22 Oct 2017

Crumbling Châteaux

With modern times achanging, old money does not warrant stability and continuity: one way or another the estates it relates to likely meet their fate. Heating bills, maintenance and repair costs, and property taxes end up sealing the deal on one remorseless Winter night.

Passed down the generations, the estates increasingly turn into financial burdens (financial money pits!), unless pockets are deep and/ or resourcefulness (return on investment projects), DIY skills, family team spirit and general stamina are unequivocally high.

Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers (dating back to 13th century), Les Trois-Moutiers, Vienne, France

Maybe any land-related business attached to the estate (farming, winemaking, fruit orchards, garden nurseries, crafts, hospitality) which used to support or supplement its income ends up folding altogether due to high running costs and other expenditures - and the implacability of French taxation (so be said). The château lifestyle may then take a turn for the worse and bite the dust...

Likewise the French château dream may turn sour for those idealist buyers and unpractical investors who succumbed to the lure of a quick, cheap and fanciful purchase, only to find out that they are biting more than they can chew. And then the château lifestyle increasingly becomes a distant vision. 

Château de Maupas (built c.1580), Maupas, Dordogne, France

I have little knowledge about the history of the châteaux featured herein - and the reasons that led to their falling from grace. Regardless, my aim is not to blame or condemn. Mirabelle knows only too well how easy - very easy - it is for a property - grand or otherwise - to fall into disrepair, catch you off-guard, and for its maintenance costs to escalate beyond repair, especially when the property has not been consistently looked after or if you have been dealing with cowboy builders and other rip-off con artists from the associated building trades. Those elderly ladies made out of stone, brick, slate and wood require constant methodical TLC: choose to disregard or overlook it at your peril!

Château de la Boissière (dating back to 19th century), Edern, Brittany, France

Some owner-renovators and passionate volunteers are riding the wave high and proud and making a success out of their property venture, through blood, sweat and tears. First expect cold sleepless nights, spartan comfort, improvised dinners out of a camping stove, and chamber pots for toilets... Or best make a caravan your home while a modicum of comfort is being established in your property. All in all, keep at it and never lose sight of the reward at the end of the dirt track, beyond crumbling plaster and patches of dry rot!

Château de Coat an Noz (built 1870), Belle-Isle-en-Terre, Brittany, France

Source: (1-5) French château photography via Châteaux de France. (1) Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers (built 13th century), Les Trois-Moutiers, Vienne, photography by Pierre Mairé. (2) Château de Maupas (built c.1580), Issac, Dordogne. (3) Château de la Boissière (dating back to 19th century), Edern, Brittany, and (4) Château de Coat an Noz (built 1870), Belle-Isle-en-Terre, Brittany, photography by Morgan Corbet. (5) Château de Bonnefontaine (built 1818-1822), Altwiller, Alsace. (6) Château de Blancafort (built 1453), Sologne, Loire Valley. (7) Château de Meauce (built c.13th century), Nivernais.

Château de Bonnefontaine (built 1818-22), Altwiller, Alsace, France

Depressed about the château sorry state? Cheer up and read on...

Château Success Stories:

  • Adopte un Château, in partnership with Dartagnans, presents itself as an innovative crowdfunding scheme designed to bring together investing members of the general public willing to be involved in the rescue of a struggling château that has fallen into disrepair. The initial goal is for the investors to collectively meet the seller's asking price. By purchasing one or more shares (affordably priced at 51 euros a share), they become in effect one of the several owners who will be involved in the château's future, with its renovation funded by its conversion into a profitable business. This is exactly what is happening to our featured (1) Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers right now! Now whether the scheme has real potential for the safeguard of a château - or is purely utopic - remains to be seen, especially in the long term.
  • Push open the door to a successful privately-owned current château renovation scheme: Château de Meauce (built 13th century), set in Nivernais, the Central area of la belle France. The château is featured on the Adopte un Château website.
  • Follow the river and admire the quintessential châteaux of the Loire Valley: those are healthy and wealthy! And while you're at it, take a leisurely stroll through the grounds and the gardens
  • If your pockets are deep and you envision yourself as the proud owner of a renovated château in Sologne, within the Loire Valley, you are in luck! Château de Blancafort (built 1453 as a fortified stronghold) is up for auction... and already has your name on it! 
  • Purchased in 2015 by TV personality Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel Adoree, Château-de-la-Motte Husson is the star of a (British) TV home renovation series. The Loire Valley-located château (which finds its origins in Medieval times and was rebuilt 1868-1874) also hosts vintage weddings and other hospitality events under the umbrella of The Vintage Pâtisserie, Angel's hospitality company.
  • In the French Pyrenees village of Château-Verdun, Château de Gudanes (built mid-1700s) is too enjoying a second youth! Its new owners are a couple of  dynamic Aussies who gave up their home comforts from Down Under for a château life made up of cracks, leaks, drafts, overdrafts... and much joy! The château restoration is well underway now and paying off! In fact, each Summer paying guests are invited to contribute their skills in exchange for a slice of the pie

Château de Blancafort (built 1453), Sologne, Loire Valley, France
Château de Meauce (built c.13th century), Nivernais, France (pict source)


  1. When my wife and mother-in-law and I visited France in 2013, we visited several well-preserved châteaux in the Loire Valley, but the next time we're in the area, perhaps we should add some struggling châteaux to our itinerary, to spread the support around some more.

    Thanks for sharing, Nathalie! .....allan

    1. Hey Allan! The Loire châteaux are architectural delights and so worth a visit! As the jewels in the architectural crown of France, they really exemplify the château concept: a feast for the eyes which - I am sure - your family enjoyed! Indeed the Loire châteaux like Chambord and Chenonceau get much worldwide news coverage, high numbers of visitors, and generous subsidies towards renovation projects. Those are the pampered few!

      According to Le Figaro newspaper (04-Jun-2010), France has no less than 6,450 châteaux and manors listed on our French equivalent of the National Register of Historic Places, 85% of which privately owned. Of those, approx. 10.8% (600 châteaux) are described as decaying... Struggling châteaux welcome every opportunity for a paying visitor, and some even offer hospitality services as B&Bs. My parents, brother and I stayed in a château in Provence one Summer in the mid-1980s: such a magical place, steeped in history!

      All the best to you and family, Allan!


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