Discovering an 18th Century French Manoir

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Sometimes life throws up the most unexpected surprises. On Tuesday a friend asked me if I would like to go with her to look around a house. This wasn’t a house to buy or a house to sell, but a house she was thinking of renting for a week in the summer for 25 friends. I love looking at houses and going somewhere new, so obviously I leapt at the chance. But a house that would sleep 25 people, all under one roof, now that really peaked my interest.

The house is an 18th century French manoir, typical of the Charente Maritime department and it sits in 25 acres of grounds.

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The property is reached by a long unassuming drive which ends in a pair of relatively simple solid wooden doors housed in a high wall. There is no clue as to what lay beyond, nothing is visible to the inquisitive stranger and in fact there is nothing that would warrant a second look from the casual passerby. But as we opened the doors and drove through I had an inkling of what was to come; the old stone walls housed yet more stone walls, arches and gateways and they hinted at something special; I knew this was going to be a fun afternoon.

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The house stands at the end of a main square of lawn, bordered on two sides by old barns. One used to house the chai, the original wine-making room; inside there are hundreds of ancient oak barrels, all sadly empty, forgotten and looking slightly forlorn. On the other side is another long barn; this houses more traditional workshops and harbours one of the most picturesque wells I have ever seen in a private house.

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We could immediately see this would be the most amazing setting for a summer house-party; it was gorgeous even on this chilly February day, so I could only imagine how stunning it would be when the Virginia creeper covering the house was in full leaf, when the flowers were in bloom and when everything had that distinct smell of summer. Eagerly we ran up the steps to the front door.

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Once inside we seemed to step back in time. The house is comfortable in a slightly down-at-heel sort of way. It has been gently restored and it is elegant in a style that says ‘I have stood for centuries I don’t need to be perfect’.

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I clicked away with my camera quite unashamedly and I completely fell in love with this brass lantern, the likes of which I have never seen before; it was held up simply by the one red hook in the middle.

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Nor had I ever imagined cleaning my teeth before I hopped into bed using this fabulous antique French enamel lavabo (water reservoir and basin).

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The rooms are well proportioned and generous, the ceilings high. There was a palatable atmosphere of peace and calm.

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All in all the whole property is like a grand old dame; it’s a little worn around the edges, and in places its age is definitely showing, but it has an ancient aristocratic quality. This is something that can never be built or bought, it’s a patina that can only come with time – and lots of it. This lovely old house wears its badge of antiquity with sun-dappled charm – it is totally comfortable within its own walls where generations of French folk have no doubt laughed, loved and juggled wine-barrels contentedly within the grounds. It was difficult to leave; simply put, this wonderful house encapsulated so many people’s dream about living in an old French house. I had to share it with you.

38 thoughts on “Discovering an 18th Century French Manoir

    • Hi Nadia, had a look at the property, it looks absolutely gorgeous. The fabric used on the outdoor cushions and ottomans is the same fabric I have here, Madder and Rouge, they have such gorgeous designs. Susan x

  • This is so beautiful. I love that it hasn’t been all smoothed out and made modern. There are interesting items without it being overcrowded with knickknacks. The brass lantern looks like it came from a church–something for a processional.

  • Old homes such as this make my imagination go wild. With 25 friends….could be an Agatha Christie play…

    What a treat.

    Sue. Did you get my email?

    • It could indeed be an Agatha Christie play and I certainly would not spend a night there alone. It was gorgeous, but definitely needed the comfort of people, I would be quite spooked at night with no one else around I think! I did get your email and I will reply in the morning, been at tennis tournaments for two days with the girls and then sat up until 2am writing this blog post yesterday, so need a relatively early night tonight!!! Susan x

  • How much more interesting and lovely is a grand ole dame than some sweet young thing with no mileage, perfect teeth and no good stories to tell? This house has tales to tell…past, present and future…she stands the test of time. Thank you for taking us on a pictorial visit from afar.

    • Hi Julie, I think she will, or rather I think she will tell everyone in the UK who wanted to come over and have this week long house party that it would be the perfect location, if I didn’t live here already I would certainly fill it with friends for a summer holiday, it would be perfect. Susan x

    • Hi Jean, I agree, I could have spent another couple of hours there at least, so many rooms, so many little things to discover, and I would have loved to have spent much longer in the barns and the chai, hopefully in the summer. Susan x

  • I’ve loved reading your entry about the French Manor! I’ve enjoyed your website so much that we are planning a trip to France in the spring …”just to look around” perhaps we’ll find a place of our own as well 🙂

    • Hi Barbara, thank you so much, I hope I have inspired you a little to look off the beaten track and explore. Where are you going to visit? Are you really intending to buy or just look around and dream a little. Either way, I hope you have a wonderful trip. How exciting. Susan x

    • Hi Julie, no it doesn’t have live in caretakers! Obviously someone comes and cleans the house and makes the beds before anyone arrives, but after that it’s totally self catering, on your own. As for facilities, yes it has several bathrooms, some have the addition of a modern shower, but in general the bathrooms are fairly plain and they were not that interesting for photographs. They weren’t beautiful antique bathrooms with claw foot iron bathtubs, neither were they supremely modern spa type facilities, they were just bathrooms that had probably been fitted in the 1970’s, purely functional, Sadly! Susan X

  • I was wondering the same concerning caretakers and sleeping rooms. We would all love to see photos of the bedrooms. You have an new assignment!

    • Ah, I can see I shall have to spend some time there in the summer when they rent it and take another series of photos, when it is actually lived in. I shall certainly do that. When we looked around most of the upstairs shutters were closed and rather than opening up the entire house we left them shut, so not great light for photos. There are no live in caretakers, the property is cleaned and the beds are made and the house is prepared for the arrival of guests, other than that, you are on your own, typical French self catering in a perfect setting! Susan x

  • Hi Susan, loved your line – I’ve been here for thousands of years, I don’t need to be perfect!
    We’ve been looking at older properties in our house hunt. But we want to wait until we take the big step until the referendum – my parents already live in France and have been scared witless. I get the impression you’re English – what are your thoughts on it all? I’ve just done a post on what I’ve garnered about the French reaction just through reading French papers comments sections online. Without being in France at present I’d love to hear someone else’s opinion on the ground.
    https://petitapetitme.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/june-23rd-frances-response/

    • A very interesting question Andrea, at the moment it is not something anyone has talked about much here. I think it is important to remember that there are more French living in the UK than there are British living in France and one has to view the entire picture. The general feeling is Europe is not working and this is a wake up call but I don’t think anyone wants Britain to leave the EU, at least no one I have met does.

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