La Quintinie gardens leaning on piles in the middle of the marshland
In the seventeenth century, Jean-Louis de Courbon was the lord of the estate. In the second part of the century, he created the superb French gardens which were limited to the west by the little river Bruant and were continued along the esplanade between the two Louis XIII pavilions.
During the 18th century the gardens fell, little by little into disuse because the Courbon lived near Paris in order to be closer to the Royal court. By the end of the 19th century, the abandoned château was, for Julien Viaud, better known as Pierre Loti (1850-1923), a place for walking, dreaming and inspiration (cf. Prime Jeunesse). In memory of his youth, and saddened by the destruction of his "beloved forest", he sent a stirring plea (Le Figaro, 21 October 1908) for someone to stop the destruction of the forest and buy the château.
In 1920, Paul Chénereau (1869-1967), born in the area, acquires La Roche Courbon. From 1928 to 1939 he creates the marvellous gardens one can see today. Numerous projects and a prolonged exchange of ideas between the architect-landscape gardener Fernand Duprat (1887-1976) and Paul Chénereau resulted in the final design characterized by its serenity and balance. Up to that time, the design had stopped, on the west side, at the river Bruant and it was then extended by digging out a watercourse, constructing a jetty below the gardens and creating a waterfall against the hill.
Twenty years later, the marshland, which had served as a defence for the château, insidiously became the gardens enemy: it caused subsidence of 8 cm a year under the balustrades, the little towers, the paths and shrubs. The splendid gardens are threatened again.
The only solution found by Jacques Badois, Paul Chénereau’s son in law and father of present owner of La Roche Courbon (Christine Sébert): re-construct the gardens on piles.
This giant task spread over 25 years was completed between 1976 and 2000. 2.500 piles were driven down to a depth of 13 metres until they reached firm ground, the visitor can barely imagine that he is walking in a hanging garden!
Financing such a project was only possible thanks to the participation of the Regional Council of Poitou-Charentes and the Departmental Council of the Charente Maritime..
A permanent 20 boards exhibition shows the development of these gardens from prehistoric times to the present day.History of the site