The History of La Cour d'Argent
The key stone above the large entrance to the courtyard of La Cour d'Argent is carved with the date that the building of the house was completed. 1854. Very little is known about the original occupants of the house, or what all the buildings were used for except that the house was very grand, had many domestic staff, coaches and horses and a large, opulent garden.
The earliest occupant of the house that we know of was Madame Giron who opened one of the rooms – now our library – on the Grand Rue side of the house as a workshop where they made lingerie and did embroidery. This started in the 1930s, stopped during the second world war, but restarted after until the mid 1950s.
“In the workshop thy made bottom sheets that had no ornamentation, the fitted sheet did not exist. They also made openwork and embroidered top sheets, pillowcases, bolster covers, tablecloths, table runners, napkins,hand towels and handkerchiefs. All these linens would have been embroidered with the initials of the client so as to make up his/her trousseau. For items made for a marriage, they embroidered the initials of both the bride and groom.”
- Madame Marie Claude Dupuy
(History teacher and local historian: Champagne-Mouton)
The War Years
In May 1940 the German army invaded France. During the occupation Champagne Mouton found itself on the demarcation line which separated the occupied territory from the “Free Zone”. Key buildings around the town were commandeered by the German army. La Cour d'Argent, with its strategic position on the crossroads, was one. The first floor bedrooms were used to house Officers, the ones facing the crossroads had armed guards stationed at the windows with their guns covering the road junction. The third floor of the house, which consisted of three huge empty attics following the collapse of the roof in the early 1900s, was used to house one hundred foot soldiers. At some time during their occupancy of the house a photographic laboratory was constructed out of wood in the main attic. This was taken down in 2016 during the renovation of the house, but was photographed for posterity.
Madame Giron was forced to leave the house and live in an outbuilding which contained a bread oven which now is used as one of our garages. We have been told stories by locals that she was known to be a good cook and was put to work by the Germans cooking bread and French Omlettes that were a particular favourite of the troops.
Nazi Occupation of the House
There is still evidence of the usage of various parts of the house. Above, what was is now a downstairs toilet window, you can clearly see the word “Kuche” (Kitchen) painted on the stone lintel and above the window by our coach house is the word “Gemuseladen” (Vegetable store). The “Kuche” window used to be a doorway into a kitchen that the Germans installed on the left side of the house. (The main kitchen on the right side of the house was also used).
The only two outbuildings to contain internal rendering on the walls were the coach house and adjoining living quarters. This was done by the German soldiers when they converted both rooms into vegetable stores. The render has recently been removed and the walls finally returned to their original stone.
Outside the house, on the corner of the crossroads the Germans built a sentry post. It was made out of wood and painted in three coloured stripes. After the war this was dismantled but the planks used to make it were re-used to form a ceiling in our Orangery. The ceiling on view in the Orangery was painted white, but the stripes can clearly be seen on the planks in the attic above.
The walled garden on the southside of the house was also taken over and was banned to all but the resident soldiers who, apparently, enjoyed sunbathing naked in the summer.
After the war Madame Giron returned to the house which had been badly damaged by the soldiers. Many of the walls were peppered with bullet holes and the attics were strewn with wire washing lines and hundreds of coat hooks mounted all along the walls. She set about redecorating the main rooms in the house and retired in 1960 when her daughter and son-in law, Mr Paul Naudin & Mrs Jeanne Naudin came to live in the house. Mrs Giron died in 1962.
The 1960s to Today
In 1962 the house was divided into two apartments. The left side was rented to Dr Jouaron and his family. He set up a consulting room, radiology dept, and waiting room downstairs. The waiting room was the large hall, the consulting room, medical store and radiology dept were where our dining room is now, and the Jouaron's living room/dining room was where our living room is now. They used the German kitchen on the left side of the house as their kitchen. The Naudin's occupied the right side of the house using the original kitchen. They used the room behind their kitchen as a living room, and converted the embroidery room into a dining room. Upstairs the Naudin's had no separate bathroom, so washed in their bedrooms. The Jouaron's had a small bathroom in the centre of their apartment between the courtyard bedroom and town side bedroom. The little glazed door from the courtyard side bedroom into the bathroom still exists, as does the original wall cupboard used to keep all their bathroom apparel.
In the 1980s, as the Jouaron boys grew up, they were given permission to convert the town side large open landing into another bedroom, by building a wall across it just before the foot of the stairs. Another second new bedroom was built in the attic to the left at the top of the second set of stairs.
In 1989 Dr Jouaron Jr took over his fathers practice and worked in the house for a year before moving the surgery to another location. Once their apartment had been vacated, the Naudin's grand daughter Brigitte, married to Mr Michael Rault, came to the house and lived in that side. During this time Jeanne Naudin became ill and had to move out to a nursing home, so Brigitte's mother Andree Naudin-Soucarre joined the household taking the right side apartment until she died in 2012. A wooden staircase was put into the living room to give the Raults private access to the first floor (we had this removed and the ceiling replaced when we restored the living room).
During its renovation, the Pharmacy on the other side of Grand Rue, rented the ground floor hall and dining room (our Library) and ran their business from the house for several months in 2003. Around this time, bathrooms were added to both sides of the house.
On September 9th 2015 we moved in and set about the restoration of the main house and gardens. The Naudin's rooms and the bedroom built on the landing being converted to luxury Bed & Breakfast Accomodation.