Mont Epinguet is the highest landmark in the Cherbourg Peninsular and has been of strategic importance since Roman times, when a large camp was built here.
In the 10th century, in the time of Robert the Bruce (whose parents lived in Brix) and William the Conqueror, Mont Epinguet was a fortified lookout.
The Chateau is believed to have been constructed in 1751 by a French Count named Mondesir, as a reward for achievements in advancing the French Empire. It had land amounting to 2,000 hectares with many outbuildings.
Sadly not many historical records have survived, since the archives in St Lo were destroyed in the last war. We do know that a nephew of the Pope called Mr. Ratti owned the Chateau before the war. He constructed the large building behind the Carriage Houses from the ruins of the burnt out remains of his department store in Cherbourg called Printemps. Mr. Ratti was fanatical about horses and racing - he put 50 jockeys in this new building - which had no indoor loo!
The German Vermacht commandeered the Chateau fairly early on in WW II and managed to co-exist with the long suffering owners, but this came to a sharp end when the Gestapo took over in 1944 and gave the owners 2 weeks to leave. The SS used it as a communications HQ and to supervise the construction of the VII ‘doodlebug’ launch pads of which there are many, with long tunnels not far from the Chateau.
In October 1944 the Gestapo evacuated the Chateau and it was taken over as forward HQ by the US Army 12 Division under Byron Hamilton for US Military Government.
The Germans are attributed with cracking the flagstones in front of the old kitchen hearth by splitting logs there - though there is some doubt about this and others say it was done by subsequent visitors who also ripped out the central heating for its scrap value!
After the war an ex-chief of the Paris fire brigade bought the property and began some restoration. He then sold it to Admiral Clotteau of the French Navy in 1957 who used it as a family home with his wife and 8 children until 1978 when they moved to a modern apartment in Paris leaving the Chateau largely empty.
We bought it in 1991 when it had been for sale for 3 years - it had one loo, ruined attics, no furniture or curtains and a liberal coating of marine grey paint - but despite viewing it on a bleak foggy November day we fell in love with it and since then, with 2 sons born, bred & educated here, our feelings for it remain the same.
Mark & Fiona