About Le Domaine de Ravenoville
Originally the Ravenoville Estate was a rural estate, enriched in the 18th century by the building of an eponym castle, ordered by a certain Monsieur Louis Berryer, superintendent of finances and close to Colbert.
In 1890, the castle was not lived in but was simply kept dry by the owner. It was occupied by Belgian refugees during World War I and then severely damaged following the June 6, 1944 bombings of World War II. Unable to be saved following these bombings it was demolished in 1955. In 1972, the cellars were knocked down by the owners. They were discovered by the workers when Pierres d’Histoire took over the estate.
During World War II, the Germans did not requisition the Ravenoville château because of its state of ruin. However, they took over the ground floor entrance and built a factory for the production of concrete Rommel’s asparagus. These were reinforced concrete poles, assembled in three meter long tripods and generally planted on the beaches or the fields and other flat lands behind the coast. This was to prevent any invasion reinforcing the coastal defenses of the Atlantic Wall.
By pure luck, PDH found drawings by a gunner who controlled from the castles’ park, the firing on Utah Beach by the forces of neighouring Azeville and Crisbecq.
We also know that part of de Ravenoville castle was used as a German prison camp, Foucarville CCE19, for over 100 000 prisoners. Later, a truly transient town was built by the Americans with the help of the prisoners. This camp grouped together a hospital, two churches, two theatres, one bread shop, one school, a wood mill and was unanimously applauded as a place of reconciliation.
An enigma remains making it hard today to actually date the existence of Ravenoville estate: the commons around the castle are much older than the construction of the castle itself which supposes the existence of an older castle. The main structure of this castle would be the actual Manor.
Of the Ravenoville estate only the commons remain. By looking carefully and thanks to a picture that was found, the symmetrical style of Louis XIII architecture can be observed, severe and yet harmonious. The roofs with their long slopes are characteristic of the time, just as the triangular pediments that frame the lintel. The eight sided dovecote, with its cut sections, is elegant.
The existing buildings reveal an architectural exception for this region, as it mixes brick and stone, but in reverse to the usual practice of the time: the framework is made of brick and it frames the small stone sides. This, in a more modest form, is a reminder of the Chateau de Torigny constructed by François Gabriel at the start of the XVII century.
The dovecote built in 1621 was habitable from the start of the 18th century. Abandoned for nearly one hundred and fifty years, Pierres d’Histoire started reconstruction in September 2013.
From then on, Pierres d’Histoire’s concern was to remain as close as possible to the spirit of the place. Nearly two years of work were necessary to achieve both an architectural coherence and an unusual result. The construction site included the workmanship of a stone mason and a carpenter working hand in hand to bring new life to this exceptional place.
Before starting the structural works, it was necessary to clean out the rubble from the dovecote as well as the hundreds of glass bottles left here and there by the Germans.
Then came the trickier job of cleaning the two thousand pigeonholes. These holes filled with over one hundred years of bird droppings were a challenge to clean as one can imagine.
Then the frameworks had to be refurbished and a new roof installed.
Following this, staircases were built; one going from the basement to the ground floor, and the second from the ground floor to the first floor.
Finally, so as to make the Dovecote comfortable, modern conveniences were installed in such a way so as to not detract from the beauty of the original materials.
When bought by Pierres d’Histoire, the central part of the estate of Ravenoville was a hangar for carts. With the help of the Bâtiments de France architect, three magnificent arches known as “basket handles” overhanging on two levels were noticed on the facade. These were, no doubt destined for the storage of agriculture foodstuff.
From one end to the other, the majestic facades gives the building a look of a small 17th century castle despite the fact that it was thought these were simply the commons. Then, a few years later, it was found out that it was in fact THE manor and that only the wings were used for farming needs.
A decision was taken to renovate the building. Inside remained only two worm eaten wood beams and at twelve meters from the ground floor, a magnificent structure covered in mold and fungus. The roof was in a very worrying state as a lot of air and water was coming through it!
The construction work started with the restoration of the structure, keeping as close as possible to the original layout and conserving the Saint-André cross shape of the superior structure.
The only parts remaining from the staircase were the first three steps in stone and one worm infested oak wood step. They all needed to be redone and had to correspond very exactly to the projection of the stonework which had not altered. The floor levels were reconstructed identically and the condemned windows were re-opened. There are now four bedrooms and four bathrooms on the two floors.
On the ground level, three openings were made for the new rooms on the north side : an entrance, a hallway, a library, a living room and a dining room.
In each room architectural elements of the time are evident such as fireplaces and Regency mullions, terra cotta from Anjou and wood panels dating from the 18TH century.
Altogether, the renovation on this building necessitated an army of qualified artisans supervised by a stonemason and a carpenter. They used, just for this site, more than 30 cubic meter of old recuperated oak, and more than 10 000 bricks of a very particular shape and color, all handmade and found across France.
Noble materials for renovating the buildings were used, but of course modern techniques (insulation, floor heating system, electricity, etc.) guarantee the guests comfort.