The Château

Aerial view of Château de Rosières en Vivarais surrounded by forest, with the Monts d’Ardeche behind

History

Château de Rosières en Vivarais is a medieval château set in the heart of rural Ardèche in the south-east of France. The earliest records we have are from the early 14th century and some parts of the château date from that time (and possibly older) but others evolved over the centuries. It was probably partly destroyed during the hundred years war, then rebuilt and heavily fortified to withstand the religious wars between Protestants and Catholics which dominated France in the 16th-17th  centuries. Northern Ardèche was a front line in these wars and the different lords of Rosières left their traces on the château according to their roles in the conflicts.

Under wallpapers we find royalist symbols, and we have discovered documents, including 15th century manuscripts on animal skin, that tell of soldiers sent by the Lord of Rosières to ambush retreating Protestants and violent family feuds as much about politics and religion as inheritance.

A manuscript from May 1577 concerning the installation of a retinue of knights at the ‘fort’ of Rosieres during France’s wars of religion. They were intended to see off any marauding Protestants who passed through the valley. See if you can find the mention of the chateau! (Hint the spelling has changed)

The violent history of the region is why so many of the medieval châteaux like Rosières remain in this area, while others around France were demolished, to be rebuilt like beautiful chocolate-box ornaments. Rosières was somewhat ‘beautified’ in the 17th century, giving it the wonderful doors and ceilings that decorate the main château. Metre-thick ground floor walls were knocked through to create windows and bring in more light, and the lords of Rosières dedicated themselves to being grand farmers presiding over the lush valleys of these low-lying mountains.

The same family held Rosières from the late 18th to mid-20th Centuries. One of them significantly ‘modernised’ several of the rooms in the 19th Century to provide more grandeur, but it otherwise remained largely untouched.

Unfortunately when the chateau was sold in the late 1960s, Rosières went to a rather naïve couple who decided to bring it up to modern 1970s style and remove many wonderful old features, such as huge stone tiles in the entrance hall. Instead they installing truly awful décor and amenities. (Word in the village is that they were ripped off by the tradesmen they employed and convinced to replace many perfectly good things with poor quality, modern equivalents).

Not only did this couple leave a horrible stain on the château’s physical history but they sadly bankrupted themselves and had to sell it. Their impact has dominated our work on the château because we’re focussed on undoing the damage of the 1970s and restoring the beauty and quality of the pre-20th century château. We’re also very aware of the risks of bankrupting ourselves as they did, which means we’re trying to do it in a much more business-savvy way!

Very little work was done to the château for the near-40 years before we bought it in 2016. This was a mixed blessing for us: It allowed us to start afresh, but it gave us a huge uphill task!

Chateau de Rosières as it is today. Blocked up windows hint at layouts from much earlier times.

Layout

Until the 1960s Rosières was a working farm, home to many other people than just the owner and his family. This means that we still have several wonderful farm buildings and old houses, ripe for renovation. The château itself has around 32 rooms (it’s hard to tell what to count as a separate room in some of the more run-down parts!) It is surrounded by a complex of four large barns, several outdoor farm buildings such as storage cellars, animal houses, wood stores and haylofts, two derelict houses and a large but ruined former coach house. It’s really more of a hamlet than a stand-alone château! One house even has its own tower that may be the remain of an earlier medieval castle.

This house sits at the ancient entrance to the château and is likely older than the main château. It’s next on the renovation list (spot the awful windows)

Perhaps the most unusual and charming feature of the Château’s outbuildings is a small, 17th Century chapel.  In 1654 Antoine de Reboulet married Magdeleine-Marthe Rosières in this chapel. We recently discovered the original altar marble at the back of a barn. It’s inscribed with the initials of the couple, A and M, which are rather wonderfully our initials too and make us feel pre-destined to be here!

The château’s 17th century chapel

Château de Rosières is set in the middle of 130 acres of mostly forest. This makes us gloriously private and quiet, even though we’re only a 15 minute walk to the local village. It also means that we have a lot of work to manage the land and the forest, on top of renovating the château!

Château de Rosières en Vivarais in winter