Dating back to immemorial times, the Château de Pondres has existed since 1195 (we know this thanks to the will left by the Lord of Anduze). It’s composition and interior design evolved over the centuries. An important work campaign, conducted in the mid-17th century by Pierre II de Crouzet, Advisor to the King and President of the Chamber of Accounts of Montpellier, gave the castle its current form. Pillaged in the Revolution, the northern wing was burned down at the beginning of the 20th century, and it gradually fell into disuse. It’s complete restoration, carried out under the aegis of Historical Monuments, has recently been completed. Today it has regained it majestic presence, serving now as a place of welcome, art and culture
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The origins of the Château de Pondres are lost in time. An angle of wall at the base of a cellar in the castle, unrelated to the present layout, suggests the existence of a very old structure, which is now missing or located under the Courtyard. Archaeological proof reveal a strong presence of Roman and Gallo-Roman remains – The temple and Coach house leave us speculating – which some people date back to the Celtic era.
Close to the river, in the lower limit of the domain, a lead hand-made element was found 12 meters deep by recent drilling, leaving us guessing as to the origins. The majesty and tranquility of the place, located not far from the chalcolithic site of Fontbouisse, and reminiscent of the sacred spaces of prior times, also portend a very ancient human presence.
The 12th Century
The first written record dates back to the year 1195. It is the will of the Lord of Anduze who leaves “the Château de Pondres with all its rights”(1) to his offspring.
The building at the time was a stronghold, and certainly included the current dungeon and the lower structures of the western and northern elevations of the castle.
(1)Most of the historical information comes from the book written in the years 2004-2005 by Claude PRIBETICH-AZNAR, Architect of the Patrimony, under the title “Diagnostic Patrimonial du Château de Pondres”. This important study of archeology, archives and history was carried out by the Conservation of Historical Monuments in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
Early Middle Ages
Since the end of the 12th century, over a period spanning more than four centuries, the absence of written documents is largely the result of the ravages of the French Revolution. “It is Monday, 2nd April, 1792 around 9 am in the morning that began the devastation of the Château de Pondres “(2). Looting of wheat, wine and other food products, theft of jewels, personal belongings, artwork and furniture belonging to Mr. and Mrs. le Marquis de Montlaur, succeeded “the archives, burnt in the front court of the castle “(2).
Information transmitted by mouth from generation to generation, testifies to the ownership of the Château de Pondres by the Anduze family until the year 1400. At the beginning of the 15th century, the stronghold of Pondres, an important part of a group of acquisitions and conquests, entered by alliance into the patrimony of the powerful Lord of Ganges. On the 28th of March, 1651, the “castle, land and seigniory of Pondres” were sold to Pierre II de Crouzet, “Advisor to the King, President of the Chamber of Accounts of Montpellier”.
(2) “Anonymous manuscript to supplement the papers which were burned in the archives”, in a collection of memories of Gabriel Joseph Villardi de Quinson, Marquis de Montlaur, Lord of Pondres at the Revolution.
The 17th Century
Pierre II de Crouzet undertook a very important work campaign, spread over 10 years from 1654 onwards.
This work was the subject of detailed and notarized “prix-faits”, concerning the production of cut stone, woodwork, and ironworks related to the castle, but also related to the construction of stables, gardens, a lock and various planning of the Park.
Pierre II de Crouzet gave the Château de Pondres the essential part of its present composition. The implementation of the monumental staircase appears to come from this period. His son, Pierre III de Crouzet, presented as “Chevallier, Counselor of the King, President in the sovereign Court of Aydes Accounts and finances of Montpellier” made Pondres the seat of the Marquisate of Montlaur, by his marriage with Anne-Jeanne de Bousquet of Montlaur on 17 January 1686.
The 18th Century
Pierre IV de Crouzet, Marquis de Montlaur, succeeds his father, the third. Anne-Jeanne, her only child, by marriage with Joseph Henri Eugène, brings the Villardi Quinson’s coat of arms to the Château de Pondres in 1740. Joseph Henri Eugène and his son Gabriel Joseph provided the paternity with the sumptuous embellishments of the north wing of Château and many of the park’s main plantations. “He had spent considerable sums of money’’ and the castle ‘’had made it one of the most agreeable mansions in the province.”
The 19th Century
Joseph Isidor de Montlaur, at age 13, fled Pondres with his father Gabriel Joseph Villardi Quinson de Montlaur in 1792, on the evening of the devastation of the Castle, to take refuge in Germany. He returned to his estates at the beginning of the century to inherit it, as well as many neighboring properties – Domaine de la Clotte, estate of Villa, Mas de Raymonville – in 1818, after the death of his father.
Joseph Isidore, a talented musician and Mayor of Villevieille on three occasions, managed the vast agricultural estate he extended through a vast campaign of land acquisitions. In particular, we credit him with the monumental portal positioned on the road of Alès, which today has been moved to the entrance of the Windmill to become the main entrance of the Château de Pondres.
A precise and carefully designed property plan was drawn up at this time, representing both the remarkable landscape and architectural developments. Was it indicative of the reality of the domain in the mid-nineteenth century, or a plan that the Marquis de Montlaur wished to implement?
The complete reconstruction of the south wing from the great portal and the Tower of Levant, including a complete interior redesign, was the work of Raymond Archambaud de Montlaur, son of Joseph Isidore. Upon the death of his father on December 25, 1843. Raymond Archambaud de Montlaur, chemist and genius alchemist, probably discovered in his laboratory built at the top of the donjon the chlorate of potassium, which had immense industrial applications.
The realization of the sumptuous rooms from the 1st floor are probably attributable to him, as are the setting up of the crenellations and the brattice in the coronation of the north wing of the Castle. Elie Esprit Ghislain Amaury de Montlaur received by donation from his father Raymond Archambault on 22 February 1896 the “castle and estate of Pondres, park buildings and factories dependent on it and composed of the Château de Pondres, gardens, housing and operating buildings, Cellar with casks, pastures, courtyards and terraces, water features, hermes and olive groves with a capacity of 112.60 ha […] »
The 20th Century
On the 5th February 1920, in the presence of a notary, Chrestien de Sommières, Elie Esprit Ghislain Amaury Villardi of Quinson, Marquis of Montlaur, sold the Château de Pondres and its surroundings to Jocelyn Auguste Pécout, an agronomist. On the death of the latter, during the Second World War, the historical domain of Pondres became part of the Debras family. In the 20th century, the monument was abandoned and many remarkable developments of the Park disappeared under the the vegetation. The collapse of the roof and then of the floors sent the Castle into ruin, with the Northwest Tower threatening to collapse.
The Historic Estate of Pondres was sold in February 2002 to the General Council of the Gard, which in turn sold it on 20 November 2006 with very precise specifications on restoration. This was the start of a huge campaign to restore the castle, lasting 10 years. Under the aegis of the Conservation of Historic Monuments, every stone, tree and specific element of the castle, its outbuildings and its park was repaired, consolidated, replaced, restored, following the strict guidelines of the tradition of art and respecting the historical aspects.
Equipped with the most modern comforts, the Château de Pondres, on this spring day, prepares its return to life.
Pondres, le 20 mars 2017.
«Mr Gabriel Raimond Villardi …
The revolution which began in 1789 never managed to alter his lifestyle and even less to incite him to get involved in public affairs. He spent the first three years surrounded by calm never ceasing to delight with the agricultural progress within castle domain. When he heard the first Sunday evening of April 1792 that the castles of the Grand Galargues, Aubais, Aujargues were devastated by a band of robbers, he felt the deepest grief for the crime committed, he could not fear for himself reassured by the testimony of his conscience … alone in his castle for many years he resisted the requests of his family who begged earnestly for him to leave, it was only when he himself saw this horde of incendiaries fall upon his castle, that he hurriedly retreated across the fields, crossed the Vidourle at Salinelle, where he rested for some time, forced to leave for his own safety and that of his second son Isidor with whom he went to Busignargues and thence to Montpellier where he arrived about nine o’clock in the evening.
It was on Monday the 2nd of April, 1792, about nine o’clock in the morning, that the devastation of the Château de Pondres began. For several days and even several weeks it was preyed upon by robbers. The corn and wine were given in quantity to these brigades, by those who said they had come in the name of the law to stop the fire. In vain a few workmen, among others Antoine Armajon, a carpenter of Aujargues, attempted to enter a few days after they were sent away by the guards. The valuables of the Marquis had been deposited in different hiding places, one in the boudoir of Madame la Marquise de Montlaur, (this boudoir was superb, there were forty-five large and small mirrors, the door had been hidden in a wardrobe, where all the linen and her dresses were hung) which contained valuables valued up to 100, 000 francs as mentioned by the Mme la Marquse aud. Antoine Roumajon after the fire. The other hideaway was an obscure cabinet, the door of which was made of iron, which could never be opened, which was entered by a breach made in the left side of the door. A porcelain oillion, furnished with silver, was saved. In the cabinet to the north of the apartment of the Comte de Quinson, father of the Marquis, the most valuable furniture had been placed and the door was closed with bricks. The bricks fell and all was lost….
Not only was the castle devastated by the fire, but the robbers carried their fury into the courtyard of the castle. They killed a beautiful dog, called Clinton, who was attached at the time. They also killed two superb swans that were in the basin, trying to catch fish, or perhaps they were trying to find the treasure they thought that had been thrown into the water. In the middle of this great basin stood a man of lead, who was also taken by the robbers. The descruction of the Château de Pondres was followed by the burning of the archives. The door was made of iron, which was forced, and finally opened with great difficulty: it was on Tuesday, the third of April, that the archives were set on fire. All the papers were taken to the front court of the castle, where they were burned. Of all the papers contained in the archives, there remains only one act of the donation of Pondres written in parchment, which can be deciphered with difficulty and of which here is the extract … ”
The archives of Pondres contained a multitude of papers, which gave details as interesting as they were honorable to the family of the Mr the Mndiearquis de Montlaur. Several of his ancestors had received gifts of kindness and esteem on behalf of the Sovereigns of France and Italy. In the winter of 1803 I asked the Marquis de Montlaur for all that his memory could serve him about the papers he had formerly read in his archives.