History of the Château de Ranton
Notable for its historic towns, architecture and culture, the Loire valley has been inhabited since the Middle Palaeolithic period. In 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire River valley to its list of World Heritage Sites. There has been a fortified castle at Ranton for more than a thousand years. Traces still remain in the Merovingian columns in the tunnels off the moat.
About 1340, at the beginning of the Hundred Years War, the squire of Ranton, Guillaume de Gourmont, undertook to rebuild the existing fort. He was Procurator to the French king in the Duchy of Touraine, then Prevost of Paris from 1339 to 1349. The main towers and the ramparts that are still the remarkable feature of the Chateau were built.
In addition, there was probably a second wall outside the dry moat to protect the access to the underground village; a refuge for the surrounding population during the frequent raids and skirmishes. The Chapel would have been within this outer wall and was on the site of the present church. Guillaume's daughter, Jeanne, married Jean de la Jaille in 1345 and the Chateau was part of her dowry. It was associated with the de la Jaille family until 1570.
Until the fourteenth century, the squire of Ranton owed allegiance to the Duke of Anjou. In December 1394, allegiance was transferred from Marie de Blois, wife of Louis I of Anjou, to the Bishop of Poitiers, Patriarch Simon de Gramant. He transferred feudal rights the following year to Orable de Maulon, wife of Huet Odart.
1340 - 1581: The Hundred Years War and the "de La Jaille"
Jean de la Jaille took part in the expedition to Constantinople in 1400 and died in 1405. His son, Tristan, became the squire and campaigned against the English forces and in Italy. He was one of three French knights known to have seen action against the English forces at Vannes in 1381. In the 16th century, Rene de la Jaille and his grandson Rene II held feudal rights to the manor. Rene II de la Jaille is the earliest of the squires of Ranton to have left us his likeness . A pastel drawing of him was done for Catherine de Medici while he was at her court and it is now in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard. He was a Chevalier de St Michel and became Senechal of Anjou in 1548. He fought in Italy, Spain, at Arras and at Bapaume where he was taken prisoner and ransomed for 800 ecu.
Ambassadors, Knights and Princesses
The Chateau was bought by the d'Apchon family in 1581 and passed to the de Chastillon family in a marriage contract in 1581. It is known that this family exercised the feudal rights of "high, middle and low justice" in the manor until 1628.
In 1631, the Chateau was bought by Paul Aubin, the squire of various estates in the area: Bourneuf, Ranton, La Jaille and others. It was probably in this period that the second major set of alterations were made to the Chateau: the older of the two towers is typical of this period.
The Chateau passed to Christofe Le Sesne de Menille, again by marriage, in 1665. It was sold again on 26 August 1776 to Michel-Ange de Castellane, Brigadier in the King's Army and his Ambassador Extraordinary, who was also owner of the Chateau de Villandry. In 1783 the estate passed to his son, Esprit-François-Henri de Castelland, Marshall to the King's Camp and Chevalier d'Honneur to Madame Sophie, Princess of France to his brother Esprit-Francois-Henri de Castellane, Marshal to the King's Camp and Chevalier d'Honneur to Madame Sophie, Princess of France.
Going to ruins
The Chateau was abandoned during the French Revolution and the estate passed to the Marshal's daughter on his death eight years later, in 1797. Still unoccupied, it passed again to her daughter, Madame d'Ome, who sold it to the priest of Ranton, Abbé Aubineau on 8 September 1844.
The Chapel, dedicated to St Leonard, was given to the village by Abbé Aubineau to serve as the parish church in 1862. The deed of gift was written into the commune records on 25 January of that year.
Abbé Aubineau did much to preserve the Chateau and to rekindle interest in the shrine of "La bonne Dame de Ranton". However, he certainly would not have had the means to maintain all the buildings. In his will, he left the estate to his great nephews, but they sold it at auction on December 5th 1889.
The only bidder was the schoolmaster in the neighbouring village of Curcay, Mr. Manson. By this time the Chateau was still habitable, but was little more than a ruin. Like many similar properties throughout France, it fell to the local schoolmaster to preserve as well as he could the vestiges of the past. Mr Manson is still remembered in the village as a severe and eccentric recluse. One of the main towers of the entrance collapsed in 1942 and on his death, in April that year, Mr. Manson left the estate to his housekeeper and his nephew.
Restoring the Chateau
After the war, the Chateau was sold to Mr. and Mme Piechaud. It was only then that renovation work started. It was sold again in 1969 to Mr. and Mme Fonteneau, wealthy publishers in Poitiers, who completed the refurbishing in 1969.
They in turn sold it to an American couple from Arizona, Mr. and Mrs. Baker. The property was acquired from the estate of the Baker family in October 1987 by the present owners.