The first Château de Gratot was built during the 14th century, but it underwent many transformations until the 18th century. It was constructed by the family of Argouges, barons of Gratot, who sold the castle in 1771. The castle is built in a number of styles, the most recent addition being a pavilion built in the 18th century.The castle was neglected in the 19th century, and was used as a fodder warehouse for local farmers. It was definitively abandoned at the start of the 20th century. The main restoration work took place in the late 60's and 70's, requiring tonnes of rubble to be removed from the cellars and ground floor, and the castle grounds to be cleared of undergrowth. Since then some buildings, including two of the towers, have been rebuilt, including adding wooden roofs to the towers and some buildings. Historical documents and 19th-century paintings showing the castle as a romantic ruin were used to guide reconstruction efforts. The 18th-century pavilion has been fully restored with roof, floors, a staircase, windows and electricity, allowing it to be used for exhibitions and cultural events. The latest renovation work concentrates on the formal gardens: only the shape of the gardens can currently be seen, with no paths or planting.
Nearly 12,600 visitors went to the castle during 2003. It is now classed as a Monument historique (Historic monument) by the French Ministry of Culture. It is open to the public all year round. During the summer months there is a welcome desk and gift shop: the remainder of the year guidebooks are available to visitors to guide themselves around.
A little bridge with three arches spans the moat and gives access to the porch. The outhouses are located on both sides of the postern. A tower is raised in the west corner. The main residence building, now in 18th century style, originally had three floors and nearly fifteen rooms. The roof is à la Mansart. Large windows open into the ground floor, and high spire lights at the first floor.
The round tower of the castle was erected in the 15th century and has a medieval look. A sudden narrowing in the spiral staircase prevents two attackers ascending simultaneously. The entry to the cellars opens at the bottom of the tower. At the top of the tower is a guards' room where remnants of medieaval wall paintings may still be seen.Another angle tower from the medieval period (13th century) remains: the door has been walled up. The Fairy tower (La tour de la fée) was constructed at the end of the 15th century, and is supported by strong buttresses. The base is octagonal, and is finished by a rectangular room: the roof has two panels. The top is decoreted by balusters and gargoyles.
The outbuildings were constructed around the end of the 16th century. In a hall near the entrance is an exhibition called 'Eight centuries of life' (Huit siècles de vie), about the history of the castle and the different steps of its restoration. As a cultural center, the castle regularly houses artistic events (painting, sculptures) and an annual theatrical production.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.