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Chateau of Buisson de May, Monument Historique

Location: Saint Aquilin de Pacy, Eure Normandy
Period: XVIIIth century

History of the chateau of Buisson de May

1- Origins :

In the Middle ages, the land belonged probably to a family whose name was "de May", but it was successively called de May, d'Osmoy, and d'Esmoy. The oldest written document dates back to XVth century, when Jean de Brucourt, responsible for the famous Chatelet of Paris, sold his estate of Osmoy to his relative, Michel de Bordeaux, from Vernon, on the Seine river. According to the rules of chivalry, the gentry's lands had a suzerain, the Baron of Ivry, and Diane de Poitiers in the XVIth c. Henri IV is even supposed to have slept on that spot after the battle of Ivry, which took place on March 14th 1590.

2- Building a new castle :

The family de Bordeaux kept the Buisson de May over the centuries, selling wood, letting out land, farm and houses, as they were aldermen in Vernon. They had the manor repaired in the early XVIIIth c. Jean de Bordeaux Bargeville decided to build a new castle in 1781. He asked Jacques-Denis Antoine, a famous royal architect, member of the Academy since 1776, to draw up the plans. Several pages of them can be found in the French National Library. The new castle was located North of the old manor.

3- Changes throughout the years :

Le Caron de Fleurey was in charge of the farm at the time of the Revolution. In order to protect the buildings from laying waste because they belonged to supposed migrant nobility, he bought them in 1792. He refused to deliver wheat to the town of Pacy, and so gendarmes occupied the castle and the farm. He finally sold the property to Henry de Chastenay Lanty in 1802. In 1807, the new owner appeared, the Baron Louis Philippe de Saint Albin, illegitimate son of Louis Philippe d'Orleans. He was received at court by his uncle Louis XV in Saint Cloud and Versailles. Saint Albin became the Mayor of Saint Aquilin on January 1st 1808, and the Lord Mayor of Pacy sur Eure, in 1816. The first fire brigade in Eure was created by him. He was generous, efficent, and appreciated. He died in June 1829 in the Buisson de May. His mistress, the Comtesse Marie Pierrette de Tolozan ,widow Merle d'Ambert, lived with him. She became the owner in 1822. Many changes took place , mainly in the paths and landscapes drawn by the garden architect Lalos. On 23rd June 1830, the Earl François Gaspard d'Onsembray, arrived with his wife and their child, and became the owner when the Comtesse, his aunt, died. His family remained there until 1872, when Georges Degrand, architect, acquired it after his death. At that time, 19 persons were living here, from the masters to the tutor, governess, housemaids, gardeners...

4- A rough XXth century :

In 1892, a banker, Henri Berson, bought the property and asked an architect, Charles Couvreux, to restore the castle in 1895. He was fond of fencing, athletics and had a craze for photography. He sold it to the Labey family in 1926. Labey was a musician even a composer, but unfortunately, had to sell the farm and the lands in 1936, and the forest with the castle in 1938. The French State-owned Caisse d'Allocations Familiales de la Région Parisienne, organised summer camps for children, after several changes in architecture : the second floor windows and the chapel. The English Navy arrived in June 1939, opening a military hospital, where hundreds of wounded, both civilians and soldiers, were care for, under red cross tents. They dug a 100 meter deep well. The Germans arrived in June 1940, and ordered the French engeneers to stay in the park, under tents, in order to repair the telephone around the area of Evreux.
After the war, summer camps reopened, and more than 150 boys and girls had their vacations there. Little by little, the castle fell into ruins : it was empty during cold winters, snow ice and water destroyed the floors and the ceilings. The Caisse d'Allocations Familiales, finally, sold the property in 1976. Restoration started, in the castle, but soon had to be stopped. For the next ten years, the castle was offered to plunderers. Luckily in 1994, it was classified as a Monument Historique, inside, outside, and dry moats. We bough it in 1999 and have done the most urgent repairs on the inside walls and on the roofs. Now we make deep restauration.

The early Neoclassicism

1- Theory :

The disaster of the Seven-Years war ( 1756-63) combined with an intellectual crisis due to the Enlightenment movement represented by Diderot and Voltaire, started has a reaction against the Roccoco style, and a deep nostalgia for France's recent past, mainly the "Grand Siècle". Neoclassicism in the long run was defined by antique conservation. What distinguished the XVIIIth c. Neoclassicism from the Renaissance was the moral aspiration that it expressed. The antique represented goodness, beauty, human meaning. The philosophers of the Enlightenment added moral virtue, public spirit, and plain living. The architect was entrusted with a social and educative function : his task was to influence the modern world. The ideal was an architecture liberated from ornament and colour. With the development of engravings in mid-century, ruins were starting to be known and appreciated. Greece became a magnet to the cultivated world. At the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, the antique formal vocabulary had been absorbed completely.

2- The Neoclassical castle inside :

At their arrival, guests were supposed to get off the coach inside the hall. The hall had black and white paved stones and was destinated to receive hats and overcoats. Walls were painted in false stone or marble. Because of draft, staircases were put inside pavilions, here in the North-West one.
Any room that opened on the outside had to be paved, although the others were parquetted with oak. The decoration of the walls was linked to the use of the room. Dining rooms, which started to exist only for meals, were ornemented with Bacchus, Ceres or Flore. Here, the four seasons : Spring with fishing, Summer with harvest, Fall with grapes, and Winter with hunting. For a drawing-room, Appolo or Diana were usually chosen, here, little putti smile under circular guirlands of roses. Colours were very light : white, yellow, blue, pink, and new names such as "lilas" or "puce" were given by Louis XVI.
Bedrooms were decorated with Venus or Cupidon, with his arrows. The walls were green, the colour of rest. The bed was hidden in a cosy bedstead with curtains. Winter rooms had lower ceilings. Here in the South-Eastern and North-Eastern pavilions, the architect chose to build rooms with low ceilings, destinated to the housemaid who could be separated from her mistress and at the same time very close to her and able to arrive on the spot if required. Cosy "boudoirs" were very fashonable, because the snug hangings and lower ceiling kept the heat in Winter. Here, it is located in the Noth-Eastern pavilion, it communicates with the bedroom, with the courtyard, and by a small hidden staicase with the entresol where the master's bathroom and the housemaid's room were, and with the first floor. Upstairs were guest's bedrooms with dressing-rooms.

Architect : Jacques-Denis Antoine

Born in Paris on August 6th 1733, Antoine began his career as an outsider : he was the son of a joiner. His reliability and integrity made him one of the most sough-after practitioners of his day : he built the hotel de Fleury, now Ecole des Ponts et Chausses in Paris, in 1768. His major work for the kings Louis XV and Louis XVI was in 1771-77, the edification of the Paris' mint Hotel des Monnaies , one of the major public buildings of louis XV's reign. His success brought him numerous public and private commissions even abroad : near London for the Earl of Findelater, the townhall in Bern (Switzerland), the Prince of Salm's castle in Kirn (Germany)...
He drew le Buisson de May from August 1781 to July 1782 : the square central-pavilion is flanked by four square corner-pavilions where four little belvederes add height. The buiding is well located in the focus-point of a large perspective traced trough an English styled landscape and the forest. Two semicircular ranges, one in front, and the other in the rear, circle the whole castle.
Two facades are white , sober, with triangular window-cornices, and the other two are built in pink bricks, with stone arcated window-cornices. The whole building according to the Neoclacissism, is sober and light. As a personnal touch of Antoine, the roof is high, orned with tall chimneys in bricks, and the slates shine in the sunrays. Antoine admired Louis XIV's reign, and also loved to make surprises : no two facades are alike in any of his constructions.
Jacques-Denis Antoine was elected to the Academy of Architecture in 1776. He died in Paris on August 24th 1801.

Work already done :

1- Electricity : caretaker's house. Whole ground floor and first-floor of the castle.
2- Plumbing : caretaker's house. Chateau's bathrooms in ground and first floor. Kitchen.
3- Brushwood clearing : caretaker's yard. Alleys in the park. The two semicircular dry moats.
4- Masonry : ceilings : dining room, corridor of ground floor, corridor of first floor, one bedroom in first floor . Floor and ceiling of a vestibule. Floor of the waterclosets . Three fireplaces. The main salon wall. Corridors-walls on first floor. Three stairs outside. One pilar of the gate. all for the Billard , and All for the dinning room.
5- Woodwork : 108 French windows or oeil de boeuf repaired or replaced. Billard room ornaments in wood. Versailles parquet in one bedroom repaired, and entirely redone in the main salon and ground floor North bedroom. Floor of the dining room created from pieces of old parquet. Doors of the main salon, billard room and dining room. Bases of columns in the main salon. Wood ornaments and old mirror in the corridor. Floors of two bedrooms upstairs.
6- Painting : Kitchen. One bedroom in the ground floor and its bathroom. Two vestibules, one staircase and the corridor on the ground floor. The Eastern corridor and two bedrooms on the first floor. The Music room in the ground floor. 108 french windows or Oeil de boeuf. Restauration of Billard and dinning room ornaments.
7- Slate roof : Emergency repairs. The four belvederes and towers completely redone.
8- Heating : Oil-heater and all heating installation of ground floor and a third of first floor.
9- Park : In depth Study of the historic of the park, the drawings by the architect and the plantations.

Work done in 2004-2005 :

1- Park : Forest management-plan within 20 years. Walls of dry moats : study and begining of major repairs. Defend the park from the new drawing of the road. Installation of a second housekeeper.
2- Painting :One bedroom on first floor. Dining room including the restoration of the fresque.

Work done in 2007-2012 :

1- Slate roof : The South-East Tower is completely done.
2- Painting :The drawing room is painted in the originals tones with its custom built chimney.
3- Inside : Heating and Plumbing extended.

Major works to do later :

1- Slate roof : Deep study of the roof by the Architecte en Chef des Monuments Historiques. Complete remake of the central roof.
2- Dry moat stone walls (more than one km).
3- Inside : Third floor and second floor.

The Buisson de May's location compared with others historical monuments :

This beautiful monument is located near by many others historical monuments. We have selected for you the most important ones and if you are visiting France you should visit them. For each we have put their official website and the distance between them and us.
1- Caen Normandy Memorial : Centre for history and peace. website > HERE <. (166km, 1h30mm)
2- The Bayeux Tapestry : Listed as a "Memory of the World" by UNESCO. website > HERE <. (195km, 1h50mm)
3- Paris : Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame or Sacré Coeur. website > HERE <. (86km, 1h05mm)
4- Château de Versailles : Visit the Palace of Versailles. website > HERE <. (74km, 50mm)
5- Le Mont Saint Michel : The « Wonder of the Western World ». website > HERE <. (290km, 2h40mm)
6- Omaha Beach : DDay, June 6th, 1944. website > HERE <. (217km, 2h05mm)
7- Rouen : Where Jeanne D'Arc died. website > HERE <. (67km, 45mm)
8- Giverny : The painter Claude Monet, Parc and Monument. website > HERE <. (24km, 30mm)
The Buisson de May is located on the Highway n°13, exit n°15, 86km and 1h05 from Paris.

Visit and contact

Major events:
1 - The Heritage Day on the third weekend of September (Sept 15 - Sept 16 2012), where you can visit inside and outside the monument.
2 - The Garden Day, on the first weekend of June, where you can enjoy a walk within natural orchids.

We are also open during spring and summer on special request.
If you want more information about this Château, or if you would like to make an appointment in order to visit it, please do not hesitate to contact us:
Phone number : 00 33 6 68 99 29 51
E-mail : buisson_de_may@yahoo.fr , or by clicking > HERE <.
Do you want more information about Normandy ? "Visitnormandy.org" could be the answer > HERE < .

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