Château de Bénouville

Bénouville, France

The Château de Bénouville was designed in 1769 by architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux and built in 1770-74 and 1776-80 at the request of Hyppolite-François Sanguin, marquis of Livry (1715–1789) and his marquise Thérèse Bonne Gillain de Bénouville, heiress of the property. Bénouville is one of the best preserved works of Ledoux, making it a major monument of neoclassical architecture at the end of the eighteenth century. Its monumental staircase and exterior architecture were very modern for the time.

The interior was under construction from 1778 to 1780 under the direction of Jean-François-Étienne Gilet, the architect of Caen. In 1792, it was purchased from the widowed marquise by a fermier général (tax collector) who was killed in guillotine in 1794. His daughter inherited the property which remained in that family until 1927. It then became the property of the general council of Calvados which turned it into a maternity hospital (singer Gérard Lenorman was born there). In 1980, it was rehabilitated and restored, opening its doors to the public in 1990.

The château is located on the west side of the Canal de Caen a la Mer, just southwest of the Pegasus Bridge, made memorable on D-Day, 1944. During the World War II the château/maternity hospital was run since 1935 by Madame Lea Vion, director who also led a resistance group. The maternity hospital became a hearth of resistance for the region: fugitive allied pilots and French youngsters unwilling to work for the Germans found a safe haven here. Weapons and a maquis-wireless transmitter were hidden here.

On D-Day morning soldier Wally Parr, a sharpshooter from the Ox and Bucks, fired some grenades from a German anti tank-gun towards and over the château, because he erroneously thought German snipers to be present upon the roof of the building, until Major Howard made him stop this activity. Howard told Parr there were women in labour inside the chateau. At this very same moment, however, German Lieutenant Hans Hoeller was standing on top of the château together with a sergeant and soldier in order to observe the canal bridge. Earlier Hans Hoeller had frustratingly found that his anti-tank troop could not pass through Bénouville, because of too heavy resistance from British parachutists belonging to A Company, 7th Para Battalion under command of Nigel Taylor. He sought a suitable place to set up his batteries. Madame Vion had tried in vain to stop Lt. Hoeller from entering the 'chateau'. Hoeller and his colleagues were subsequently forced by Wally Parr's grenades to retreat downstairs immediately before opening their own fire on the Ox and Bucks defending the canal bridge nearby.

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Details

Founded: 1770-1780
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in France

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jean-christophe Tourlet (2 months ago)
Very beautiful castle under reconstruction. We can't wait to visit it ?
Valérie C (5 months ago)
Beautiful castle too bad it was closed to visitors
AntoineCG (6 months ago)
Magnificent castle with a great park, it's worth the detour if the path to Ouistreham ?
David Descharles (7 months ago)
Location unfortunately closed, too bad
NATHALIE PINABEL (3 years ago)
Très joli château mais rarement ouvert au public
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