A Turbulent History
The original Château d’Usson is built at Echebrune
In 1536 Jean de Rabaine commissioned one of the greatest architects of his time, Nicolas Bachelier, a pupil of Michelangelo, to build a château. The Château d’Usson, with all the characteristics of a classic Renaissance château was built in the village of Echebrune in Charente-Maritime, 8km from it’s present site.
However, during the Wars of Religion led by Richelieu in the 17th Century, the Protestant Rabaine family were persecuted and the Château was partially destroyed.
The descendants of the Rabaine family were unable to afford the reconstruction of the Château and it remained more or less in ruins until it was bought by William Augereau in the 19th Century.
The renaissance of the Château d’Usson in Pons
William Augereau was the young heir to a bourgeois family living at the Château des Egretaux in Pons in the middle of the 19th Century. William found his family home to be lacking in charm, so he chose the romantic ruins of the Château d’Usson as the rendez-vous for meetings with his fiancée.
Once they were married, the couple bought the ruined Château and decided to renovate it in memory of their romantic meetings. However, the death of William’s father at the end of the 19th Century, meant that William suddenly found himself in possession of not one, but two châteaux! So he came up with the slightly crazy idea of moving the best-preserved parts of the Château d’Usson, stone by stone, from Echebrune to Pons so that he could build a new château on the site of his old family home.
It took five years to move and then rebuild the Château. William Augereau designated himself as chief architect and made numerous changes to the layout of the rooms : the new building was very different from the original, but nevertheless the general appearance of a Renaissance château was retained.
The third reincarnation of the Château d’Usson : it becomes a visitor attraction
William Augereau died without descendants and as a result, in the years following his death, the Château d’Usson passed through many hands, some of them far from scrupulous. During the 1980s the Château was stripped of some of its ornaments by its then owner, who then went on to sell them abroad. The State intervened and put the Château up for sale.
It was not until 1998 that Philippe Lapouyade bought the Château d’Usson with the idea of creating a giant treasure hunt which would allow visitors to discover this lovely Renaissance château and its grounds : The Château des Enigmes Activity Park opened its gates the following year.
Thanks to this latest reincarnation the Château d’Usson is, little by little, regaining its former glory and now welcomes more than 50,000 visitors a year, making it the most visited château in Charente-Maritime!