Neuvicq-le-Château is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department, over the years we have passed though it regularly on our way to visit friends and seen the sign for a Château that points down a narrow street but we’ve never dropped in. This time we decide to stop at the Château for a look.
It’ ends up being very short visit as we don’t get inside, the kids have a run around whilst I stay close to the van by the gate.
It’s a pretty little building full of history, and there was an information board (in French) that detailed quite a bit and I topped up my information with the visit to this website: http://www.histoirepassion.eu/spip.php?article659 (also in French language).
I’ve done my best to translate some of the interesting bits here for you as I like digging around quirky bits of local history, even if sometimes that history isn’t actually local to me.
The first historical evidence of this building refers someone in the ninth century who was a “Neuvicq Viguerie” (local justice) situated in the village that was called “Neuvy” at that time.
William de Neuvicq Fulk were vassals of the Bishop of Angouleme and the La Roche Landry family keep the property until the Hundred Years War during which the castle was either destroyed or damaged.
In the Church of Neuvicq, the arms of the Counts of La Roche La Roche or Andry Landry were found during during renovation. The same (heraldic) weapons are also found in the castle.
Time has dulled the crest elevation to such an extent that close comparison is no longer possible, so we can not be truly sure, but the heraldic arms of La Roche Landry contain transverse bands that are indistinguishable at a distance from those that are constructed at the castle.
The style of the church and castle are the same so it is likely that La Roche Landry were both constructed at the same time.
In 1439, a widowed countess Landry La Roche owned the castle and the main construction comprises a high double towered building with steeply sloped slate roofs and third story pediment windows.
The two towers are of unequal size, one is larger and shorter, the other is taller and thinner, the later contains a spiral staircase.
In approximately 1500 the castle was rebuilt in the pre-Renaissance style, which is now the current main building.
It was resold to the Espièmont family, via the feudal estate passed by inheritance into the hands of the Goths.
From 1550 it changed hands often, and in 1673, the Marquis de Montespan, Athénaïsse Rochechouart inherited it. His son sold it to Marquis Francois in poor condition, the ditches filled in.
Marquis Francois, was the last owner of the castle before the Revolution. It was reputedly sold by the lord as pay-off to avoid capture during the revolution.
After the Revolution the villagers had acquired the estates of the local landed gentry and embarked on expansion of the vineyards to benefit from the income of cognac, but the Great French Wine Blight (the phylloxera crisis) in 1870 destroyed the vines and resulted in a dramatic shift to diversified agriculture, so milk production rapidly expanded in the area.
The castle was subsequently acquired by the family Martell Cognac, who found it very difficult to maintain, to the point of considering demolishing it in 1904. Neuvicq Mayor of the time, Alfonso Porchaire opposed this and wished that it be bought by the Commune.
This restructuring after the wine blight, combined with rural-urban migration lead to a sharp decreases in population, and by 2000 the rural population in France matches the level of the Middle Ages, a phenomenon now common to all rural communities.
Le Castle Neuvicq is now the town hall of Neuvicq-le-Château and has been classified a historical monument since September 14, 1912.
For us it’s a sweet little castle and it’s nice to see that it’s now a well used and loved building in the community.
We look, we photograph, we learn, and then we drive on.