|The northern pavilion of the Porte de Loudun, and site of the former building|
Richelieu is a rectangular walled city, with a basically complete moat running on three sides and the river Mable - suitably widened - on the fourth, the eastern, side. Over the many years since the town's foundation in the 1630s, the owners of houses built on the inside face of the town's girdling walls have sometimes taken the opportunity to 'annexe' the part of the drained-out moat that is in front of their particular property. Windows have been broken through the originally windowless town walls to receive light, and sometimes whole buildings have been constructed on this 'no-man's land' of - les douves - the moat. Gardens and fertile vegetable plots have been well tended. The individual owners do not own title to the 'annexed' land, except by dint of long occupation.
As the town is so unusual, the national architectural stewards of the town's heritage, Bâtiments de France, have long taken the view that these 'illegal' structures should, where practicable, be removed. Their objective is to return the external appearance of the town to its original manner. This is obviously a long term objective, but this policy can only be triggered when an application for any change is submitted to the authorities.
As a result of this severe policy, the properties involved may have a troublesome 'blot on title' and they have often fallen into dereliction as a result, as they cannot easily be sold on to new owners.
Some would say that the 'rich palimpsest of history' has a delightful picturesque of its own, and that the several owners involved have lavished much attention on their gardens and allotments, which trouble no-one. In addition many of the flanking buildings within the walls have raised the height of the original town walls to allow a third storey to be added to their particular property.
|A view north along the now unobstructed moat|
Next to the Porte de Loudun, on the western side, there WAS a large 3-storey extension sticking boldly into the moat area. It was attached to a derelict property within the walls, and no one was looking after its condition, as the buildings' s owners must have died out. Recently, the failing roof and gutters were causing the endwall to become unstable as the old structure, drenched every time it rained, got much weaker and cascaded masonry into the moat in a spectacular and dangerous way.
|The 'gaping wound', where the old extension was located|
The Town of Richelieu itself has taken charge and the old building has now been demolished, as can be seen here in the photos. This new state will allow someone to purchase the remaining buildings next to the Porte de Loudun and restore them in an appropriate way. It is hard not to be impressed that the Mairie has acted in such a decisive way, and we all look forward to the rebuilding of the inner structure to the exacting standards of Mme. Bartelémy, Bâtiments de France and the DRAC.
|South along the moat.|