So one day i’m minding my own business browsing the internet when i saw a post on a local urbex page asking if people would be interested in helping an association in the Dordogne to save a château, its name i knew already but for another château located not far from me within the Charente, i emailed the address provided to query this and they confirmed that they were in fact in the Dordogne and we were very welcome to visit and that children would be welcome too, so come the weekend, off we went to investigate further.
Heading towards the city of Périgueux, we finally arrive at Tocane-Saint Apre and into the Domaine of the Château de Fayolle, their was already people there as we drove into the grounds, so we parked up, and i had a quick glance around us, i notice a large pigeonnier sat with no roof and a barn with beautiful cut stone entrances, long since used gravel paths and a swimming pool that does not seem to have seen any action other than frogs for the last few years, we start making our way towards the rear entrance, the building is quiet imposing standing tall above your head as you look upwards, we then enter the building, i’ve seen many chateaux interiors over the years, from the prestiges of Versailles to those sadly disappearing back to mother nature but this really surprised me, upon entering the (rear) door you enter a grand hallway, a look to the right i can see a room with a huge dining table with 17 chairs placed around it, another room facing straight ahead and a beautiful cut stone staircase located to the left which goes off in 2 directions, which also is a part of the balcony running around the higher level of the château, i see a grandfather clock in front of me which catches my eye first, getting closer i see its actually built ‘into’ the beautiful cut stone wall, what, wait, wow.
Although the rooms are plentyful, some do seem to be afflected by the lasting effects of the sun beating down on them, the once bright coloured fabric materials now changed to a lighter hue, coloured themed rooms appear throughout the chateau in subtle blues/yellows/red and pinks, the details in some rooms are simply amazing, hand oil painted wallpaper anyone, but touch nothing as there is lots of mice feaces on furniture/cobwebs and plaster dust sat on the floors which prove no-one has been around to clean for a while, these rooms however still manage take your breath away with their beauty, after speaking to someone from the association, they told me the story of how a mother living here after the death of her child simply left the château behind over 10 years ago, he was a member of the family who has recently set up the association to try and save the château from any further damage. It’s very sad to think of a building built for entertaining sometimes maybe hundreds of people at one time reduced to finally just one person.
Other photos do however exist online of the building, it appears that the château was up for sale afew years ago, but some of the photos appear to be doctored both in colour and the fact they dont seem to show the real condition of the building compared to what we actually saw, but they do however show there was much more furniture originally but what is still there today is still very impressive, in-built childrens bedrooms with hidden changing areas and built in play areas, a vast library, a small workshop still with its tools in place, a built in theatre (yes really) behind it i even found a huge painting of the castle adoring one of the walls, a small museum area (sadly now largly empty) and even a dark room/photography studio, i make my way further around noticing small things like a door marked over the years with the heights of the familys growing children, which reminds you that although empty and cold now, once its was a warm, fun, family home. we enter a room covered in black cobwebs and have to retreat due to the hanging smell of cold damp air again proving that some rooms havent been touched for a very long time.
We wonder up higher into the building towards the attic spaces and the environment changed, no longer light and airy but more stuffy and damp, a smell of cold wet walls that abandoned buildings seem to have but still there are more rooms to investigate, another thing i noticed was that the top floors are all tiled out whereas lower floors are polished oak, we push open a door and enter a room with what came only be decribed as his and her thrones, they are sadly covered in bird muck as the window of the room has blow in, making the room look like some sort of crazy war scene, this was by far the worst room.
We go back downstairs and investigate the caves where we find the old cooking stoves and a breadoven, a large gated coal storage area which was used to fire up the boiler for the central heating and wine barrels/bottle storage noting the family also originally made and sold wines, we walk around some more entering the main kitchens, first thing you notice is the size, its large flouted ceiling and massive fireplace, it’s a very impressive size, but appears that the applicances were quiet old even by modern standards, i’m sure the unopened liquer however has proberly aged much better, the huge mantlepiece, seems quiet modern, its ironwork is now perishing as the rust eats into the metalwork due to its lack of use and maintenance, but i do spot the small egg timer, a huge table for preparing food, a huge cabinet, now sat empty of its plates, bowls, saucepans and other tools needed to make a kitchen run efficently, but what is that in the corner that i spy, a trap door with a staircase leading downwards, i forgot my torch today but armed with my lighter managed to light up enough to figure out these are the souterrains, ohhh underground passages, i wonder in far enough that i can longer see daylight behind me and these tunnels are continuing on, i decide to return back and just as i re-emerge i’m told the tunnels go on for over 2kms but are collapsed in sections now.
We finally go off to seek the chapel, the last part of the château we have not seen, its impressive but quiet small and modest compared to the grandeur of the chateau, made from white cut limestone, it features a flouted ceiling, a large 2 bay stained glass window to the west which lights up the room, i make my way back outside the building now to get some exterior shots, noticing all the time, the beautiful cut stone, faces and coats of arms emblasoned across on the building.
There was originally a castle here from as early as the XIIth century, during the rein of Charles VI, the fort was occupied by an english garrison, In 1485 the medieval château fort would be pillaged and burnt to the ground by solders from the nearby Château de Bourdeille, it would be again remodelled during the XVth before being destroyed during the wars of religion, although damaged the château would still be continuously lived in, the front part of the château was constructed in 1766 designed by the architect Chauvin, he was under the orders to keep as many of the original walls from the medieval château fort as possible, the Fayolle family have in fact been part of this domaine since 1725 and at one stage held over 600 hectares of land and many other buildings including the Hôtel de Fayolle located in the town and are respected as being the founders of SHAP (Société Historique et Archéologique du Périgord) created in 1874, the château would be extended again during the late 19th century with its rear extension and 2 new wings, plans were put forward for formal gardens but these would never be completed,
I walk over finally to look to the pigeonnier but its not what i think is a pigeonner at all, there appears to once been a floor inside as clearly marked by the old joist holes, it also has no slots for any birds, therefore i’m sure its possibly a earlier Donjon/Tower, possibly even the médiéval connection of Fayolle that nobody noticed before certainly if it was a medieval fortress, and my visit here was at an end, not many buildings in this world will give you a touch of a life before quiet like this one does, it’s certainly a very memorable place thats full of emotion and a very highly recommended place to visit, in fact i’m already planning a return visit as i type this…
To contact the association to arrange a visit, please contact
Laura Aubert – Secrétaire des amis de Fayolle firstname.lastname@example.org
or via their facebook page