, it offers numerous investment options: a flexible holiday home, a superb setting for a first-class hotel and catering activity or quite simply a haven for an entire family, noblesse oblige.
|Land registry surface area||867 m2|
|Main building surface area||420 m2|
|Outbuilding surface area||80 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||7|
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.