On September 16 and 17, you will welcome visitors for Heritage Days. What is the program ?
This is one of the rare occasions when the castle is accessible by guided tour. The public will also be able to enjoy the park and gardens. Our museum which looks back on the Battle of Normandy in August 1944 will also be freely accessible. Finally, we will offer a dive in a Napoleonic period camp, recreated for the occasion. As always, we pay attention to every detail, because we want visitors to find themselves transported. The Coppice is a temporal rift.
Do you feel the public is attracted to heritage?
Yes. But I notice that visitors’ expectations are changing. A classic guided tour covering only the history of the castle is no longer attractive. The public is asking for anecdotes about our life at Le Taillis. This is what also works on social networks. We are trying to strengthen our presence there, because it is the future. I should take the time to get started with Patreon, this crowdfunding platform that works on a subscription format. In return, castle buyers share their daily lives on video, such as construction sites. People love it!
Why had it been abandoned?
In the 1950s and 1970s, the last owners died. It was the time of the great castle depression; families are sometimes torn apart over inheritance and no longer have the means to sustain buildings which happen to be unsaleable. New generations are abandoning them, preferring comfortable interiors, with central heating, carpeted floors and Formica furniture.
At 16, you are now a castle rescuer…
My father passed on his passion for History to me, I get this unfailing energy from my mother. And it was necessary, because from the start, despite my young age, I had a lot of responsibilities. I engaged in a BTS commercial action work-study program in order to be hired by the castle. I might as well tell you that it was to devote myself to work. I had set myself the goal of healing a wound in the Coppice every day.
At the beginning, I was often on my own to carry out the projects, which led me to work with all the trades. It was very educational. I also helped craftsmen when their services were called upon. This made it possible to go faster and therefore lower the bill. And I love seeing them work, how beautiful it is! I particularly have in mind this carpenter who also works at Notre-Dame de Paris and who, working on the roof of the Taillis, cut up the oak with an axe! But, to my great sadness, consumed by paperwork and accounting, I participate less and less in the work.
Listening to you, we understand that a squire does not lead the life of a castle…
Effectively. I laugh about it today, but those were complicated years. What trouble did I have! Very quickly, we find ourselves faced with immeasurable problems. The first quotes come in and we then understand the scale of the financial chasm that awaits us. So, this winter, we restored 5% of the roof, which cost us 80,000 euros. One day, it will have to be completely redone… When you think about it, you lose your bearings. People think we’re rolling in gold. I pay myself 1,500 euros net per month and my wife, Marie, who is a veterinarian, provides for the family’s needs. We are not to be pitied but we live simply and, everything we earn, we reinvest in the castle.
Maintaining a family life doesn’t always have to be easy…
“The castle is your first child,” my wife told me. This creates a lot of stress. And since I oversee everything, I’m never at peace when I’m away. With our two sons, Paul, 11 years old, and Clément, 13 years old, we do not live in Le Taillis alongside my parents, but in a house. Fortunately, otherwise I would invest myself in it without limits. My wife plays an essential role, she has brought rigor to management. During events, she takes care of the cash register, the refreshment bar… She is also responsible for the decoration and wrote the scenarios for the murder party (Giant Cluedo, Editor’s note), one of the activities we offer.
Exactly, what is the economic model of the field today?
We have developed different activities: lodging, hosting weddings and seminars, candlelight visits but also escape games (game which consists of trying to escape from a room by solving puzzles, Editor’s note) And murder party . We also organize a plant market, commemorations of May 8, 1945 with 400 participants in the park. These events, organized with the valuable help of our 70 volunteers and our friends, allow us to self-finance ourselves, which is very rare in the industry. I was able to recruit five employees, two of whom were part-time.
In 2016, you were the winner of the Young buyer of a historic monument prize. What characterizes this new generation of lords?
The approaches are very varied. There are those who, like us, consider it a vocation, dedicate themselves to it full time and do a lot with their hands. There are not many of us in this situation. Others come from the nobility and guard the castle by family tradition. Some earn a very good living with a side job, or have acquired an estate to save tax, or even just want to have fun. Whatever the profile, many give up after two or three years, when reality catches up with the dream.
It therefore takes a bit of madness to embark on such a project…
Yes. There was a form of unconsciousness in my parents. If we had let reality overtake us, we would not have been able to meet this challenge. Only daydreaming and imagination push you to undertake such an adventure. At least, in my parents’ situation, that is to say without personal wealth.
Have you ever considered giving up?
More than once, we thought about selling the castle. Last winter again, I almost gave up due to the difficulties encountered during an inspection to bring the property up to fire standards and accessibility. But today, leaving this house is out of the question. I have never sent a CV. What will I do if not buy another castle? When I pass in front of the facade at sunset, I say to myself: I have to stay, I can’t leave. My connection with the Coppice is vital.
What activities are organized during Heritage Days 2023?
September 16 and 17:
→ Guided tours by the owner of the park and the castle.
→ Free visit to the exhibition “August 44: Hell on the Seine”.
Château du Taillis, Hamlet of Saint-Paul 76480 Duclair. Rens. and reservation: chateaudutaillis.com