Château L’Age Baston: A Short History
When Alexandra and John found a secret cache of documents in a bedroom cupboard hidden behind five layers of wallpaper, they got really excited. How often, needed or not do you paper your bedrooms? Although we now know the L’Age Baston site has been occupied since pre-historic times, the documents showed the house going back to the early 14th Century. It seems there have been people at Château L’Age Baston continuously for the last 700 years.
The first feudal title for L’Age Baston was granted in 1309 and around 1400 the records show that an ‘Eymeri du Leyrat’ (Seigneur of L’Age Baston) swore fealty to the Seigneur of La Rochefoucauld. L’Age Bâton was a strategic part of the defences of the Ducal Château of La Rochefoucauld. It sits high on a ridge about a mile south of the Ducal seat, guarding a river crossing and the eastern approaches. It would have been in line of sight to the keep at La Rochefoucauld and there is rumoured to be an underground passage that connects the two. Despite many a romantic search Alex and John have failed to find the tunnel entrance, but still live in hope. Neither have they found the rich Huguenot, apparently buried in the garden by his wife around 1650, but they are quite careful when they dig.
In 1520 the prominent protestant juriste Mathurin Benoit aquired L’Age Baston. This was the start of a long series of lawyer and notaire owners that lasted until about 1950. Mathurin’s son Jaques was a friend of the French scholar d’Elie Vinet, and became Jacques President of the first Parliament of Bordeaux, welcoming Marguerite De Medici there in 1561. We like to think that maybe they nipped back to L’Age Baston for coffee now and again, but it’s probably a bit too far by coach.
In 1606 a Denis Pasquet took possession of L’Age Baston. The Château was extensively rebuilt under the Pasquets. In fact most of the visible architecture is early 17th Century with some 18th Century additions. Built of local limestone and dominating the valley of the river Tardoire, it shows an impressive façade to the North. From this angle it looks very grand but hides a large, friendly and domestic courtyard where the real life of the Chateau went on and still does today.
In 1679 Anne Pasquet – daughter of Henri and Madeleine – married Charles Isaac Odet in the reformed Church of La Rochefoucauld. Charles was the Seigneur of Les Ombrais (another Château estate nearby), which united two of the most important protestant families in the area. Less than two years later Charles was apparently murdered on his way back home by the servants of a local clock maker and, according to the history, buried in the garden by his wife, “sans ceremoine religieuse”.
In 1688 Anne “Lady of L’Age Baston” married Jean du Lau, Chevalier and Seigneur de la Brangerie. He became Seigneur of L’Age Baston in 1699 giving homage to the Duke of La Rochefoucauld and in 1706 the entire estate was ceded to him for 700 livres. With the De Lau’s the estate becomes the home of French Catholic nobility. Anne and Jean had thirteen children and started a dynasty that lasted until 1845 when it was inherited by the Counts and Countesses de Roffignac. They enjoyed the house and estate right up to the early 1980’s. Then, shortly after the last Countess died, the local paper published a headline, “L’Age Baston falls to the English”. That was in 1989, the ‘English’ were John and Alexandra and the rest, as they say, is history.