The Château de Belmesnil


The Norman origins of the Château and of the Boullenger, Soleirol and Lainé families are firmly established.

Louis-Charles-Alexandre Boullenger (1759-1822), Lieutenant-General of the Bailiwick, Member for the Lower Seine of the Legislative Parliament in 1787, Chairman of the Civil Court of Rouen after the Revolution, built a lovely manor in the 18th century, below the current Belmesnil site, to serve as his country home and his hunting lodge.

Confiscated during the Revolution as "national property" (because of its links with the nearby Abbaye de l'Ile Dieu), the ground and chapel (which had however been part of the family estate since 1741) were repurchased by their former owners in 1791. It was probably at that time that Louis-Charles-Alexandre Boullenger at once devoted himself to establishing the forest plantations in the form of an eight-armed star, of which there still exist today four splendid alleys of plane, lime and chestnut trees that have for the most part reached a height of 45 metres. Still today, Daniel Lainé devotes himself to reconstituting the other alleys, also replacing the extremely extensive damage caused by recent storms. The manor was located below the current Château, and there remains only one wing of it and a dovecote where descendents of the families are still living today.

Louis-Charles-Alexandre Boullenger also rebuilt, at around 1810, the current Saint Lauriant, Saint Martin and Saint Thibault Chapel on the foundations of a building in ruins (dating from at least 1471, the current altar stone coming from a gift of Lady Marie Guérard in 1690). This chapel is today classified as a historic monument where the tombs of certain descendents of the Boullenger and Lainé families are lying today. Following an exemption granted since 1818 by Germaine Boullenger (née Havet) in favour of an old uncle who died at Lyons-La-Forêt, the chapel shelters the remains of Jean-François Havet (1729-1818), who was the "Attorney General in Charge of Water and Forests".

The current "Chapel Court", a rectangular park of approximately two hectares, was formerly separated from the lovely 17th-century manor only by a cul-de-sac serving the Saint-Denis mill from the former road from Ry to Vascœuil. It is furthermore backed by a millstream powering the latter, which is a beautiful brick building tastefully converted in 1810.

From his marriage with Germaine-Marguerite Havet, native of Saint Denis Le Thiboult, two sons were born, the younger of whom died young.

The elder son and heir, Alexandre Boullenger (1791-1853) was adviser at the Royal Court and auditor at the Court of Rouen (1813). Under the Restoration (1814-1830), he held the office of Attorney General of the King for the Region of Rouen (1825) and was ennobled (his bust is on the façade of the village hall). On Institution of Majorat by letters patent of 12 April 1823, he received from Charles X the hereditary title of baron with marshalling of coat-armour: "of azure, with two sheaves of gold, accompanied chiefly by a sun of the same and, at a peak, by a silver crescent". They are reproduced in the stained glass of the Château's main staircase. He was also President of the Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Amiens (1830), Mayor of Saint Denis Thibault (today Thiboult) and Councillor at Large of the Lower Seine.

Alexandre Boullenger married Marie-Elisabeth-Victoire Watrin (deceased on 30 April 1863) and had three daughters (two of whom were to marry lawyers). Then the name died out. Louise, heiress of the estate, became the wife of Justin de Soleirol. Their daughter, Genevieve (1849-18x9), married an inhabitant of the Ile-de-France, Adolphe Lainé (1836-1886), and brought him the Norman residence in her dowry. It was he who decided, towards the end of the 19th century, partly to demolish the old manor which had became extremely decayed and to build the current Château, which he christened Belmesnil in 1885. But he died just before its inauguration, leaving the heavy task of arranging it to his wife, Genevieve.

The building, entirely enchanting, was representative of its time and the chosen site was greatly privileged: an immense park and a grove of beech trees. In 1939, the Château was bequeathed to Georges Lainé (1880-1955), son of Adolphe, who made it his summer residence. During the Second World War, the Château de Belmesnil became a fallback position for many family members fleeing the capital, before being requisitioned by the Germans, then by the Americans. When peace returned, the Château regained its role of the Lainé family holiday home, initially Georges and then the families of Daniel and Didier Lainé.

In 1967, the estate was sold to the Collège de l'Andelle, which was to receive approximately 3,000 pupils over 10 years, before closing. For twenty years, the Château was to remain unoccupied, strongly defaced by squatters, and damaged by water, insects, dry rot fungus and other mushrooms. Several rehabilitation projects were never to come to fruition: real estate, golf and reintegration of delinquents inter alia, raising a good deal of local argument.

In ruins and at the point of collapse, its park left abandoned, the Château and its 150-hectare estate  (but parcelled among several owners) were taken over in 1996, by the great-granddaughter of the builder, Catherine, and her husband, Anthony Martin-Lainé, Anglo-Belgian brewer and hotelier, whose father introduced the famous Schweppes drink into France. Their dreams: to return to the family home its magic of yesteryear and to open it to the public. In 2002, Anthony Martin was admitted to the French Order of Merit and Devotion with the rank and dignity of Gold Medal for his restoration work on the Château.

Supported by many Belgian as well as local craftsmen, they are still today endeavouring to return its luxurious first vocation to the Château de Belmesnil. It was to take five years to re-unite the various grounds of the estate, and to restore the Château to what it should be.  In 2000, the Château accommodated its first wedding. In 2003, the majestic first-floor gala room was finally ready. Unique of its kind, it offers a space of 200m², the load-bearing walls having been knocked down. In 2005, twelve delightful rooms and highly prestigious suites were converted on the second floor and under the roofs. Meanwhile, its 150-hectare estate, severely damaged by the storms at the end of 1999, and its park of 6-hectares according to the original 1885 plans of the landscape designer from Rouen, Prosper Garet, had been restored.

Today, under the management of Angélique Leenknecht, who was also tasked with the rehabilitation of the residence as a hotel, let us welcome you and offer you the enchanting venue of the Château and its park. Make it a festival for the spirit and the eye..." The Belmesnil Touch " is now enshrined on the lips of all our visitors. Everything is there for the pleasure of shared moments. Our Visitors' Book is there to bear witness to this.


Château de Belmesnil sarl
Route du Château - F 76116 - St. Denis le Thiboult
Tél: (00 33) 0235027650
Fax: (00 33) 0235027654
chateau.belmesnil@wanadoo.fr
www.belmesnil.com