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.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.