To be foiled by large gates and a ‘Propriété Privée’ notice when we went to match this grand villa would not have been a surprise. What we did not expect was a forest of brambles and decay. The contrast with our postcard is shocking.
Up on the hills overlooking the sea between Honfleur and Trouville stand many large impressive manor houses. This one, close to Grand Bec and the semaphore, is in the classic ‘néo-normand‘ style popular around Deauville from the end of the 19th century. Manoir des Creuniers looks a little later, a Normandy masterpiece designed to show-off the prosperity of an unknown 20th century bourgeoisie.
View if the Manoir des Creuniers, just behind the Semaphore. In happier times.
Promenade with Proust
A cliff top path called ‘le Creuniers’ runs alongside the house and once stretched between Trouville and Villerville. It is now impassable in places but the view to the sea makes it well worth exploring.
Proust, after walking along Le Creuniers at the beginning of the 20th century, wrote to his friend the beautiful actress Louisa Momand:
“I advise you to walk a very pretty walk, called ‘the Creuniers’. From here you have an admirable view and infinite peace in which it feels one could dissolve completely. From there all your worries, all your sorrows also appear smaller than you silly little chaps that can be seen on the sand. It really is in the sky.”
Unloved but owned
For some time after the war the manor was apparently owned by a northern France mining company who ran it as a holiday centre for their coughing workers.
Next L’Association Lucien J. Engelmajer bought the villa, we thought to run as one of its many treatment centres for drug addicts. A heap of leaflets in one of the crumbling low buildings in the garden suggest otherwise.
They advertise the L.J.Engelmajer chalets as charming holiday homes with gardens and a restaurant on site serving exotic Spanish food.
An investment business that went sour, perhaps in 1989 when the charismatic Lucien was forced to resign from the worldwide treatment business he set up, accused of leading a cult rather than simply offering addicts care. Re-routing vast funds, raised to help the addicts, into tax havens did not help his case.
Friends of the Manor
This plundered house, its elaborate Bavent pottery finials removed and the inside stripped is now rotting as rain explores the open windows. Currently on sale for €3,150M, the owner is apparently a ‘London trader’.
A note in the August 2015 edition of Friends of Trouville deplores the manor’s deterioration. The Association is looking for ways to save the Manor, well aware that more money can sometimes be made by owners leaving a beautiful building to decay, and then obtaining a permit to demolish and rebuild.
On the day we visited the doors were firmly locked. Through broken windows we could see ceilings removed, the signs of wood panels ripped from walls, not an architrave or architectural ornament to be seen. All grandeur is lost, for now. We will be keeping an optimistic eye on Le Manoir des Creuniers.
*** April 2016 Update
The Mayor is concerned about the manor’s deterioration and potential danger to the public. It has apparently been abandoned for 15 years. An application is being made to classify the building as a historic monument, which will offer some protection.