The medieval Château des Ducs d’Alençon to open to the public at the end of 2019
Medieval fortress, alms house, prison, Gestapo headquarters, abandoned building … after a long and chequered history the grand medieval fortress of the Château des Ducs d’Alençon is now being transformed into an urban park! Work on transforming this historic monument, bought by the City of Alençon in January 2018, has already begun and is due for completion in November 2019 when the grounds will be formally opened to the public. We had a sneak preview of progress during a guided visit on Saturday.
Two openings have been pierced in the wall overlooking the rue du Château and another in the curtain wall opposite, linking the rue du Château with the existing public garden to the rear of the Château des Ducs.
Other walls inside the château have been lowered, improving the view of the castle turrets. A paved courtyard is being created which will also be used for shows, theatrical productions and so on.
History of the Château des Ducs d’Alençon
- circa 1030 : construction of the first fortress on the site, which was protected on several sides by boggy marshland
- 1050 : Guillaume le Bâtard known in Britain as William the Conqueror besieged the château then held by Geoffroy Martel. William filled in the defensive moat and set fire to the castle defences.
- 1113 : Henry I (Rufus), king of England, Duke of Normandy and third son of William the Conqueror, takes Alençon and erects a Keep on the site of the château.
- 14th century : The Norman keep is integrated into a second château, built by Pierre II, Lord of Alençon from 1361 to 1404.
- 1410 : Jean I of Bellême builds the main towers and gatehouse of the present château.
- 1415-19 : the castle is occupied by English forces following the French defeat at Agincourt, before being retaken by Jean II.
- 1488 to 1591 : the Dukes of Alençon move in to the château and improve the buildings for comfortable habitation.
- 1592 : demolition of a large part of the castle by Henry IV during a period when a great many provincial fortresses were dismantled for fear of uprising against the king.
- 1768-1776 : the castle became an alms house for the poor.
- 1782 : the keep is dismantled after a failed attempt to convert it into a prison.
- 1824 : a prison is established in the entrance buildings to the château.
- 1862 : the castle becomes a listed monument.
- 1939-45 : the château des Ducs d’Alençon is used as headquarters by the Gestapo – local French resistance members are incarcerated and tortured there.
- Post war – 2010 : the castle resumes its role as a prison until the construction of a new high-security facility to the west of the town.
- 2012-2017 : the town of Alençon negotiates with the government over the purchase of the castle from the State and undertakes viability studies.
- January 2018 : the town purchases the Château des Ducs.
- November 2019 : planned opening of the Château as a public park.
Where to stay
La Basse Cour B&B, 72610 ANCINNES is 10 minutes from Alençon town centre.
En-suite rooms with breakfast from 69€ per night for two.
Website : www.normandie-chambres.co.uk