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History of the Domain

À cause de la terre et seigneurie de Poullayne à luy nouvellement dvenu à cause de damoiselle Katherine du Bois sa femme tenue en fief des venerable trésorier et chappitre de ladicte saincte chappelle à cause de chasteau chastelennye et baronnye de Graçay.
AD 18, 8G/2050, aveu 1525, François Herpin

The Origin of Poulaines

Declaration by Guillaume du Bois to the barons de Graçay, 1450 [AD 18, 8G/2085, sept. 1450]

The territory of Poulaines has been occupied since Antiquity. At the end of the 1st century it was served by the Roman road that connected Chabris to North with Argentomagus to the South. This same Gallo-Roman period saw the foundation of four domains, villas, in Cungy, Poulaines, Aubigny and Chambon. The names of three echoed that of their owner: Congius, Paulinus and Albinius.

Around the year 1000, the first lords of Poulaines founded of the priory of Saint-Saturnin, we know nothing of this early period except that they were dependent on the barony of Graçay. The estate was inhabited as a seigneurial residence from the Early middle ages.

In 1340 Pierre III of Graçay was the Lord of Poulaines. Poulaines was attached to the barony of Graçay.

In 1371 the barony of Graçay was sold by Renaud VI of Graçay to Jean de Berry.

In 1392 or 1405, the barony of Graçay was gifted to Jean de Berry newly created canon of Sainte Chapelle de Bourges.

The 15th century

Hôtel, château or fortress?
Residence of the Lords of Poulaines

Timber frame and beams in the west wing, 1504-1505 (acquired dating)

The murder of Guillaume de Gy by Hélie de Tranchecerf and Renaud VI of Graçay brought Poulaines’ destiny into play in this great period of rivalry and conflict between the dukes of Berry and Burgundy. Pernelle de Graçay, heiress of Poulaines, married Antoine du Bois a close ally of the dukes of Burgundy. Though the du Bois, like the Graçay were from the Berry. They had joined the court of Burgundy before 1407, when Guillaume du Bois, father of Antoine, became kitchen squire to the son of Jean sans Peur who then inherited the title of Duke of Burgundy in 1419 after the assassination of his father on the bridge of Montereau. The du Bois, first Guillaume then Antoine, supported the dukes of Burgundy in their conflict with the Armagnacs.

1432 : “l’Hôtel de la Demeurance” is recorded as having a large gate and dovecote. The domain is also recorded as containing a house, a barn and a sheep-fold. For Poulaines, the evolution from the usage of the classification “Hôtel” in the 15th century to later, at an unspecified date, the term “château” reveals a change in both language and architecture. The earliest preserved documents which mention Poulaines show that in the 15th century the Hôtel de Poulaines was not fortified. Which is not surprising considering that throughout the 14th and 15th century, the Lord of Poulaines and the Baron of Graçay were the same person or at least from the same family. The proximity of the two sites made multiple fortification unnecessary, quite the contrary.

The seigniory of Poulaines entered into the inheritance of the du Bois and was passed down through the generations. The war between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs end in 1435 with the signature of the treaty of Arras reconciling Charles VII, king of France and Philippe le Bon, duke of Burgundy.
Although the du Bois managed the seigniory of Poulaines, and their other Berry properties well during second half of 15th century, it was not until the beginning of 16th century that the Domaine de Poulaines was permanently occupied by its lords. The marriage of François Herpin and Catherine du Bois, grand-daughter of Pernelle de Graçay, around 1504-1505, signalled the return of the du Bois to the Berry and of a noble family to Poulaines after tens of years of absence.

16th century

The Castle construction

Flooring in the east wing, 1509-1520 (acquired dating)

From 1504-1505 the hôtel (south-west wing) was rebuilt following the marriage of Catherine du Bois and François Herpin. The château that they built is very similar to that which stands today. It is believed that François Herpin and Catherine du Bois built a main residential building with an “adjoining tower” (an annex) over the former medieval Poulaines hôtel. This likely re-use of the former cellars suggests that the original position of the home was retained. Its main facade faces south-east toward the village of Poulaines, turning its back on the dominant westerly winds and benefitting from the light and heat of the south. The ensemble of the buildings that make up the chateau de Poulaines; its dovecote, ditches and ponds, are in the style of the Renaissance.

The dendrochronology dated the west and east wings of the château at 1504-1507
and 1519-1520. According to tree-ring dating, the time the works were carried out corresponds to the period between the marriage of Catherine du Bois to François Herpin and their consequent possession of Poulaines around 1504-05 and the death of François Herpin in 1525.

The 17th century

The Smallholding

The smallholding of la Porte was first mentioned in 1608. It was not an acquisition, but had been founded, during the previous century, by François Herpin and Catherine du Bois.
On a plan dating from the end of the 17th century the servants quarters, located to the south-west, appear along with the château.

In 1690, for the first time, the title of Poulaine passed out of the Grâçay family line.

The 18th century

The Manor

Jacques de Noblet and Henriette of Valette began work on the manor in 1712. Renovations were carried out “to improve the houses”: “add shutters and repairs to the tiles, murelles (walls) and windows”. A dovecote is recorded.

Between 1741 and 1764, another phase of work is carried out by Hippolyte de Coudreau and Jeanne de la Marche. It is sure that the south-western part of the manor was reconstructed during that period: new openings and attic windows were created in the traditional style, a new staircase was built inside the château, and “to the north” a first pleasure garden, surrounded by a moat, is recorded. A topiary snail from this first garden remains today.
Jacques de Noblet and Henriette de la Valette died leaving no decedents.
The estate was put up for sale by their heirs, who decided that it would reduce the value of the property if they divided it up between them.

19th century

Pleasure garden

Napoleonic land registry plan (plan attributed to Jean-Baptist-Hippolyte Godeau,1806)

In 1799 the Domaine de Poulaines was purchase by Jean-Baptist-Hippolyte Godeau d’ Entraigues, who initiated a program of restoration. The south-west servants’ quarters were restored in 1801 reusing the original beams.
Much of the credit for the transformation of the Domaine de Poulaines must be given to the Godeau and later the Brettes (the family that Miss Godeau married into). Noteworthy contributions were the new pleasure garden, on and around the current site of the water ways. The agricultural dimension of the estate remained concentrated around la Metairie; a smallholding leased to tenant farmers since 1806. It is most likely Jean-Baptist-Hippolyte Godeau who drew up plans for the grounds and gardens of Poulaines. These plans show not only the type of plantation on each parcel but also the historical layout of Poulaines and its paths, one showing the chateau courtyard connecting to the other bank of the brook, and of a square plan of the garden behind the château.

In 1814, Henri de Brettes, heir to the estate, died in Bourges. Box trees were planted on the right bank of the Poulain in his memory.

In 1846, Anne de Brettes married her cousin, the Viscount Martial de Brettes, who later became mayor of Poulaines in 1880.

In 1848, the Sister Superior of the Feuillants Convent in Limoges, bequeathed a gate, which can still be observed at the estate entrance today.

In the middle of the 19th century, the servants quarters and chapel located in front of the château, recorded on the 1811 Napoleonic land register, were demolished to be replaced by a new building in the north-east intended for stables.

In the 1880s Martial de Brettes planted the sequoia, still visible today, in the forecourt where the demolished servants’ quarters had stood.

Soldier & Herbalist

Martial de Brettes

The Vicomte Martial de Brettes was born in 1814 in the Antilles. He married his cousin Anne de Brettes, whose family had possessed the domain since 1799.

His military career allow him to travel the world and feed his passion for botany. Because Martial de Brettes was first and foremost a herbalist. During the 1850s he took part in a scientific mission to Algeria, organised by the government, to investigate the local flora.

On his retirement in 1870, Martial de Brettes returned to Poulaines. In 1880 he became mayor.

As the 1st World war dawned, at the age of 90, despite suffering the after-effects of an injury sustained to his leg during the Crimean War, he continued to explore the grounds of his property. He died in 1905 at the age of 91.

Martial de Brettes’ long years of herborizing allowed him to collect a herbarium, bequeathed to the Limousin botanical society where it can still be seen today among their other collections. It is estimated to contain more than one thousand
The main specimens still observed today (elms, oaks, planes, ashes, honey locusts, redwoods and lime trees) were planted by Martial de Brettes.

20th and 21st centuries


In 1991 the château de Poulaines was purchased by the current owners and the restoration of its buildings began.

From 1995 to 2014 local smallholdings, including la Porte, were purchased to reunite the former Domaine de Poulaines.

1998: saw work start on the contemporary gardens developed around the existing beds

2012: they were first opened to the public for the 2012 Journées du Patrimoine.

2014: The gardens were awarded the title “jardins remarquables” and opened to the public.

Domaine de Poulaines