The longer we live here the more mysteries we discover about the Château.
We had previously thought that the Chateau was completed sometime between 1642
and 1656, during the reign
of Louis XIII, , but have since been told by
an architectural historian that it may be even older. The back plate (a
beautiful huge ironwork plate bearing a coat of arms, used to retain heat in
the main fireplace) is dated 1588, but may have been brought from the
family’s previous residence. The Château and estate would have been either a
gift as recognition of a favour to the Royal House or to seal an allegiance.
Given the strategic importance the area has always held (the theatre of war
and political machinations for the struggle for the French and English
Crowns), the latter seems likely, especially as a strong political role has
often been held by the incumbent family. The estate originally covered some
150 hectares, making it extremely wealthy, and self sufficient until the mid
20th Century. The Lord of Ribagnac, head of the Igonin family, is buried in
the church at Ambazac, and his family continued to prosper at Ribagnac until
1860 when the Chateau was sold to the Alluaud family. The Chateau
underwent refurbishment during the 1780s until the Revolution
intervened at the cost of the Igonin family.
The original building was larger than it is today, with a wing protruding
from where the square tower now stands, to form a courtyard. There was also
once a fountain, which we dream of reinstating one day. There appears to
have been a fire that destroyed this section, but we still do not know the
The Chateau takes its name from the underground
river running through the
land, the Bagnac with the addition of the word for stream, "ruisseau" or "ru".
was at one time Chateau de Rubagnac, but this has
been corrupted over the
passage of time.
The new owner was well connected (his father was the
Mayor of Limoges) and
became very successful in the booming porcelain industry;
you can still see
the remnants of the porcelain kilns used to try out new
designs in the
Summer Pavilion. The family, being creative, also fostered
the art world, and regularly entertained artists at the
Chateau. The Summer
Pavilion was often used as an artist's studio for visiting
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 1796-1875 (the leading French
of the 19th century) was a frequent guest to the Chateau,
and the paintings
in the Honeymoon Suite, the silvery woodland scenes (the
trumeau and the
matching two panels) have in the past been attributed to him. This is
doubtful but they are certainly part of his school of painting. The
particularly interested in Impressionist art as well
as more traditional
The Chateau underwent a renovation in the 1860s,
and some of the furniture
and chandeliers in the Chateau date from then (although
some are much older).
It was at this time that the arboretum was planted with
many rare and
beautiful trees; sadly many of these were lost in the
hurricane of 1999 that
devastated much of France. However, we the present owners
are now working to
restore the woods, and the woodland here is still the
home of ancient deer, wild boar, stone martens and many other creatures
and an idyllic place to wander.
The Chateau next changed hands in 1903, and was
redecorated at that time
(the Grand Suite). The de Saulieu O’Toole family moved in and a beautiful
stained glass window, made by a maître verrier still bears the family’s
coat of arms. We know little else about this period but that the Chateau
was again sold in the 1930s to the Lacaze-Masmonteil family.
The Lacaze family lived at the Chateau
Madame Lacaze (senior) died in 2000. Her husband had been a famous surgeon with his own clinic in Paris, and had used the airstrip to the rear of the chateau to fly to Paris,
until the airstrip was destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War. The
Château was never occupied by the Germans, and so was able to retain many of
its original treasures.
Although it is unconfirmed, local
legend has it that the Chateau was used as a secret
during the World War II. During our renovations, we discovered
fragments of wartime newspapers (behind the fabric wallpaper)
of soldiers names, and also provisions hidden in the
roof space. More
significantly we discovered a reinforced ceiling in one
of the larger towers
that could have been used as a secret room, as it had
a hidden entrance from
the roof space. Most of all, everybody we have met here
speaks of Madame
Lacaze with a kind of warmth and awe that makes one think
she was the type of person who did something special
in her life.
In the summer of 2005, we received a visit from a kindly old gentleman, who
was visiting the area with his son. It turned out that he had been a prisoner
of war here during the Second World War and had been “held” at one of the
Château’s farm buildings as a worker, after having been wounded in Russia.
He told us that after the war he had elected to stay on as a worker and
later married a local girl. He said that his time at Ribagnac had been one
of the happiest periods of his life.
We are currently working towards finding out more about
the Chateau's history.
In 2005 we participated for the first time in the annual heritage weekend
held in France, the Journées du Patrimoine. The Château had never before
been open to the public and we received hundreds and hundreds of visitors.