The restoration of the château
In all likelihood, the château de la Forge was originally built by the Chèze family (or Chièze family) sometime in the 17th century. An old bell on the west terrace of the property (by the swimming pool) is engraved with a short poem in French dated 1690. The poem reads:
“Au son de mon harmonie
vous ouvriers je vous convies
de venir et ne tardes pas
pour prendre votre repas.
Main apres je pretans ici
que vous travaillie bian aussi.
Monsieur Chieze ma fait faire
car de couer pour cette affaire.”
We used our limited knowledge of French to translate it ... and reads like this:
“At the sound of my harmony
I invite you labourers
to come without delay
to take your meal.
But later on I would want
you to work well too.
Mr Chieze asked me do so
from the bottom of his heart.”
The west wing of the house, fully built in stone and showing beautiful masonry work on its Western facade, was probably the earliest structure of, at the time, a smaller house on the grounds. Pierre Chèze is reported to have extended the property probably in or around 1705, and the year 1736 is engraved on top of the first floor windows on the West wing, suggesting work done to that part of the house in the early 18th century.
Since its origins, the château has experienced several reforms. The coat of arms of the Chèze et Saleneuve family, owners of the château until late in the 20th century, was added at some point in time and can still be seen on both the billiard room’s fireplace as well as on top of the main entrance facing North. A final major restauration was done by the same family in or around the year 1900.
By 2018, when we acquired this typically French château and the surrounding estate, the house was in need of major work. The main building had to be rewired and replumbed, a new boiler and central heating system were installed and en-suite bathrooms were added to every bedroom.
The remains of the old forge
At the time when the château was first built in the 17th century, the head of the family was the ‘maître de forges’ associated to the Château de Montréal (14 km East from here). In addition to managing the forge named La Seyrarie (in Issac, the small village next to the Château de Montréal), Mr Chèze managed two more forges in this area including one forge located in the grounds around the château, and another one a few kilometres further South from here. The purpose of building the château on the grounds was, most likely, to accommodate Mr Chèze and his family when they spent time in the estate. Only in later years, the house become the main, full time residence of the family.
The original forge located in these grounds (often referred to as la forge du Pont due to its proximity to Pont-St-Mamet) has long disappeared. However, it used local labour, wood from the rich, surrounding forests, and iron ore from the region in order to build cannons and cannonballs throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Two of the cannons built on site have survived the centuries and can still be found at the Hôtel National des Invalides in Paris ... or so we have been told since we are yet to organise a trip to find them!
By the end of the 18th century, the increasing demand for agricultural land is having an impact on the surrounding forests and therefore on the supply of wood. Ultimately, the forge was forced to close. Attempts to revive the ruined forge at the beginning of the 19th century seemed to have been of limited success. Instead, a ‘cremerie’ o ‘fromagerie’ (a butter and cheese factory) seem to have been built on the site (just South of the property) producing and selling fine Camembert-style cheeses for a period of time. Some other enterprising initiatives have been launched in the estate over time, including the production of wine (after all, we are just within touching distance of the Pecharmant wine ‘appellation’) and tobacco (the leaves of which used to hang from the ceilings of the nearby barns).
At its peak, the château was the centre of a estate covering more than 400 hectares of productive land. With the exception of a few hectares of hay fields and the many fruit trees around the property, most of the productive land is long gone. However, there are still some 32 acres of fields, forests and prairies around the château de la Forge, as well as the two barns just North of the main house which act as permanent reminders of the entrepreneurial past of the estate. Both the old forge as well as the fromagerie have long disappeared, and the vines and the tobacco plantation are long gone, but the system of canals (some of them still with water) and tunnels South of the château remain as the last silent witnesses of what was, back in time, quite an industrious estate.
IMPORTANT safety notices – PLEASE READ!
The long and varied history of La Forge brings with it some quirks. To ensure you enjoy your stay without any disruptions, we have listed below the most important safety notices. And we do ask you to exercise extra caution when exploring the house, the out-buildings and the surrounding grounds.
The attic (top floor) is strictly off limits during your stay – This area, which included the accommodation of the service staff in the old days, has not yet been restored. The door to access this area should remain closed at all times and, for safety reasons, access is not permitted.
Swimming pool safety – Diving into the swimming pool is dangerous and is not allowed. While the pool is deeper in some parts, the area all around the pool edge as well as its shallow end is just a metre deep. Equally, please do not let children unattended in and around the swimming pool at any time! If required, the swimming pool has am electrically powered cover that can be operated via a key on the West facing wall in the library / TV room. We recommend closing the cover overnight in order to avoid accidental falls during the darker hours of the night.
Car parking – Try to park cars or any other vehicles away from the house (not next to the façade) to avoid potential damage from falling tiles during windy or stormy days.
The two barns are off limits - The smaller of the two barns has a new roof and it is used to store tools and machinery. As for the larger barn, a storm recently damaged its roof and we are waiting for repairs to be done. Until then, no unauthorised person should enter the barn.
The ancient tunnels and canals around the estate are off limits too – Given the industrious past of the estate, there are a number of ancient tunnels and canals in the grounds, mostly South of the château, and they are not regularly maintained. Therefore, they are strictly off limits for safety reasons.
The well – As with many historical properties, there is an old well in La Forge. In our case, it is located just next to the house, in the gap in between the main door and the kitchen door. You can see the access to the well on the ground, covered by a metal net and secured in place. Please keep this cover closed and be mindful of children playing in the area.
La Crempse river (or perhaps just a brook) – As you drive into La Forge, you may have noticed a small river, or rather a brook, crossing the estate. While there is a limited amount water flowing during the summer months, there are some deep pools at different points in its course. As a result, it is not allowed (and it is not safe) to walk into or swim in the river. Additionally, the brook captures the overflow water from all the surrounding fields (and whatever fertilisers they pour in them) so we strongly advice against using water from the river in any way.
Agricultural fields and forests around the property - Finally, while we maintain the area in the immediate vicinity of the château as well as a number of nature trails around of the property, the rest of the 32 acres around the property are occupied agricultural fields (currently producing hay in the early summer), some ancient canals, wild prairies and forests. The ground is delightful for walking. As always in nature, please exercise caution when walking in the fields, particularly in overgrown areas where tall grasses and foliage may hide holes. Equally, we have resident deer, wild boars, foxes, badgers, hares, rabbits and coypus in the estate as well as a wide variety of birds (including kestrels and owls in the barns). They normally stay away from humans but some of them can be aggressive if approached, particularly during the breeding season. Please apply common sense when in their proximity.