chateau de la motte henry
our monument historique
Ever dream of living in an inspirational castle? It definitely comes with its challenges and responsibilities. I always thought it was the stuff of dreams but since a chance e-mail two years ago, a flying visit and a lot of heart-searching we now do. We simply fell in love with the place and now we seek to make it the perfect venue for sporting retreats and luxury breaks, whilst respecting its rich heritage. Drawing on the work of Judith Barath in 2013, we summarise the history of Chateau de la Motte Henry and our plans as its latest custodians.
In the year 1180, not much later than the wedding of Henry II, Plantagenet King of England, to Eleanor in 1153, La Motte Henry, a feudal motte was built. 'Motte' as those of us remembering our childhood history know, refers to a ditch, bordering a castle, town or a fort and it is usually filled with water to provide safety in case of an attack.
Between 1180 and 1201, the local region was controlled by Henry ll. But in 1202 Philippe, King of France recovered and reclaimed the area and this marked the start of a 100 year long war. As a result the regions of the Mayenne and the Loire are loaded with the history of Plantagenet period. The Motte, that still exists on our grounds today, though without its tower, is in an ideal state for conservation and was recognized as a Monument Historique in 1991.
In the mid nineteenth century Marquis D’Argouges, an engineer and a reputable architect, decided to construct the enchanting Chateau De La Motte of Henry on this historical site, as a wedding gift to his son. He was drawn to the site owing to its picturesque countryside, grand and majestic trees, and natural water sources. The symbolic ancestral crests of the bride and groom are still seen, externally and internally.
The Chateau is built in the dreamy Renaissance style which is so acclaimed across the Loire Valley. Only local materials are used in its construction, such is the abundance of oak, obtained from the forests of Bergault and Charnie. The Salon Bois inside the chateau is exclusively paneled with this supple oak and is the only one of its kind throughout France.
Marquis D’Argouges introduced many innovative concepts in Chateau de la Motte Henry, such as a contemporary heating system, centralised plumbing, and electricity.
He also drew heavily on his family's heritage. In 1603, the Chateau de Fleury situated near Fontainbleu, was built by Le Comte Clause, who later married Mlle D’Argouges. 250 years later, his direct descendant, Marquis d’Argouges relocated some pieces of fittings, fireplaces, and furniture from the Chateau de Fleury to the Chateau de la Motte Henry. The most significant of all the pieces is the impressive Renaissance fireplace, still present in the Salon Bleu.
Post construction, the Marquis and his son turned their attention to the extensive gardens. In the late Nineteenth century it was the vogue to give a natural look to landscaped areas, and thus the grounds of the Chateau were specially designed to bear resemblance to a beautiful English Park, equipped with an ornamental inland lake. Trees were planted from far and wide, such as American Redwood, American Oak, plus the Lebanese Cedars to complete the look. A large walled garden was also designed in a simple style of four squares included game, sections for poultry, orchards and an orangery. This garden now includes rose gardens and a swimming pool and the orangery has been converted into our performance facility.
Until the mid-20th century, the Chateau was completely self-sustaining, with the orangery, a bakery, a piggery, and stables and quite a number of outbuildings that were designed for comfortable living. Many of these still exist today, including the old bakery ovens and the honey store.
Until 1969, the Chateau remained in the possession of D’Argoges family and direct descendants still occupy the old Gatehouse and other outbuildings now outside the curtelage of the main grounds. However, the Chateau sustained a lot of damage during World War II and, in 1969, was bought by Mme Piau-Agneauz, who started the long process of restoring the Chateau. She operated the Chateau as an exclusive, albeit small, boutique hotel. In the 1970s, '80s and early '90s it was a favorite get away for a number of French celebrities and politicians, who made the most of its delicious local cuisine, private location, and helipad coordinates.
In 2001 the Chateau went back into private ownership, acquired by Simon and Vivienne Birt who continued the preservation and restoration of the Chateau. They added rose gardens, Italian fountains and formal swimming pools to the Walled Garden and restored the Pavillon, a peaceful lakeside cottage.
Having bought up their daughter locally, the Birts decided to relocate back to England in 2017 and sold Chateau de la Motte Henry to its next custodians, and co-founders of Group Evolution, Barry and Rebecca Williams.
In our extensive program of restoration, we have internally restored the Chateau to much of its former glory, reintroducing Lucarnes to the second floor to recreate the original look of the Chateau and facilitate the restoration of a number of bedrooms. And we have completely renovated the attic, historically staff living quarters and now a spacious yoga studio and therapy room, We have furnished the property with period pieces from the renaissance period whilst, at the same time modernising the facilities where practical to tastefully update whilst still respecting the Chateau's heritage.
Outside the principal building we have protected the dramatic coach house by re-roofing the building and added a number of new features such as a decked area, sitting over the lake, a 1.25km wood-chip running trail around the site and various outside dining and relaxation areas. As a second home and retreat location we now consider the Chateau to be ready to inspire its visitors and our guests.